Vidya Devi Bhandari Escapes Unhurt As Madhesis Attack Motorcade

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Kathmandu; Dec.16: Nepal's first woman President Bidya Devi Bhandari on Wednesday escaped unhurt as agitating Indian-origin Madhesis waving black flags attacked her motorcade with stones and hurled a petrol bomb at the famous Ram Janaki temple she had visited.

Around 20 protesters suffered injuries in clashes with security personnel fired dozens of tear gas shells to disperse the mob protesting outside the well-known temple in southern Nepal's historical town of Janakpur, over 225 kms from here.

Tensions were running high when 54-year-old Bhandari arrived on a chopper to offer prayers during the Bivaha Panchami festival, prompting authorities to deploy heavy security in the area.

Hundreds of people took to the streets in Janakpur protesting against her visit as head of the state, and many of them were carrying black flags, according to eye-witnesses. The Madhesi cadres even pelted stones targeting president Bhandari's motorcade, though according to officials, nobody was injured and no damage was caused to the vehicles.

The protesters clashed with police in different areas of Janakpur over Bhandari's visit and the injured are undergoing treatment at local health facilities. A petrol bomb was hurled at the temple premises immediately after she left due to which the stage and canopy caught fire.

The activists of Unified Madhesi Front, an alliance of four Terai-based parties, were protesting against the new Constitution promulgated in September that divides Nepal into seven federal provinces.

The Front had decided to protest against the president's visit as she belongs to the ruling CPN-UML, which they believe is working against the interest of the Indian-origin Madhesi community.

President Bhandari, who reached Janakpur around noon, spent less than half an hour in the temple premises, offering prayers on the occasion Bivaha Panchami, the annual festival symbolising wedding of Goddess Sita with Ram. However, the symbolic wedding was cancelled due to the tension in the area.

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