KATHMANDU  - Strikes brought widespread violence to Nepal’s largest two cities on Sunday, just a week ahead of a deadline for the impoverished Himalayan nation to complete its first peace-time constitution. Police said they arrested more than 70 people in the capital, Kathmandu, and second city, Pokhara, where shops were forced to close, drivers warned off roads and journalists covering the protests attacked. “Sixty protesters have been arrested for forcefully organising the strike in Kathmandu. A dozen have been arrested in Pokhara for smashing the windows of a hotel there,” said Nepal Police spokesman Binod Singh.

“Protesters also have vandalised 15 vehicles and eight motorbikes in Kathmandu and one in Makawanpur district.

“Six vehicles of private television channels have also been vandalised. The protesters have targeted media houses and even media people have been abused.”

Protest groups have been making various claims for their rights ahead of a May 27 deadline for parliament to complete its new constitution following the end of a bloody 10-year Maoist insurgency in 2006.

Sunday marked the first day of a planned three-day shutdown by the Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN), which is calling for the formation of federal states in the new constitution along ethnic lines.

The group was condemned by Shiva Gaule, the head of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists, but NEFIN president Raj Kumar Lekhi told reporters it was not their policy to attack the media.