By Gopal Sharma
KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Nepal's national unity is under attack and its people must act to save it, former King Gyanendra said on Wednesday, in some of his most critical political comments since being toppled by a parliamentary vote eight years ago.
A specially elected Constituent Assembly dominated by Maoist former rebels ended Nepal's 239-year-old monarchy in 2008 and turned the impoverished country of 28 million people into a republic.
Political parties are still haggling over creating federal states under a new constitution prepared last year, with the Madhesi ethnic minority demanding an autonomous state in the southern plains bordering India. This is opposed by some upper caste Brahmins living in the hills of the mainly Hindu nation.
More than 50 people died during protests in the Madhes, also known as the Tarai, last year while demanding a greater say for the Madhesi community in the government.
"Social goodwill among Nepali people is being erased and relentless efforts are being made to break the feeling of unity between Tarai (plains), hills and Himal (mountains)," Gyanendra said in a statement. "It is becoming intolerable."
Rounding on feuding politicians, Gyanendra said the people, the "supreme and permanent source of power", were being undermined by political parties under the "unfair influence of outside forces", which he did not identify.
"Let us save Nepal now. There is no meaning in repenting after the time is over," he added.
Neither the government nor the political parties could be immediately reached for comment.
The landlocked Himalayan nation is sandwiched between India and China, the world's two most populous countries that have long vied for influence in Nepal.
Gyanendra, 69, became monarch in 2001 after a palace massacre in which the rest of the royal family, including his brother King Birendra, were killed in a shooting spree by the then-crown prince who then turned the gun on himself.
Gyanendra now lives as a commoner in Kathmandu.
(Reporting by Gopal Sharma; Editing by Gareth Jones)