KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) – Despite the rapid escalation of tensions between Hindus and Muslims, the night passed peacefully after a cordon went into effect and security was tightened in a town in southwestern Nepal, authorities said.
Trouble in the town of Nepalgunj, the region’s nerve centre, began over the weekend after a Hindu boy posted a comment about Muslims on social media. Muslims protested outside the government administrator’s office, burning tires in the streets and blocking traffic.
A major Hindu rally was held on Tuesday until stones and bottles were thrown at the participants, causing some minor injuries.
The indefinite curfew came into effect on Tuesday afternoon in Nepalgunj, which is about 400 kilometers (250 miles) west of the capital Kathmandu, immediately after incidents at the Hindu protest.
Officers patrolled the city’s streets and residents were not allowed to leave their homes or gather in groups for the duration of the measure, explained the area’s police chief, Santosh Rathore. There were no disturbances last night or Wednesday morning.
Authorities said the shutdown was necessary to avoid gatherings of people and further clashes between the two sides.
Communal violence is not common in Nepal, a Hindu-majority country that embraced secularism a few years ago. Muslims represent about a third of the population of Nepalgunj and only 14% of the population of India, which shares a border with the Nepalese city and suffers from a growing religious divide.