Kathmandu, Nepal – After a brawl at the Constituent Assembly meeting between the opposition and the ruling party turned violent late on January 20, resulting in the opposition party members throwing chairs and breaking desks and microphones, Nepal woke up this morning to a nationwide strike. The shutdown was called for by an alliance of 30 opposition parties led by the Maoists.
Public transport in the Nepali capital of Kathmandu was banned and residents were forced to find other methods of transportation. Streets were empty of traffic with the exception of official vehicles and ambulances. The majority of schools, shops and restaurants chose to stay closed, bringing most of Nepal’s economy to a halt. The police and army have been deployed throughout the country and police officers in full riot gear were present throughout Kathmandu. Opposition supporters enforcing the strikes are reported to have set several vehicles on fire, including trucks carrying copies of the local newspapers Kantipur and The Kathmandu Post, in several districts throughout the country.
Today’s shutdown follows a series of strikes, known as “bandhs” in Nepal, held last week and comes two days before the Constituent Assembly’s latest deadline to promulgate a draft of the long-awaited constitution. With the opposition coalition and the ruling parties still at a disagreement over key aspects of the constitution, in particular over the issue of federalism, concerns are mounting that the deadline will missed yet again.
Further strikes and protests have been planned by the Maoist-led opposition for the coming days. The Maoists have stated that they are planning a mass protest and will symbolically burn the constitution if it is promulgated on January 22. Meanwhile, the country remains on high alert, waiting to see what the newest political developments will be and what the consequences of those developments will mean for the regular Nepali citizen.