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Nepal MPs brawl ‘like wild animals’ in parliament over constitution disagreement

KATHMANDU, (AFP): With just two days left to draft the charter, the Constituent Assembly met late into the night, but speaker Subash Nembang was forced to halt the debate after Maoist and Madhesi lawmakers scuffled with ruling party politicians.

Rajan Bhattarai, a lawmaker with the ruling UML party, said two fellow MPs had been struck by flying microphones, and blamed the Maoists for the violence.

“We condemn this behaviour, especially when Maoist leaders Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Baburam Bhattarai frequently assured of consensus via peaceful methods,” he said, referring to the party’s two highest-profile leaders.

The opposition Maoist party is trying to prevent Nepal’s ruling coalition from pushing proposals through parliament without common agreement before Thursday’s deadline.

They said discussions on the constitution should continue until a final agreement is reached – even if that means missing the deadline.

Graduate student Shiva Shrestha said the constitution was “beginning to feel like a fairytale”, reflecting the frustration felt by many Nepalis.

“Who behaves like a bunch of wild animals while trying to complete a constitution?” he said.

The ruling coalition has the two-thirds majority in parliament needed to pass a new constitution without Maoist support.

However, the former rebels have warned of further conflict if the ruling parties fail to take opposition views into account.

Hours after the brawl, police arrested more than 50 protesters who had set fire to buses and taxis, in an effort to enforce a nationwide shutdown called by the Maoists to protest moves to complete the constitution.

Tuesday’s strike shut down factories, shops, schools and public transport in the Himalayan nation, which has endured prolonged political limbo since 2006, when the Maoists ended their decade-long insurgency.

The usually gridlocked streets of Kathmandu remained clear during morning rush hour, as many people heeded the Maoist call to stay home in the capital, where 6,000 police have been deployed.

Despite extensive discussions, lawmakers have failed to agree on a charter and are widely expected to miss Thursday’s cut-off, further deepening disillusionment with the political process in the young republic.

Disagreements persist on crucial issues, with the opposition calling for new provinces to be created along lines that could favour historically marginalised communities, like the “untouchable” Dalit caste and the Madhesi ethnic minority.

However, other parties say such a move would be divisive and a threat to national unity.

Nepal has had two elections and six prime ministers since the civil war between Maoist insurgents and the state ended in 2006.

But its warring political parties have failed to make headway on many disputed issues and conclude the peace process.

Tuesday’s strike is backed by a hardline group which split from the main Maoist party in June 2012, accusing its leaders of betraying their radical principles.

::  PHOTO: A Nepalese constituent assembly member breaks a chair as tensions flare at parliament in Kathmandu early on January 20, 2015. (AFP: Bikash Karki)

Published Date: Wednesday, January 21st, 2015 | 12:10 AM

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