Opposition strike shuts down Nepal; protesters, police clash


KATHMANDU – Opposition protesters clashed with police and set vehicles on fire in Nepal’s capital on Tuesday, as they enforced a nationwide general strike that crippled life throughout the country.

The alliance of 30 opposition parties is demanding the Himalayan nation’s new constitution draft be passed by a national consensus. The ruling coalition has been attempting to get the draft approved through a vote in parliament after negotiations with the opposition failed.

Protesters and police clashed in Kathmandu, the capital, on the first day of the three-day strike. Riot police fired tear gas shells, while the protesters retaliated by throwing stones. The demonstrators also set a taxi and a motorcycle on fire.

Taxi driver Niraj Vaidya told reporters that the protesters poured gasoline on his taxi and set it on fire while he was still inside the vehicle. He was able to escape, but said he lost his taxi in the fire.

General strikes are a common tactic for the opposition in Nepal, and it is common for protesters to attack vehicles, shops and businesses that defy the calls to strike.

Schools were closed and markets shuttered across the country. Highways were deserted, with protesters allowing only emergency vehicles on the roads.

A constitution was supposed to have been written by the Constituent Assembly that was elected in 2008 following the end of a 10-year Maoist insurgency and the overthrow of the centuries-old monarchy. But the assembly was riven by infighting and never finished its work.

The current assembly was chosen in 2013, but has faced the same problem.