Nepal adopts Constitution amid bloodshed and a death

Kathmandu: Nepal adopted its first democratic constitution on Sunday amid protests and at least one death, which took place in Birgunj in the southern part of the tiny nation that has seen war, a palace massacre and a devastating earthquake since a campaign to create a modern state began more than 65 years ago.

One person died and three were wounded when police fired at people trying to break a curfew in Birgunj.

Demonstrations in the lowlands in recent weeks were met with a tough response from Kathmandu, which ordered in the army after protesters attacked and killed police. More than 40 protesters and police died.

The unrest troubles India, which on Sunday urged Nepal to resolve differences between groups through dialogue.

President Ram Baran Yadav promulgated the charter intended to unite the country, but it has already exacerbated divisions in some places, with 40 people killed in protests against it in recent weeks.

“Our country is multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-religious and multi-cultural… this new document will safeguard the rights of all Nepali brothers and sisters,” Mr Yadav said, signing five copies of the constitution into law as lawmakers thumped tables. Some of them cried.

In capital Kathmandu, a crowd of more than 2,000 people cheered and took pictures of the constituent assembly building decked out in red and blue Nepali flags, NDTV reported.

The earthquakes that killed more than 9,000 people in Nepal this year galvanized politicians, who had squabbled for seven years to finish the charter.

It creates seven states in a secular, federal system, but is opposed by some groups who wanted to re-establish Nepal as a Hindu nation, and others who feel it is unfavourable to people in the plains, near India.

India and China are keen to see stability and to limit each other’s influence in the poor Himalayan country sandwiched between them.
China has welcomed the new constitution saying as a “friendly neighbour” it hoped for increased stability and growth.

The government says an imperfect document is better than nothing, and the constitution can be amended to reflect the aspirations of dissenting groups.

Clauses over citizenship in the country of 28 million people were some of the most contentious, with critics saying they discriminate against women who marry foreigners, and that their children are denied equal access to citizenship.

Prime Minister Sushil Koirala is expected to stand down to allow a new government under the charter. He may be replaced by KP Oli, from a moderate Communist party.

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