Nepal crisis: Eco blockades test Delhi-Kathmandu ties

RSTV Bureau

Nepal_constitutionA day after cable TV operators in Nepal announced the indefinite blackout of all the Indian channels across the country, the Nepal government asked the cable operators to continue the broadcast of Indian TV along with seeking an explanation for the blackout. On Tuesday, the Federation of Nepal Cable Television had decided to shut down the broadcast of the Indian channels accusing India for “intruding in the national sovereignty of Nepal.” The Nepal government ministry of Information and Communications has sought clarification from various cable operators as to why action must not be taken against them as they have violated the National Broadcasting Act.

The blackout of Indian channels has also alarmed Indian authorities as there are reports of anti-India protest in some parts of Nepal.

Nepal has been reeling with domestic crisis post the adoption of a new constitution this month. Few ethnic groups have been holding protest alleging that the promulgation of new constitution doesn’t guarantee them adequate rights and representation.

The protest by the ethnic groups, mainly Madhesis and Tharus – inhabitants of the Terai plains region bordering India, has led to a massive blockade of key trade checkpoints with India. These blockades have cut off vital supplies, resulting in Nepal suffering with the scarcity of essential goods including petroleum products and cooking gas, nearing a situation where the normal life may be thrown off-gear.

Kathmandu  :  Activists of the Madhesi group participate in a protest near the Constituent Assembly Hall in Kathmandu, Nepal, Sunday, Sept. 13, 2015.  FIle Photo - PTI

Kathmandu : Activists of the Madhesi group participate in a protest near the Constituent Assembly Hall in Kathmandu, Nepal, Sunday, Sept. 13, 2015. FIle Photo – PTI

The on-going crisis in Nepal is also threatening to impact Indo-Nepal relations with Nepalese officials alleging Indian customs and security officials stalling cargo movement to Nepal triggering the fuel crisis. They have further alleged the stoppage of petroleum supply to Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) by the Indian Oil Corporation. The Nepalese government had even called in Indian envoy Ranjit Rae in Kathmandu last week over the issue of alleged “obstruction” in the supply of essential goods coming in from the Indian side.

Clarifying on the issue, envoy Rae asserted that there was no obstruction on the movement of goods from the Indian side; rather the problem was due to unrest, protests and demonstrations on the Nepalese side.

Rae also apprised the Nepalese authorities of difficulties faced by the Indian freight forwarders and transporters within Nepal and their security fears due to the prevailing unrest. Three vehicles ferrying goods, including petroleum products, were vandalised at Ram Janaki Temple in Sunauli, the Indian town bordering Nepal this afternoon.

At least 40 people have died in over a month of clashes between police and protesters from the Madhesi and Tharu communities and ethnic minorities who say the new internal borders leave them under-represented in the country’s Parliament.

Human rights activist in Nepal Krishna Pahadi has sent a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying, “The blockade has damaged Nepal-India relations and also shattered Modi’s efforts to cement ties between the two neighbours.”

(With inputs from the PTI)