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Nepal's government, ethnic groups reach agreement to end paralyzing strike

Nepal's government, ethnic groups reach agreement to end paralyzing strike

Ethnic rights groups in southern Nepal pledged to end violent protests and a paralyzing general strike after reaching an agreement with the government Thursday to establish autonomous regions in the Himalayan nation.
Minority groups have organized strikes, transportation shutdowns and demonstrations in the south since last year to demand greater recognition of their rights. Some of the protests have turned violent, leaving at least 80 people dead.
The two sides signed the eight-point agreement after a week of negotiations, Home Minister Krishna Sitaula said.
He said the pact would end a general strike launched Feb. 13 that cut off most fuel supplies to the north, including the capital, Katmandu, causing severe shortages and food price increases.
The agreement provides for the creation of autonomous regions with decision-making powers. Details, however, will be worked out after the election of a special Constituent Assembly on April 10, Sitaula said.
Minority groups also will be guaranteed at least 30 percent of the seats in the assembly, and will be recruited for the national army and other government jobs in proportion to their population, he said.
The points were among the key demands of the ethnic groups, which say their region has been neglected in favor of the more populated north.
The groups said they had achieved their goals, but warned the government to be sincere in implementing the agreement.
"This has guaranteed there will be autonomy for the people of southern Nepal," said Upendra Yadav of the Tarai Democratic Madeshi Forum, a group leading the protests. "If we don't get our rights, we will fight again and it will be severe ... we can only hope that we will not have to fight again for our rights."
The protests had threatened to disrupt the election for the Constituent Assembly, which is to rewrite the constitution and decide the nation's future political system.


Updated : 2021-05-19 07:14 GMT+08:00