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Nepal crisis

Against the backdrop of a four-month blockade of Indian imports, police shot dead three Madhesi protesters in eastern Nepal on 21 January, bringing the total number of deaths in the ethnic unrest to 50.

The authorities tried to justify the shootings by saying the crowd had been throwing stones at the police.

The Madhesis, who live in the Terai plains area of Nepal, have been protesting since August about the new Nepali constitution, which assigns most plains districts to hill-dominated provinces.

On 23 January, the Nepali parliament offered an olive branch, passing amendments to its new constitution which offered ‘proportional inclusion’ of minorities in state institutions.

The amendments were welcomed by India, which eased its blockade of Nepal slightly, but rejected by Madhesi parties.

Meanwhile, former Maoist leader Baburam Bhattarai, who left the UCPN-Maoists in September over the new constitution, has launched a new party, ‘New Force Nepal’, for ‘national industrial capitalism’.