KATHMANDU: Thousands of opposition supporters in Nepal today staged a massive protest rally here to press the government over their demand of drafting the Constitution through consensus, prompting police to fire teargas and water cannons in which over 20 protesters were injured.
Addressing the protest rally, UCPN-Maoist chief Prachanda asked the ruling Nepali Congress and CPN-UML to scrap the Proposal Drafting Committee that is supposed to decide the disputed issues of the constitution through majority votes and return to the Constitutional Political Dialogue and Consensus Committee to forge consensus.
"Do you want consensus or confrontation?," asked main opposition leader Prachanda to the ruling alliance and warned of launching intensified protests if the ruling parties tried to promulgate the constitution through two-third majority votes instead of forging consensus among political parties.
The alliance of 30 opposition parties led by the UCPN-Maoist includes Joint Madhesi Front, a group of five Madhes-based parties and some fringe parties.
The Opposition, which had been threatening street protests, brought about 30,000 protesters to Kathmandu.
Several rallies started in different parts of the city and merged at the Tudikhel grounds.
The protesters waved their party flags, held banners and chanted anti-government slogans. Security was stepped up, with riot police stationed in main parts of the city.
A group of protesters scuffled with riot police when then attempted to enter an area where protests were prohibited.
Police fired tear gas, and several protesters were hit with batons.
At least 20 people were also injured as the police resorted to baton charging and firing tear gas cells.
UCPN-Maoist Vice-chairman Baburam Bhattarai has slammed the ruling Nepali Congress and CPN-UML calling them as 'colour blind' in the pretext that they did not recognize different ethnic groups existing in the country.
He said that the opposition will show their true strength if the ruling parties still ignore their call for consensus.
During the speech, the opposition leaders criticised the incumbent government for failing to stop impunity, corruption, price hikes and shortage of daily consumables.
Nepalese political parties are seriously divided mainly over four issues of the new proposed Constitution that include forms of governance, names and number of federal units, electoral system and judicial system.
The political parties in Nepal had set a January 22 deadline to draft a constitution so as to institutionalise the achievements of the Peoples Movement of 2006. However, they failed to meet the deadline.