Nepal town under prohibition as Maoists clash with farmers

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS

Kathmandu : The local administration declared parts of a key Nepal town prohibited area Sunday and threatened to impose curfew following clashes between the Maoists and local farmers that left at least four rebels seriously injured.

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The violence occurred in the Gothbariphat area of Manthali, the main town in Ramechhap district in central Nepal, east of Kathmandu Saturday.

Ramechhap was a stronghold of the Maoists during the decade-old communist insurgency that ended with the rebels signing a peace pact in November 2006.

The clashes were triggered as the Young Communist League (YCL), the powerful youth wing of the Maoists who have become notorious for taking the law in their own hands in repeated violation of the peace accord, tried to force the farmers into surrendering part of their harvest.

Though the guerrillas had agreed to end extortion when they signed the accord, of late, they have stepped up a “donation” drive, forcing a wide range of people, from hoteliers to trekkers, to pay them money.

Rajendra Dahal, a local leader of the YCL, and three more of his peers were hurt in the clashes, private radio station Gorkha FM said.

The main market in Manthali as well as areas around it remained tense, resulting in the administration declaring the violence-prone pockets prohibited areas.

The clashes come as the Maoists began celebrating the seventh anniversary of the formation of their People’s Liberation Army with a programme in Chitwan in south Nepal.

Maoist supremo Prachanda and other top leaders of the once underground party attended the start of the celebrations Saturday that includes various tournaments and cultural programmes.

Prachanda was reported by the official media as telling his cadres that though the party favoured a peaceful protest to force the government into abolishing monarchy immediately, it was however ready to fight for another 40 years if the need arose.

“We hoped that following the 10-year People’s War and the 19-day people’s movement (against King Gyanendra’s regime) we would not have to fight any more,” Nepal’s official media Sunday quoted the rebel chief as saying.

“However, we will be compelled to do so in case the ruling parties take our flexibility as our weakness.”