By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS,
Kathmandu : Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon’s two-day visit to Nepal was disrupted Sunday by nationwide protests called by the Maoists to vent their anger at the government for revoking an earlier government’s decision to sack the army chief, Gen Rookmangud Katawal.
Menon, who was scheduled to meet four ministers Sunday before departing for New Delhi, managed to hold talks with only Foreign Minister Sujata Koirala as the foreign ministry, relocated to the former royal palace recently, was away from the ministerial hub which lay under Maoist siege.
The Indian envoy’s meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Bijay Kumar Gachhadar, scheduled for 10 a.m. at Singh Durbar, had to be shelved, the minister’s office said.
Though the foreign ministry was frantically trying to reschedule the meetings, uncertainty loomed large.
Menon could not also hold talks with the newly appointed Home Minister Bhim Rawal and Defence Minister Vidya Bhandari.
However, the foreign ministry said fresh meetings had been rescheduled with both in the afternoon.
Gachhadar, who heads a faction of Terai party Madhesi Janadhikar Forum, has been locked in a dispute with the government over the allocation of portfolios.
The protracted feud has prevented the Terai parties from joining the new communist-led government even almost four weeks after its inception.
Violence erupted nationwide Sunday as Maoists clashed with police in Kathmandu and outside districts while staging a two-hour sit-in before key government offices and courts. They were protesting against the decision by the new Madhav Kumar Nepal government to scrap an earlier decision by their own nine-month government to sack army chief Gen Rookmangud Katawal.
Menon’s Nepal mission, intended to give a boost to the obstructed peace process, may not be an easy task with the Maoists also announcing Sunday that they would start a new ‘People’s revolt’.
Former PM and Maoist supremo Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, whose cadres have not allowed parliament to function since last month, said his party would start a new movement against the Nepal government to ensure that civil supremacy reigned over the military.
The Maoists say they had sacked Katawal since he tried to set the army above the elected government and establish military supremacy.