KATHMANDU: At least 20 people -- 17 policemen including a senior officer and three protesters -- were killed and more than 100 injured in a violent clash on Monday in western Nepal's Kailali district between security personnel and protesters demanding a separate Tharuhat province.
Rajkumar Shrestha, chief district officer of Kailali, said 17 police personnel including a senior superintendent of police (SSP) were killed in the clash between Tharuhat activists and police in Tikapur in the district.
Hemanta Pal, deputy inspector general (DIG) at the Nepal Police Headquarters, said Seti zonal police chief Laxman Neupane, two inspectors Keshav Bohara and Balram Bista, a head constable and a constable were among those killed.
Six personnel from the Armed Police Force, including head constable Ram Bir Tharu and three protesters were also killed when a mob tried to breach the curfew imposed by the local administration.
The protesters were demanding a separate Tharuhat province in western Nepal that is predominated by people from the Tharu community.
A meeting of the National Security Council decided to mobilise the Nepal Army to contain the violence.
Home Minister Bamdev Gautam told parliament that as per the local administration's request, the government decided to mobilise the army.
Stressing that the incidents "look manipulated and planned", Gautam said Armed Police Force head constable Tharu was set on fire, while SSP Neupane was stabbed with a spear.
The other security personnel were also stabbed, as the mob attacked the security personnel from all directions.
Nepal has been witnessing violent protests and agitations since the past two weeks, in which half a dozen people have been killed over the issue of federalism.
Many political parties and stakeholders have been opposing the six province model of federalism agreed to by the ruling Nepali Congress, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML), the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M) and the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum-Loktantrik.
Federalism has been the key bone of contention, as Nepal is in its final leg of the constitution drafting process.
According to reports, the Tharu community is opposing the federalism model that has put Kailali and Kanchanpur districts out of the proposed Tharuhat province.
Monday's clash erupted after the protesters tried to defy the curfew and the prohibitory order issued by the district administration in Tikapur and Durgauli areas.
Tension prevails in the area, as sporadic clashes between security personnel and protesters have been reported. Violence was also reported from Rauthat and Saptari districts.
The authorities have been clamping curfew in the district for the past four days. Prohibitory orders in Tikapur were imposed from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.