Nepal’s Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal Saturday ordered stringent action as embattled Vice President Paramananda Jha, caught in a snowballing row for taking oath of office in Hindi, received death threats with a bomb blast near his residence.
“The government condemns the bomb attack,” the prime minister told journalists as he rushed to Jha’s residence in Kathmandu’s Gaurighat area Satuday morning to inspect the damage and reassure the vice president.
“Stern action will be taken against those involved in the attack.”
Police began hunting for a little-known armed group, the Kirat Janabadi Workers Party (KJWP), which claimed responsibility for the blast and warned that “tougher action” would follow if Mr. Jha refused to take the oath of office in Nepali.
The outfit is among over 100 underground organisations that began mushrooming in Nepal’s restive Terai plains since the government of King Gyanendra fell in 2006.
Seeking to establish a state for the ethnic Kirat community in eastern Nepal, the KJWP hit the headlines for its extortion attempts.
In the past, it has entered into dialogue with the Maoist-led government and signed an agreement.
The outfit created a sensation this week when its leaders, masked and armed, held a press conference in the heart of the capital, accusing the government of reneging on its promise.
The turmoil escalated after Mr. Jha was ordered by Nepal’s Supreme Court to forego the oath he took a year ago in Hindi and be sworn in again in Nepali by Sunday or face dismissal.
The 65-year-old former judge, who has refused to take oath in Nepali under duress, on Friday filed two petitions against the verdict, seeking a review.
Hours after that, a bomb went off close to his three-storey residence, injuring a woman and causing damage to a nearby shop. Mr. Jha, who was at home at the time of the blast, was unharmed.
Last year too, after the Hindi row erupted, a bomb was thrown near his residence by another underground group, injuring a security personnel.
The language controversy has stoked fresh animosity between Nepal’s Terai community, who speak Hindi, and the elite hill community who espouse the use of Nepali for official purposes.
On Saturday, the Terai party that had last year helped Mr. Jha become Nepal’s first vice-president, the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum, called a shutdown in the Terai belt to protest against the Supreme Court verdict.
The Terai belt is calling the court decision biased against the plains community.
Since Friday, Terai parties have begun staging street protests in Kathmandu while a ‘struggle committee’ has been formed in the Terai to spearhead further strikes and demonstrations.