KATHMANDU: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for calm in neighbouring Nepal on Monday, a day after at least nine people were killed during protests against a proposed new constitution.
Modi, leader of Nepal’s largest donor and trading partner, “appealed to the government, all political parties and the people of Nepal to eschew violence and maintain social harmony,” during a telephone call with Nepali Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, the Indian foreign ministry said.
The rare intervention by Modi reflected India’s concerns about unrest just over its border and fears that the new constitution, to replace the interim one in place since the end of civil war in 2006, may ignore the aspirations of some minorities.
At least nine people, including seven police officers and an 18-month-old baby, were killed during Monday’s unrest in Tikapur, close to the border with India. One officer was burned to death, the government said.
The protesters, mainly from the ethnic Tharu community, oppose a plan to include their area in a larger province, and want a separate province for the southwestern plains under the new federal constitution that is supposed to be finalised this month.
The Nepali authorities imposed a curfew and mobilised the army to quell the protests. The town remained tense but quiet on Tuesday, officials said. In Gaur, another border town 80 km (50 miles) southeast of Kathmandu, police shot dead a demonstrator as protests spread to new areas, an official said.
“The political leadership of Nepal should resolve all outstanding issues through dialogue … and arrive at solutions that reflect the will and accommodate the aspirations of all citizens,” India’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
The United Nation’s human rights agency urged political leaders and protesters to find a peaceful solution before violence spirals out of control.
“We urge the government of Nepal to create a climate where minority or dissenting views or beliefs are respected, and security forces only employ force as a last resort,” Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said.
So far at least 13 people have died in violence related to protests over the new constitution.