KATHMANDU, Nepal – Nepalese police removed protesters from a key border point Monday to allow more than 200 vehicles stranded for the past 40 days to cross over to India, officials said.
Police official Hobindra Bogati said five protesters were also detained when police removed them and the tents they had pitched on the bridge between custom check points of the two countries. He said 205 trucks and other vehicles had crossed from Birgunj in Nepal to Raxaul in India and more were lining up.
However, the trucks bringing fuel and other goods to Nepal were still blocked by Indian custom officials.
Members of the ethnic Madhesi people have been protesting the new constitution that was adopted in September, saying the new states assigned to them did not cover their population and they would need a bigger size. They have imposed a general strike in southern Nepal and blocked the border point, which has resulted in a severe fuel shortage across Nepal.
At least 45 people have been killed in the protests since August. There is no official count of the injured.
Police raided the protesters' camp before dawn when they were still sleeping in the tents, removed the tents and lined up the trucks to leave Nepal. By morning, there were small groups of protests in Birgunj but no reports of any clashes or violence.
Bogati said police were in full alert and would stop any attempt to block the trucks.
Earlier on Sunday, talks between the government and Madhesi representatives made some progress.
Following the one-day talks, Deputy Prime Minister Kamal Thapa said the government would address the Madhesi's main demand of a bigger state than was assigned to them in the new constitution through discussions with other political parties.
Initially, the government was insisting that the issue of the size of the states be resolved through a government-appointed commission, but Thapa said it would be discussed as a political issue, as demanded by the protesters.
The government also agreed to the United Democratic Madhesi Front's demands that the families of protesters who have been killed be given monetary compensation, that the government pay for the treatment of those who have been injured, and that cases against those who have been jailed be withdrawn.
Lal Bahadur Rawat of the United Democratic Madhesi Front said that Sunday's meeting was positive and that the two sides would meet again for further talks. He said, however, that the protests would continue in southern Nepal.