Nepal Maoists withdraw shutdown after talks with PM


Kathmandu : After they went on the warpath in south Nepal's Kapilavastu district, calling an indefinite closure and attacking nearly a dozen vehicles, a Maoist group Sunday withdrew its protest following talks between their top leaders and Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala.

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The controversial youth wing of the Maoists had enforced the indefinite shutdown in Kapilavastu, revered by Buddhists as part of the ancient kingdom where the Buddha was born and spent 29 years before leaving home in search of enlightenment, to pressure the Nepal Army into pulling out of the area.

Early on Sunday, the Young Communist League torched five buses and attacked seven more vehicles for trying to move out of the paralysed district under the cover of darkness.

The league had called the protest to force the Nepalese Army, once their bete noire, into pulling out from its base at Birpur village in the district, where about 40 soldiers are stationed.

The government moved quickly to defuse the situation.

Koirala held a two-hour meeting with Maoist supremo Prachanda and his deputy Baburam Bhattarai to discuss the activities of Maoist cadres and other contentious issues.

While details about the meeting were not divulged immediately, the Maoist chief of Rupandehi district in the plains issued a statement saying the Kapilavastu closure was being withdrawn.

Two years ago, almost immediately after King Gyanendra seized power with the help of the army and declared war on the Maoists, the royalist government began arming vigilante groups in Kapilavastu and other districts to take on the guerrillas.

The Maoists allege that between Feb 17-23 that year, around 500 people, including army men and state-backed criminals, killed 22 people on the suspicion they were Maoists and set nearly 700 houses on fire.

They also allege that the army post in Kapilavastu is intended to primarily protect a villager who headed the vigilante group.

Refuting the accusation that it was providing protection to an individual, the Nepal Army said it would not leave the area.

"The Birpur army base was established during the past conflict, when it was deemed necessary to set up security bases in certain areas to provide security to the public," it had earlier said in a statement issued in Kathmandu.

"The bases are for the security of the people and not any individual or group. In the present situation, none of these camps can be removed."

The ruling coalition also succeeded in averting a two-day Nepal shutdown, which was to have been enforced from Sunday, by an umbrella of over 40 ethnic communities, who are demanding greater political and cultural rights.