The Nepalese government has ordered an investigation into deadly clashes in southern Nepal in which 27 people were killed. As Anjana Pasricha reports from New Delhi, the inquiry was ordered a day after the United Nations expressed worry that the growing violence in the country could jeopardize the peace process there.
Nepalese officials said Friday that a judge will report within two weeks on deadly clashes in the southern town of Gaur, between former communist rebels and supporters of an ethnic group fighting for greater autonomy in the south.
The fighting broke out Wednesday over a public meeting ground that both sides wanted to use. Maoists say most of the 27 people killed were their supporters. The incident followed weeks of violent protests in the south, where the Madhesi People's Rights Forum is fighting for more representation for its community in parliament and government.
The United Nations mission in Nepal says the latest confrontation should have been avoided, and is calling for the arrest of those responsible for the killings.
The U.N. has also expressed concern about abductions and beatings of businessmen in Kathmandu and other parts of the country. It has called on all Nepalese, especially in the south of the country, to pursue their goals by peaceful means.
The growing unrest in the south has led to worries that the political climate in Nepal is deteriorating ahead of elections scheduled to be held in June. The elections will choose a special assembly to write a new constitution for Nepal.
The spokesman for the U.N. mission, Kieran Dwyer, says it is vital for Nepal to build a climate of peace in which all political parties can campaign freely before elections are held.
"We need to see law and order taking roots in the villages and towns across the country before there could be the conditions for an election," said Dwyer. "We see people with grievances taking to the streets, shutting down the whole country in terms of transport systems and business, and this does not help keep the situation calm, it does not help people trust in the rule of law here."
Earlier this week, businessmen in Kathmandu organized a three-day shutdown after a hotel owner was abducted and beaten, allegedly by former Maoist rebels, for refusing to give money and free rooms to the Maoists' supporters.
Businessmen have complained to the government that threats and extortion by the Maoists have not ended, despite their pledge to give up violence after they signed a peace deal in November. The former rebels deny that their supporters are involved in such incidents.
The U.N. has called on the Maoist leadership to ensure that the group becomes a peaceful political organization.