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Maoists wage war on Terai pact

Nepal's Maoists rejected a pact signed between the government and a key party from the Terai plains, describing it as a "conspiracy" and demanding that it be scrapped.

world Updated: Sep 03, 2007 15:56 IST

Within 24 hours of it being inked, Nepal's Maoists on Friday rejected a pact signed between the government and a key party from the Terai plains, describing it as a "conspiracy" and demanding that it be scrapped.

Maoist supremo Prachanda issued a statement a day after the government signed a 22-point agreement with the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum, the guerrillas' prime foe in the plains, saying his party was opposed to the pact.

The guerrilla chief alleged that peace and reconstruction minister Ram Chandra Poudel, who belongs to Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala's Nepali Congress party and is his deputy in the cabinet, signed the agreement without consulting the other partners in the ruling coalition, especially his own party.

"Though there are several groups waging protests in the Terai plains, the government chose to ignore the others and hold talks with the Forum, thereby proving that it was still pursuing its divide and rule policy," Prachanda said.

"Instead of resolving the Terai turmoil, it will stoke it further."

Earlier this month, when the Maoists announced they would start a peaceful protest to press for abolition of monarchy before the November election, Prachanda asked the government to hold a roundtable conference where all agitating groups could take part and all grievances could be solved in one go in a transparent manner.

Currently, besides several Terai groups, women's groups, Dalits, a community regarded as untouchables, freed slaves and others have been holding separate protests demanding their rights.

The rebels' anger was especially roused by a clause in the 22-point pact in which the Forum alleges that Maoists captured people's homes, properties and weapons, and should be made to return them.

Prachanda said the demand went against the peace pact his party had signed with the seven-party alliance and the decisions taken by the interim government.

The Maoist war on the pact is also believed to have been triggered by fears that the prime minister and his party reached an understanding with the Forum on seat-sharing in the Terai during the November elections, which would jeopardise the Maoists' chances.

Since the rise of the Forum in the plains, Maoists have been at loggerheads with them, resulting in frequent violence.

On Thursday, the Forum signed a 22-point agreement with the government, primarily agreeing to restructure Nepal as a federal country with autonomous states, and to give proportional representation to Madhesis - people from the Terai plains - in all state agencies.

Though the government and the Forum expressed jubilation over the pact, there was criticism from other quarters that the Forum had "surrendered" to the state.

"There is nothing new in the pact," said Rajesh Ahiraj, editor of Madheshvani, a Madhesi publication.

"Most of the state concessions had been made during earlier talks. The pact is a ploy to break the spine of the Madhes movement."

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