Kathmandu: At least 75 activists of a Maoist faction in Nepal were today arrested as they forced schools, public transport and markets to shut down in a nationwide strike called against the drafting of a new Constitution and an agreement between India and China to boost border trade through Lipu-Lekh Pass.
Public vehicles remained off the roads while major markets and educational institutions were forced to shut down in Kathmandu and other major cities in the strike called by hardlin CPN-Maoist (Chand), led by Netra Bikram Chand. Hundreds of security personnel were deployed in Kathmandu and surrounding areas to prevent violence during the protest, the first national strike since a devastating quake hit the country in April.
Police have rounded up at least 75 agitating Maoist activists in Kathmandu and Lalitpur district for blocking roads and resorting to vandalism, police said. The nation-wide strike was called to oppose the Constitution drafting process initiated by the four major political forces, the Nepali Congress, CPN-UML, UCPN-Maoist and Madhesi Peoples Rights Forum Democratic after inking a 16-point deal.
Nepal’s Maoists struck a deal with rival parties on the new Constitution last month after years of bitter disagreement. But a breakaway faction of the party says the deal betrays the principles of the Maoists, who fought a decade-long civil war with the state that ended in 2006 and led to the abolition of a centuries-old feudal monarchy. Maoist activists were also opposing an agreement between India and China to boost border trade at Qiangla/Lipu-Lekh Pass, close to an area which Nepal claims to be part of its territory. Lipu-Lekh Pass, the last point of Nepal’s border with China and India and known as an ancient route for traders and pilgrims transiting between Nepal and Tibet, is a far western point, near Kalapani, which is a disputed border area between Nepal and India.
During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s China visit in May, India and China agreed to expand border trade at Lipu-Lekh Pass. The bandh enforcers today also vandalised a passenger bus in Maharajgunj and a milk-van in Gongobu, police said. The strike also crippled life in Lalitpur, Bhaktapur, Banepa, Palpa and Hetauda.