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Oli foresees blockade’s end

Tuesday, January 26th, 2016
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Prime Minister KP Oli has claimed that “the Indian blockade against Nepal will be lifted within a couple of days.”

Talking to editors and senior journalists at his official residence in Baluwatar on Tuesday, PM Oli also said that he would not visit India if the blockade is not lifted.

“It would not be appropriate to visit India if this situation (the blockade) persists,” he said. “But I don’t think the question if I will have to cancel my India visit is relevant — the blockade is being lifted soon.”

India has stopped the supply of fuel and other essential commodities since September, citing border-centric protests by Madhesi parties. After Nepal passed a resolution last month to amend the constitution and set up an all-party mechanism to redraw federal boundaries, India has eased border obstructions at other checkpoints, but the Birganj trade point remains blocked.

Only a handful of protesters (and at times just one person) are now staging a sit-in at the Birganj-Raxaul Bridge, where hundreds of protesters would congregate in the early days of the blockade,. However, trucks and containers carrying fuel and cooking gas have not been allowed to pass through this trade point so far.

This is not the first time that PM Oli has stated that ‘India will now lift the blockade’. When asked if his claim would turn out to be hollow this time, Oli said: “I believe in friendship. I believe political parties are honest. They promised me that they would lift the blockade. But they did not keep their promises. But this time I am hopeful because we have fulfilled some demands raised by Madhesi parties. And now they do not have a reason to continue with the blockade.”

On Saturday, Parliament had amended three clauses of the constitution to appease Madhesi constituents. But Madhesi parties have refused to support the amendment, saying it is not sufficient to address their demands.

Madhesi parties have demanded only two federal provinces encompassing the whole southern plains region, but the Big Three parties are against it. As the two sides failed to iron out differences over this issue, negotiations failed and the Big Three parties pushed through the amendment bill without having Madhesi dissenters on board.

Contrary to PM’s statement, Madhesi leaders said they will not call off protests and will continue with the border blockade. “Our agitation will continue,” Madhesi leader Upendra Yadav said. “We are not calling off border-centric protests either.”

 

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