KATHMANDU: Nepal police on Monday fired into a crowd of protesters trying to block a key border checkpoint and killed an Indian civilian as anger over a new constitution boiled over.
The violence came hours after police forcibly broke up the blockade in the southern town of Birgunj on the border with India that has led to crippling fuel shortages and cut off access to other vital supplies in the landlocked Himalayan nation.
“Police warned the protesters to disperse but they did not listen, compelling security forces to open fire,” said Nepal police spokesman Kamal Singh Bam.
“An Indian national was wounded and died after being taken to hospital.”
Four police were injured in clashes at the checkpoint in Birgunj, Bam told AFP.
Bam could not confirm if any other civilians were wounded. A local party leader involved in the protests said seven people had been hurt, including an 11-year-old boy struck by a rubber bullet.
“When police fired rubber bullets at the demonstrators, one hit the child on the head, leaving him bleeding,” said Shiva Patel, general secretary of the regional Sadbhawana party.
Earlier, police used batons to disperse ethnic minority protesters angered by Nepal’s new constitution, which they say will leave them politically marginalized.
Patel said hundreds more protestors had arrived at the scene after police beat up demonstrators and burned down their tents to force an end to the blockade that began on September 24.
“We were outnumbered then but now hundreds more have descended on the bridge and blocked it again,” he said.
The protesters, from Nepal’s Madhesi ethnic minority, want the government to change the constitution because they say a new federal structure it lays out will mean they are under-represented in parliament.
The latest violence dashed hopes of a compromise raised when the government and protesting parties held weekend talks. Madhesi leaders announced a halt to negotiations.
“We will not sit at a table and hold talks with the government until the police stop attacking our people,” said Laxman Lal Karna, vice-chair of the Sadbhawana party.
More than 40 people have been killed in clashes between police and people protesting against the constitution, which was introduced in September after a deadly earthquake pushed warring political parties to reach agreement.