Anti-amendment protests erupt in districts

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A day after the government registered its constitution amendment bill in Parliament, protests have erupted in various parts of the country, demanding that the federal setup finalized under the new Constitution be left intact.

Dismayed by the government’s decision to revise the federal boundaries and take out some districts from Province No. 5, locals and political cadres of both the ruling and opposition parties have taken to the streets to oppose the decision.

Leaders of the major political parties have called indefinite general strikes in Palpa, Pyuthan and Gulmi while protests have also broken out in almost all the hill districts of the province.  However, no major violence has been reported, according to Superintendent of Police Rabindra Dhanuk in Butwal.

Protesters in Butwal obstructed the East-West Highway and the locals spontaneously closed down the markets, industrial plants and schools. With the protesters obstructing regular vehicular movement along the highway, bus passengers were stuck at Saljhundi and Khaireni, Butwal.

The government on Tuesday evening proposed to transfer six hill districts–Palpa, Arghakhachi, Gulmi, Rolpa, Pyuthan and Rukum (eastern part) to Province 4.

With backing from the party, students and youths aligned with the CPN-UML have resorted to protests at major points in Butwal since early Wednesday. They chanted anti-government slogans and also slogans calling for harmony between the hill and tarai districts.

Organizing joint meetings, leaders of the ruling and opposition parties in Gulmi, Palpal, Pyuthan, Rolpa and Arghakhachi have warned the government to withdraw the amendment proposal.

Contrary to their own parties’ decision to table the amendment bill,  leaders of the ruling NC and the Maoists have also joined the protests. They are planning to launch joint protests to intensify their opposition.

A joint-struggle committee is scheduled to organize a mass meeting in Butwal on Friday in the presence of influential leaders of the major parties. CPN-UML Vice-chairman Bamdev Gautam, Deputy General Secretary Bishnu Poudel, NC leader Chandara Bhandari and Maoist leader Top Bahadur Rayamajhi are scheduled to address the mass meeting, according to UML leader Lila Giri.

Going against party policy, local Maoists leaders have opposed any redrawing of federal boundaries in Province 5. “We are not in favor of splitting the province,” said Maoist Center Politburo Member Madhav Sharma.

Another Maoist leader, Top Bahadur Rayamajhi, said that he would stand against the amendment proposal in Parliament. “We support the people’s genuine concerns as our nation and the people are always above the party line,” Rayamajhi, a lawmaker from Arghakhachi, said.

Locals of Pyuthan enforced a shut down at district headquarters. Life across the district was affected due to the protests. “Protests are not ending without foiling the amendment proposal,” NC leader Devendra Barma, who is coordinating protests in the district, said adding, “We are protesting and will not back off unless the government corrects its wrong decision.”

In Rolpa, leaders and cadres of major parties, who have been protesting since a week, also stepped up their  protests since Wednesday.

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