Police in Nepal cracked down on protesters blocking the country’s frontier with India on Monday, clearing them from the highway to allow Indian trucks bearing fuel and essential goods to pass after a weeks-long impasse.
Protest organizers told the Agence France-Presse news agency that police charged at them with batons early Monday morning and burned down the tents they had used to block a key border checkpoint.
The protests, initiated by ethnic minorities in the landlocked Himalayan nation, have claimed at least 40 lives since August and resulted in a fuel shortage that has brought the country to a virtual standstill. Demonstrators mainly represent the nation’s Madhesi and Tharu minorities, who say they have not been adequately represented in the country’s recently adopted constitution.
The protests have also led to a diplomatic standoff between India and Nepal, with the latter accusing its powerful South Asian neighbor of fomenting the unrest and intentionally impeding fuel supplies. Nepal signed a deal with China to replenish fuel reserves late last week; both Beijing and New Delhi have been courting Nepal in recent years with an eye on its considerable hydropower potential.
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