Nepal police arrest 112 in strike over new constitution


KATHMANDU - Nepalese police arrested more than a hundred protestors on Sunday for trying to enforce a nationwide strike, the latest in a string of protests against the new constitution.

"The police have arrested 112 cadres from across the country for vandalism and for forcing shops to shut down," police spokesman Kamal Singh Bam told AFP, adding that protestors have attacked 16 vehicles.

Nepal's bickering parties struck a breakthrough deal earlier this month to redraw the country's internal borders in the draft new constitution.

Under the charter, which has been held up for years by political wrangling, Nepal will be restructured as a federal state with six provinces.

But several lawmakers and their supporters called the strike, saying the proposed borders discriminated against historically marginalised communities.

"State reconstruction in the draft is far from the aspirations of the people," Pampha Bhusal, spokeswoman of CPN-Maoist, a breakaway faction of the Maoist party, told AFP.

"It does not ensure political participation of marginalised groups in the state bodies." Hundreds in Nepal's troubled midwest and southern plains last week staged protests over the long-awaited document, that flared in violence and left two people dead.

Tourism operators urged a halt to the strike, warning such protests would only hurt the industry already reeling from April's devastating earthquake that claimed more than 8,800 lives.

"This culture of strikes will hamper the tourism sector not just immediately but also in the future," tourism organisations said in a joint statement on Sunday.

Political agreement on the borders was struck after April's devastating earthquake helped bring a halt to the seemingly endless bickering between rival parties.

The resulting uncertainty from the wrangling had left the impoverished Himalayan nation in political limbo.

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.