Schools and markets were shut in southern Nepal on Monday as a general strike by an ethnic minority group demanding greater rights brought the region to a standstill.
Roads were largely deserted and police had to escort convoys of buses and trucks on the main highway through Saptari district because of fears of attacks by strike organisers, said district chief government administrator Sambhu Koirala.
There were no immediate reports of violence, Koirala said.
Saptari district and surrounding areas have been hit by frequent strikes since last month, with several ethnic groups demanding the government address their demands for greater autonomy, more seats in the national legislature and a guaranteed number of representatives in the administration.
General strikes in Nepal usually force businesses to close and people to keep their vehicles off the streets because of fear of retaliation by organisers, who often react with violence if their orders are defied.
Since early last year, minority groups have been organising strikes, transportation shutdowns and demonstrations in southern Nepal to demand greater recognition of their rights. Some of the protests have turned violent, leaving at least 80 people dead. Many southerners say their region has been neglected in favour of the more populated north.