Maoist students call Kathmandu shutdown

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS

Kathmandu : With less than three months left for a historic election in Nepal, Maoist guerrillas have threatened a Kathmandu valley closure next Sunday followed by indefinite strikes if the government fails to free its supporters within a week.

Support TwoCircles

The Young Communist League (YCL), the youth wing of the Maoists, has asked the home ministry to release its cadres. Over 40 YCL members were arrested last month after clashes with the student group loyal to Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s Nepali Congress party.

Though different youth groups held parleys since then and agreed to bury the hatchet, the YCL Sunday said it would start demonstrations from Wednesday.

If the government ignored the protests, the group said it would enforce a Kathmandu valley shutdown next Sunday, after which there would be a series of different strikes.

The warning comes a day after Maoists began clashing with different parties outside the valley.

In Ramechhap district east of Kathmandu, they humiliated a former MP and leader of the second largest party in the ruling coalition, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist, by tying a garland of shoes around his neck.

Dev Shankar Poudel was then paraded in a market area Saturday and beaten up as the Maoists accused him of misappropriating state funds.

The same treatment was meted out to leaders of the Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) in Dhankuta.

The RPP, once a pro-monarchy party that had remained so even after King Gyanendra seized power with the help of the army, is one of the main targets of the Maoists.

Their current anger has been fuelled by RPP chief Pashupati Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana last month criticising the eight-party government’s move to nationalise the king’s property. Rana says much of it had already been taken over by the state. He is also asking for the nationalisation process to be transparent.

Maoist cadres are also preventing Koirala’s Nepali Congress party from beginning its poll campaign in Ramechhap. The guerrillas are demanding that the party spell out whether it is supporting monarchy or a republic.

Meanwhile, a top Maoist leader, Baburam Bhattarai, said it would be impossible to hold free and fair polls till monarchy was abolished.

Though the rebels had earlier agreed to let the election decide the king’s fate, since last month they began demanding the abolition of monarchy before the Nov 22 poll.

While the government said it was beefing up security, a band of former Maoists has called a five-day shutdown in the Terai plains. The Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha, led by Jwala Singh, has called for a five-day closure in the south in retaliation to the killing of a cadre.

Meanwhile, in the capital, doctors went on the warpath Sunday, announcing an indefinite strike.

The Nepal Medical Association, that had been an ally of Koirala during the king’s rule, has called the strike to press for 13 demands, including security.