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The day after

Tuesday, March 7th, 2017
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A vehicle of National Human Rights Commission that was attacked by protesters in Saptari on Tuesday. Photo: Shrawan Kumar Deo

A day after three protesters were killed in police firing in Saptari, tension ran high across the Tarai and the political blame-game began once again in Kathmandu.

The protesters were killed when Armed Police force personnel opened fire on cadres of Tarai-centric parties as they tried to disrupt a convoy of UML leaders who had reached Saptari on the third day of their East-West campaign.

The Madhesi Front claimed in a press statement that four protesters were killed by police, but only three deaths have been confirmed by officials so far.

A day later, it seems that the Saptari killing was not simply a case of police trying to avoid a clash between two rival political forces. Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s accusation that Home Minister Bimalendra Nidhi ordered police to open fire has raised suspicion that the Saptari killing could have been a conspiracy to scuttle local polls
scheduled for 14 May.

Nepali Times has prepared a timeline of the fast-paced events on Tuesday in the wake of the Saptari killings:

“Conspiracy to massacre UML leaders”

After the Saptari violence, UML Chair KP Oli was escorted to Jhapa. Top UML leaders Madhav Nepal and Jhalnath Khanal went to Biratnagar. The UML has put off its campaign for three days, and has put the responsibility for the violence squarely on the shoulders of the Madhesi Front. In a press statement on Tuesday, the UML also claimed
that ‘an attempt was made to massacre UML leaders when they were on their way back to Rajbiraj after a peaceful program’.

Call off local polls: Madhesi Front

The United Madhesi Democratic Front, an alliance of Tarai-centric parties, has asked the government to call off local elections because of the Saptari violence.

It has also demanded that the government form a committee to probe the killing, suspend Saptari’s CDO and police chiefs, declare all the three dead protesters martyrs, provide relief to their families, government jobs to at least one from each family, and free medical treatment to those who were injured.

Baburam blames UML

Nepali Congress MPs have sought a fair investigation and asked all parties to exercise restraint. Naya Shakti party Chief Baburam Bhattarai has accused the UML of “showing arrogance” and inciting violence in the Tarai.

More clashes

Cadres of Madhesi parties vandalised government offices, and clashed with police in various parts of Saptari on Tuesday. They also vandalised a vehicle of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). In Siraha, Madhesi protesters vandalised a UML office. They took furniture and documents out of the house and torched them on the streets. In Birganj, they set a truck on fire. The Madhesi Front has called a two-day strike in the Tarai, and its cadres are out on the streets burning tyres and shouting slogans against UML in major towns of the Tarai.

Saptari CDO transferred

The Home Ministry has recalled Saptari CDO Uddhab Prasad Timilsina, SP Dibesh Lohani, APF’s SP Jaya Bahadur Khadka and DSP Dan Bahadur Khadka to Kathmandu. Home Minister Nidhi has instructed the chiefs of all security agencies to not use excessive force to quell protests, according Home Ministry sources.

UN, US concerned

The United Nations and the US Embassy raised serious concern over the escalation of tensions in the lead-up to the local elections announced for May.

‘We call on security forces to comply with existing national and international standards on the use of force. At the same time, we urge the political parties to peacefully express their views in actions and statements,’ read a UN statement.

The US embassy in Kathmandu urged security forces to exercise maximum restraint. “The right to peacefully express one’s political views is a fundamental component of an inclusive democracy, but violence should not be part of the political discourse,” read the statement.

India, which was quick to respond to every major political development in Nepal, has not reacted so far.

 

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