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Nepal must hold polls in November: Indian envoy


Kathmandu : The Nepal government must improve the law and order situation and hold elections in November or lose credibility, Indian ambassador Shiv Shankar Mukherjee said Wednesday as student violence engulfed the capital.

At the celebration of India’s 60th Independence Day at the Indian embassy here, Mukherjee said Nepal Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s government came to power with the mandate of holding the crucial constituent assembly election.

If the government fails to hold the deferred election yet again, Mukherjee said, it would lose its credibility.

“Nothing should be used as an excuse for not holding elections in time,” Mukherjee told journalists. “(Neither) the situation in Terai nor the law and order problem.”

The envoy said the law and order situation must be improved and an atmosphere conducive to elections be created so that voters have the confidence to go out and vote freely.

India, he added, was ready to offer all possible help to Nepal.

Mukherjee’s statement came at a time when the capital Kathmandu saw scenes of violence and lawlessness unprecedented since the last days of King Gyanendra’s regime, when the nation had remained paralysed by seething street protests.

Kathmandu city simmered with tension Wednesday as Maoists enforced a lightning traffic shutdown, battled with police leading to dozens being hurt and arrested, and setting ablaze the car of an MP, belonging to one of the top parties in the ruling alliance.

The city looked under siege as fire and black smoke rose from burning tyres on the roads and rebel students took on security forces, warning of more reprisals from Thursday if their cadres were not freed from police custody in 24 hours.

The All Nepal Student Union (Revolutionary), affiliated to the Maoists, had called a three-hour road blockade in the capital from 10 a.m. Wednesday when their patrolling cadres ensured that no vehicles moved on Kathmandu’s streets.

Som Prasad Pande, a legislator from the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist, came under attack when he tried to park his car.

The powerful youth wing of the Maoists, the Young Communist League (YCL), set his car on fire despite being told who he was. The MP was said to have sustained injuries in the attack.

Though police arrested a YCL member from the venue, the attack is likely to snowball with the victim’s party taking the issue up.

The battle between students affiliated to Maoists and Prime Minister Koirala’s Nepali Congress party began Monday after a group of Maoists barged into the hostel of an engineering college in the capital Monday and assaulted residents.

The victims were mostly members of the Nepal Students’ Union (NSU), the student wing of the Nepali Congress. In retaliation, the NSU Tuesday called a strike in educational institutions and began taking out protest rallies in the capital.

Kathmandu turned into a battlefield Tuesday with scuffles breaking out between both sides that blocked roads by burning tyres, fought with police and vandalised a police station.

Nearly two dozen people, including three policemen, were hurt in the violence. Police arrested 46 people, including members of YCL and the Maoist student union.

The arrests added to the wrath of the rebels. Lekhnath Neupane, leader of the rebel students’ union and newly nominated MP, warned that his party would be forced to take strong action if the detainees were not freed within 24 hours.

Both the warring sides are accusing the other of having instigated the violence.

Dang district in midwest Nepal, once a stronghold of the Maoists, was shut down by the NSU Wednesday.

The violence has especially affected nearly 117,000 students who Wednesday started taking the most important and toughest examination in their career, the school-leaving examination known as Nepal’s “iron gate” because of the low success rate.

In addition to the student violence, Bara district in southern Nepal reeled under a two-day closure enforced from Wednesday by a group of former Maoists.

The Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha, headed by former top Maoist leader from the plains, Jay Krishna Goit, said it had called the two-day shutdown to protest the killing of a member by the YCL.

There are 98 days left for the constituent assembly election, which will write a new constitution for Nepal.