Nepal’s indigenous vow to continue crippling blockade

Statement by ethnic Madhesis demanding more government representation comes amid risk of nationwide humanitarian crisis.

Protesters stand near burning tyres as they gather to block highway connecting Nepal and India, during general strike called by Madhesi protesters demonstrating against new constitution in Birgunj
Nepal's ruling party has been accused of failing to hold constructive talks with indigenous groups over the political crisis [Reuters]

An indigenous group in southern Nepal has reportedly vowed to continue a three-month-long blockade of all border crossings with India, which has put the entire country at risk of humanitarian crises, until their demand for proportional representation in the government is met.

The ethnic Madhesi protesters also threatened on Saturday to disrupt a parliament meeting on Sunday in an attempt to pressure the ruling party to accept constitutional amendments proposed by the outgoing government, said SD Muni, an executive director of the India-based think-tank Observers Research Foundation.

The latest statement by the Madhesi activists came after the country’s Deputy Prime Minster said on Wednesday that the “lives and livelihoods of the entire population has been adversely affected [by the blockade],” Muni told Al Jazeera.

“Schools and hospitals have also had to bear the brunt of the current circumstances, exposing millions of children, elderly and sick persons to greater risks,” he said at a United Nations meeting in Geneva.

Related: Fuel crisis grips Nepal as border crossings close

The majority of Nepal’s imports, including vital fuel, medical and food supplies, come from neighbouring India.

But Delhi has stopped all exports to Nepal in recent months to avoid confrontations with protesters and to push Kathmandu to engage in constructive dialogue with indigenous groups and political parties that oppose the country’s new constitution.

Muni said that many Nepalis blame the ruling party for refusing to “accommodate” indigenous groups’ rights to representation in order to maintain dominance in the government.

“The government is blaming India, without acknowledging that they are not holding talks with the protesters,” he said.

‘Tremendous harm’

Meanwhile, Nepalese civilians are bearing the brunt of suffering from the political crisis.

“Life has … completely deteriorated in all of Nepal,” Muni said, adding that “many buses can not work, people can not drive cars, and planes can not fly”.

Some people have also been forced to resort to cooking food using wood fires.


The petrol crisis forced the government to seek alternative supply routes to avoid disruption of domestic flights.

Nepal’s state oil trading company said on Saturday that it struck a deal with a private supplier to fly in fuel from Bangladesh, the AFP news agency reported.

“We have reached an agreement with a private company, Petromax Nepal, who will airlift ATF [aviation turbine fuel] from Bangladesh in the next three to four days,” Mukunda Ghimire, a spokesman for Nepal Oil Corporation, told AFP.

“Petromax has agreed to bring 400,000 litres of ATF per day, this should solve our problem and allow to supply international airlines with fuel as well,” Ghimire said.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies