Ex-Maoist leader Bhattarai forced out of public meet in Nepal

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Kathmandu, Sept 29: Former prime minister Baburam Bhattarai, who recently quit the UCPN-Maoist to form his own political party, today faced violent protests from supporters of Madhesi parties over the new Constitution during a public meeting and had to cut short his address in southern Nepal.

The protesters vandalised the stage and set it on fire after Bhattarai cut short his speech in Janakpur.

Nepal: Ex-pm faces violent protest

He was escorted out from the stage amid chaos. The 61-year-old leader had barely addressed the gathering for about 10 minutes when Madhesi supporters began shouting anti-Constitution slogans and showed black flags.

Two leaders of the UCPN-Maoist, who accompanied Bhattarai to the venue, were manhandled during the programme.

The protesters allegedly demanded that Bhattarai burn the new Constitution, but the former top Maoist leader rejected their demand, saying he didn't come there to burn the charter.

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Bhattarai said he came to Janakpur to bridge the gap between Kathmandu and the Madhes region. He also demanded that amendments be made in the constitution to ensure Madheshi peoples' rights are protected.

"I am of the opinion that the rights of Madhesis, Tharus and Janajati that are amiss should be included in the Constitution," he said.

Bhattarai, who spent his years as a student at New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University and is said to have close ties with India, has been sympathetic to the Madhesi agitation demanding more rights and representation to the people residing in the southern plains of Nepal.

He also criticised UCPN-Maoist and its chairman Prachanda, saying they have betrayed the Madhesis, Janajatis and Tharus.

The former prime minister expressed solidarity to the ongoing agitation in the southern plains over splitting of the country into seven provinces. But the angry protesters forced Bhattarai to cut-short his speech and leave the venue.

They followed him to the Janakpur Airport, where security personnel struggled to escort him inside the airport. Tear-gas shells were fired to disperse the protesters outside the airport.

At least seven protesters were injured. Bhattarai last week announced he had quit the UCPN-Maoist and also resigned from Parliament to form a new "political force" amid differences with the major Nepalese parties over the new Constitution.

Bhattarai's decision has given a big jolt to the UCPN-M as he leads a strong faction within the party, say insiders. The UCPN-M has 124 seats in the 601-member Parliament.

PTI

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