Nepal’s Hindi war: vice-president asked to take oath at 4 p.m

Kathmandu, Aug 30 ( The growing turmoil in Nepal over Vice President Paramananda Jha having to take his oath of office and secrecy again in Nepali headed for a climax Sunday with the government asking him to take afresh the oath at 4 p.m. and a defiant Jha indicating he was going on indefinite leave.

Facing a 48-hour shutdown in the Terai plains in the south, known as Nepal’s Hindi belt, and mounting protests in the capital, Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal Sunday held a meeting with his ministers to discuss how to implement the decision of the Supreme Court. The court has fixed Sunday midnight as the deadline for Jha to take his oath again in Nepali or face suspension.

The council of ministers, according to reports, has fixed 4 p.m. as the time for a fresh oath-taking and urged Jha to undergo the ceremony at the office of President Ram Baran Yadav.

But Jha, the man in the eye of the language storm for over a year, has indicated that he would not toe the government line.

“I took my oath of office 13 months ago in Hindi,” the 65-year-old former judge told Inditop.

“There is no precedent in the world of an official being asked to take the oath again after such a long time. By ordering me to renounce my Hindi oath and take it again in Nepali, the Supreme Court has insulted all ethnic communities whose mother tongue is not Nepali. The verdict is biased and has divided Nepal at a time we should proceed unitedly to draft a new constitution.”

The indications are that Jha, who filed two petitions last week challenging the Supreme Court verdict that is calling his Hindi oath unconstitutional, will neither attend the oath-taking ceremony today nor resign.

Instead, he is expected to go on leave indefinitely and wage a legal battle in retaliation.

Meanwhile, Nepal’s Hindi parties, which last year helped Jha win the vice-presidential election, went on the warpath in the Terai, clamping a general strike since Saturday to protest against the Supreme Court verdict as well as the government endorsement of it.

Protests have also begun in the capital.

In view of the unrest, police said they had tightened security around Jha’s house after two failed attempts to bomb it.

At least one man has been arrested in a massive manhunt launched in the capital and Terai since a bomb exploded Friday near Jha’s residence in Kathmandu, injuring a woman.

An armed group involved in extortion, the Kirat Janawadi Workers Party, had claimed responsibility for the blast.

A central committee member of the outfit, Ajay Rai, has been arrested from Itahari town in Terai’s Sunsari district Saturday night, police said.