Nepal police arrest dozens of protesters in strike over new Constitution

Nepalese police arrest an opposition supporter during a general strike called by the 30-party alliance led by a hardline faction of former Maoist rebels against the draft of the new constitution, in Kathmandu on Aug 16, 2015.
Nepalese police arrest an opposition supporter during a general strike called by the 30-party alliance led by a hardline faction of former Maoist rebels against the draft of the new constitution, in Kathmandu on Aug 16, 2015. PHOTO: AFP

KATHMANDU (AFP) - Nepalese police arrested dozens of demonstrators on Sunday for trying to enforce a nationwide strike, the latest in a string of protests against the new Constitution.

"We have arrested 51 cadres in Kathmandu for trying to block roads, vandalise vehicles and close shops," police spokesman Bishwo Raj Pokharel told AFP.

Nepal's bickering parties struck a breakthrough deal earlier this month to redraw the country's internal borders in the draft new Constitution.

Under the charter, which has been held up for years by political wrangling, Nepal will be restructured as a federal state with six provinces.

But several lawmakers and their supporters called a nationwide strike, saying the proposed borders discriminated against historically marginalised communities.

"State reconstruction in the draft is far from the aspirations of the people," Ms Pampha Bhusal, a spokesman for CPN-Maoist, a breakaway faction of the Maoist party, told AFP.

"It does not ensure political participation of marginalised groups in the state bodies."

Hundreds in Nepal's troubled midwest and southern plains last week staged protests over the long-awaited document that flared in violence and left two people dead.

Political agreement on the borders was struck after April's devastating earthquake helped bring a halt to the seemingly endless bickering between rival parties.

The resulting uncertainty from the wrangling had left the impoverished Himalayan nation in political limbo.

Work on a new national Constitution began in 2008 following a decade-long Maoist insurgency that left an estimated 16,000 people dead and brought down the 240-year-old Hindu monarchy.