Eight police officers have been killed in western Nepal by protestors armed with axes and spears, as protests over the proposed new constitution continue to escalate. On Monday 24 August, violence erupted in the town of Tikapur as protestors attacked police officers who were attempting to prevent them from gaining access to restricted areas containing government offices. According to Nepalese Home Minister, “All of a sudden protestors encircled the police and attacked them with knives, axes, sickles and spears.” One of the police officers was also set on fire and later succumbed to his injuries. A day later, on Tuesday 25 August, police shot dead a protestor in Gaur, a city 100 kilometres to the south of Kathmandu. They fired into a crowd of around 150 demonstrators who were throwing stones at the cordon of security personnel.
In response, the government has announced a country-wide curfew and is preparing to send the army to Kailali, the western district where the attack took place. Anger has been gradually building in Nepal’s western and southern regions since June, when lawmakers settled a dispute over the number of provinces into which the country would be split, their internal boundaries and their names. While the landmark charter was originally envisioned as a document which would bring an end to centuries of inequality in Nepal, the June decision has resulted in widespread and often violent protests from communities like the Tharu ethnic minority who fear that it might marginalise them even further.
Across the border, concern over the escalating violence has prompted a call for “all political parties and the people to eschew violence and maintain social harmony” from the Indian Foreign Ministry. The statement reflects the fears held by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government that civil unrest in Nepal might spill across the frontier into India.
At least 13 people in total are believed to have died as a result of protests against the new constitution.