Opposition politicians threw chairs and attacked the parliamentary speaker during a violent general strike in Nepal on Tuesday aimed at blocking the government from pushing through a draft of a new constitution.
The strike called by the alliance of 30 opposition parties also shut down schools, transportation and shops. Supporters chanted anti-government slogans at rallies in the capital, Kathmandu, and a dozen vehicles were set on fire when their owners defied the strike call.
Police detained about 50 protesters who were trying to enforce the strike.
Both the ruling coalition and opposition said they would stick to their positions and there was no plan for a meeting to defuse the situation.
"We will bring the draft despite the protests. If they continue to block the assembly meeting we will find other alternatives but we will bring the draft," said Jhalnath Khanal, leader of the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist Leninist), a ruling party.
Baburam Bhattarai of the United Communist Party of Nepal Maoist said the opposition parties would continue their protests and would not bow down to the ruling coalition.
The Constituent Assembly started a long-delayed meeting at 2 a.m. Tuesday, and the violence started when opposition members tried to stop Speaker Subash Nemwang from proposing the formation of a questionnaire committee, which precedes voting on the constitutional draft.
They threw chairs, kicked over desks and tossed microphones at the speaker. In the tussle, several security guards were injured but the assembly members suffered only bruises.
A second meeting later Tuesday was also disrupted by the opposition members who chanted slogans for one and half hours, preventing Nemwang from speaking. Security was stepped up with three lines of security guards posted before the speaker.
The ruling coalition — which has the support of two-thirds of the members of the 605-member assembly — plans to push through the draft on Thursday. Opposition parties say any new constitution should be adopted through consensus among all political parties.
The Himalayan nation has been attempting to draft a constitution since electing its first Constituent Assembly in 2008. The second assembly was chosen in 2013 but disagreements among the parties continue to hamper progress.
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