KATHMANDU, Nepal – Vehicles passed through the main border point between Nepal and India on Friday after frustrated local residents forcefully removed barriers set up by ethnic protesters who blockaded the border to demand changes in the new constitution.
The border traffic was the first sign of an easing to the severe shortages of fuel, medicine and other supplies in the Himalayan nation since the blockade and a general strike in the south started late last year.
Police official Hobindra Bogati said residents and businessmen removed tents and bamboo poles that were blocking the border at Birgunj, about 160 kilometres (100 miles) south of Kathmandu, and several cargo trucks and smaller vehicles were able to cross.
It was not, however, the official end of the blockade by the protesters, who could return. The local businesses and traders have been left without business and work for months and have been asking the protesters to end their border seizure.
Bogati said security was increased and riot police were sent to the area because the protesters were gathering and attempting to once again close the border point. There was no report of any clashes.
Birgunj is the key border point where landlocked Nepal gets fuel and other goods from India, its main supplier.
Nepa’s Constituent Assembly adopted a constitution in September after years of delay and despite protests of unfairness.
Ethnic Madhesis in south Nepal have been protesting for months, saying the charter’s seven federal states have borders that cut through their ancestral homeland. They want a larger state, more government representation and more local autonomy. Talks with the government have continued but no agreement has been reached.
More than 50 people have been killed since August in protest-related violence.