Dozens arrested in Nepal anti-charter protest

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KATHMANDU, Aug 24: Nepal police Monday arrested dozens of demonstrators against a proposed new constitution after they forced shops to close on the second day of a nationwide strike, the latest protest against the document. Lawmakers tabled a revised draft of the new constitution in parliament for discussion late Sunday, increasing anger over its plan to restructure Nepal as a federal state comprising seven provinces. Demonstrators say the new internal borders discriminate against historically marginalised communities, including the Madhesis from the south and Tharus from the southwest plains. “We have arrested about 47 protesters while they tried to forcefully shut down shops and obstruct vehicles in the capital,” police spokesman Kamal Singh Bam told. Another 43 demonstrators were arrested on the first day of the strike on Sunday. Bickering lawmakers this month sought to resolve the issue of internal borders, agreeing to carve out six provinces, and later added a seventh. But the changes failed to appease protesters, throwing the country into turmoil with a string of strikes that have left many Nepalis frustrated over the impact on livelihoods already devastated by April s earthquake which killed more than 8,800 people. “This is all politics, but what we really care about is our livelihood and safety,” said Kabir Tamang, a taxi driver who defied the shutdown and turned up to work. “There is risk, but how can I stop working every time someone calls a strike?” the 29-year-old told. Nepal s main political parties struck a breakthrough deal on the charter in June after the earthquake helped bring a halt to seemingly endless squabbling between rival parties that had left the impoverished Himalayan nation in political limbo. But the deal left the crucial issue of internal borders unresolved. Work on a new national constitution began in 2008 following a decade-long Maoist insurgency that left an estimated 16,000 people dead and brought down the 240-year-old Hindu monarchy.

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