A Nepal town imposes a lockdown and beefs up security to prevent clashes between Hindus and Muslims

KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Despite quickly escalating tensions between Hindus and Muslims, the night passed peacefully after a lockdown was imposed and security heightened in a city in southwest Nepal, officials said.

Trouble began in the regional hub city of Nepalgunj over the weekend after a Hindu boy posted a status about Muslims on social media. Muslims protested the status inside the region’s main government administrator’s office building, burned tires on the streets and blocked traffic.

A larger Hindu rally was held Tuesday until stones and bottles were thrown at protesters, resulting in a few minor injuries.

The indefinite curfew was imposed since Tuesday afternoon in Nepalgunj, about 400 kilometers (250 miles) west of the capital, Kathmandu, directly after the Hindu protest came under attack.

Area police chief Santosh Rathore said officers were patrolling the city and people were not allowed to leave their homes or gather in groups during the lockdown. There were no reports of any trouble overnight, nor on Wednesday morning.

Officials said they needed to impose the stay-at-home order and stop people from gathering together to prevent any more clashes between the two sides.

Communal violence is not common in Nepal, which is a Hindu majority country that turned secular just a few years ago. Muslims make up roughly a third of Nepalgunj's population, and only about 14% of India's population, which shares a border with the Nepal town and has seen a widening religious divide.