KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Tens of thousands of students held hands, waved banners and chanted slogans in Nepal’s capital Friday to protest against a border blockade that has caused severe shortages of fuel and an increase in food prices in the Himalayan country.
The students lined the Ring Road which circles Kathmandu to demand an immediate lifting of the blockade.
“Stop the blockade. Education is our right,” chanted the students.
Some held banners as they held hands in a human chain organized by various groups representing schools in Kathmandu.
For weeks, members of the Madhesi ethnic community protesting Nepal’s new constitution have blocked the main southern border point with India, preventing fuel and other essential items from entering the country.
India, which has close cultural ties with the Madhesis, has restricted fuel supplies to Nepal, which relies on its giant neighbor for most of its fuel.
Nepal accuses India of imposing an “undeclared blockade,” which India denies.
Schools have been forced to extend holidays and cut down on classes because of the fuel shortage.
“We are here to protest the Indian blockade that has made it very difficult for us to attend our classes. We are here to say education is our right,” said Pramod Basnet, a 13-year-old student from a school in Kathmandu.
The Madhesis say the new constitution unfairly divides the Himalayan country into seven states with borders that cut through their ancestral homeland. They want the states to be larger and to be given more autonomy over local matters.
At least 50 people have been killed in the protests since August. There is no official count of the injured.
Nepalese authorities have been rationing gasoline for taxis and public buses, but there has been no fuel for private cars.
Talks between the protesting groups and the government have made little progress, but both sides say they will continue talking.