By Gopal Sharma, Reuters
Kathmandu: Hundreds of riot police patrolled a border town in southeast Nepal on Thursday to enforce a new curfew after bloody clashes between Maoists and an ethnic group left at least 26 people dead, police said.
The clashes on 21 March between former Maoist rebels and the Madhesi People’s Rights Forum in the border town of Gaur, 80 km south of Kathmandu, were the deadliest this year.
Both sides attacked each other with guns and bamboo sticks after a row over the selection of the same venue for public meetings, officials said.
“We have imposed a fresh day curfew to avoid more hazards and violence,” Kuber Kadayat, a police official, said by telephone from Gaur.
“People are terrified and afraid about the possibilities of fresh trouble,” he said.
At least 57 people have now been killed in protests organised by Madhesi activists since January as they protest for more government jobs and seats in parliament for their people, who live along the narrow strip of the Terai region bordering India.
The protests have overshadowed a peace process between the Maoists and the government to end a decade-long insurgency in which more than 13,000 people have died.
Bipin Gautam, a human rights activist, said blood stains, shoes and belongings left behind by the people had littered the dusty town after the clashes.
“It was like a battlefield,” Gautam said of Wednesday’s clashes. “People from both sides were chasing each other with batons and suddenly there was an exchange of gun fire,” he said.
Maoists blamed supporters of Nepal’s sidelined King Gyanendra for instigating trouble to derail the peace process. Most of those killed were Maoist supporters, Maoist spokesman Krishna Bahadur Mahara said.
The Madhesi group said the Maoists started the trouble by scheduling a meeting at the same venue where it had planned a public rally.