A general strike called by the Madhesis crippled normal life in the southern districts of Nepal on Tuesday. The strike was called to protest the killing of three youths in police firing in Saptarai district, bordering India.
In most of the 20 districts of southern Nepal, factories, industries and educational institutions remained shut due to the strike called by the United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF).
The UDMF has demanded that the victims be declared martyrs and compensation be given to their families. Three young Madhesi activists were killed when police opened fire to disperse a crowd which had encircled the venue of a public meeting of the main opposition party CPN-UML in Saptari district on Monday.
The public meeting was called by Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist as part of its Mechi-Mahakali campaign launched two days ago in the Terai's Jhapa district.
Chief District Officer Baldev Gautam said the police resorted to firing after they failed to control the Madhesis. They earlier baton charged them and fired tear gas shells.
Major marketplaces at Bhardaha, Kanchanpur, Rupani andKalyanpur of Saptari district remained closed. The Madhesis have been staging protests by burning tyres at various parts of the Birgunj in Parsa districts as well.
A large number of security personnel have been deployed to prevent any untoward incidents in the region. Authorities on Tuesday imposed a curfew in Saptari district headquarters Rajbiraj and adjoining areas to prevent clashes.
Madhesis, mostly of Indian-origin, had launched a prolonged agitation between September 2015 and February in 2016 against the implementation of the new Constitution which they felt marginalised the Terai community.
The protests resulted in the death of at least 50 people. Meanwhile, the US has expressed concern over the violence in Saptari district that left some protesters dead. "The right to peacefully express one's political views is a fundamental component of an inclusive democracy, but violence should not be a part of the political discourse," the US embassy in Kathmandu said in a statement on Tuesday.
The statement also called on Nepalese security forces to exercise maximum restraint as people express their democratic rights. It urged all protesters and parties to continue to engage in the democratic process through non-violent means.
The Madhesi Front was disrupting the meeting as part of its separate campaign against local body polls scheduled for May 14. The CPN-UML had postponed its Mechi-Mahakali campaign for three days after the violent clashes.