Nepal’s cable operators block Indian channels; govt tells them to continue broadcast

Even as cable TV operators in Nepal began blocking as many as 42 Indian channels to protest blockade of a key trade checkpoint with India by agitators opposing Nepal’s new Constitution, the Nepal government has sought clarification from the operators for stopping the broadcast, agencies report.

Ministry of Information and Communications asked clarification from various cable operators as to why action must  not be taken against them as they have violated Article 11 of the National Broadcasting Act, 2049. The ministry claims the cable operators violated the provision and stopped broadcasting without any prior notice.

It has given direction to furnish clarification within 24 hours and continue the broadcast.

The move by cable operators to block Indian channels comes after a former Maoist splinter party started a campaign against Indian movies and TV channels in Nepal.

The indefinite blackout of Indian channels began at 10 am.

President of Federation of Nepal Cable Television Association Sushil Parajuli said they decided to shut down the broadcast of the Indian channels as “India has been intruding in the national sovereignty of Nepal.”

“We were also getting pressure from a few parties and public to cut the Indian channels,” Parajuli said.

According to the federation, the broadcast of Hindi channels has already stopped in Chitwan, Pokhara and Mahendranagar. Indian television channels are popular among viewers in Kathmandu and other cities in Nepal.

Unrest in Nepal’s Terai plains over the new Constitution has led to the blockade of Birgunj trade checkpoint with India, cutting off vital supplies, including petroleum products.

Nepalese officials have alleged that fuel crisis has worsened in the country as Indian customs and security officials are stalling cargo movement to Nepal and there has been a stoppage of petroleum supply to Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) by the Indian Oil Corporation.

Indian envoy Ranjit Rae was called in by the Acting Nepalese Foreign Minister Khaga Raj last week and the issue of”obstruction” in the supply of essential goods coming in from the Indian side was raised with him.

Rae had clarified that there was no obstruction from the Indian side on the movement of goods and the problem was due to unrest, protests and demonstrations on the Nepalese side. Indian freight forwarders and transporters have earlier voiced complaints about the difficulties they are facing in movement within Nepal and their security fears due to the prevailing unrest.

Later, speaking in a programme organised by Nepal-India Friendship Association, he said India wants to move ahead with Nepal as a whole and not just with a certain group.

“We want a peaceful, prosperous and politically stable Nepal,” he said.

At least 40 people have died in over a month of clashes between police and protesters from the Madhesi and Tharu communities and ethnic minorities who say the new internal borders leave them under-represented in the country’s Parliament.

The agitating Madhesi Front claims that the Constitution does not guarantee enough rights and representation to the Madhesi and Tharu communities residing in southern Nepal.

Madhesis are Indian-origin inhabitants of the Terai plains bordering India.

Meanwhile, in a symbolic protest, Akhil Nepal National Free Students Union, the student wing of ruling CPN-UML, cooked Nepali traditional food — Gundruk and Dhindo — outside the Indian Embassy Sunday.

The student activists cooked the food by using firewood.

“We will live on forest food, but won’t let our national pride down before India,” said ANNFSU Secretary Radhika Khatiwada.

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