As outrage grew in his party over an Indian court sentencing 11 of its leaders to imprisonment, Nepal’s new Maoist prime minister Baburam Bhattarai on Tuesday held a meeting with the Indian ambassador to Nepal Jayant Prasad and formally asked him to convey to New Delhi that the verdict should be annulled.
The prime minister’s office juggled Bhattarai’s schedule to include a last-minute appointment with the Indian envoy on Tuesday noon, Bhattarai’s media advisor Ram Rijan Yadav told IANS.
The meeting was arranged after Maoist MPs brought to the prime minister’s notice that the Patna High Court in Bihar had last week slapped jail terms and fines on 11 Maoist leaders, including two former ministers and six sitting MPs, in absentia.
During the 10-year “People’s War” fought by the Maoists in Nepal from 1996, many of their leaders lived in hiding in Indian cities, taking advantage of the porous border between India and Nepal.
Seven years ago, Bihar police raided five hotels in Patna and arrested the 11 Maoist leaders, imprisoning them in Beur Jail for over two years.
In 2006, after the Maoists agreed to give up violence in Nepal and joined the parliamentary parties to stage a pro-democracy movement that ousted king Gyanendra’s army-backed regime, Nepal’s new government requested India to release the Nepali Maoist leaders held in various prisons.
Though Bihar released the 11 on bail, last week it resumed the cases against them, charging them with being involved in activities that threatened India’s sovereignty. These include colluding with the Indian Maoists in anti-India activities.
The jailed Maoist leaders have all along maintained that they were not involved in any anti-India activities but were in India either for medical treatment or to seek support for the pro-democracy movement in Nepal.