Normal life across Nepal remained paralyzed on Monday due to a strike called by opposition Nepali Congress in protest against death of a cadre following assault inside prison.
Educational institutions, business establishments and government offices remained closed during the 10-hour strike and streets in Kathmandu and other major towns wore a deserted look.
Diplomatic missions, ambulances, media and vehicles carrying tourists were allowed to ply. But despite calls for a peaceful strike, NC cadres damaged shops and vehicles in many towns.
Despite heavy presence of security personnel, NC supporters keen on enforcing the strike damaged motorcycles and cars at various places in Kathmandu, Chitwan and Bhaktapur. The death of Shiva Poudel, a leader belonging to NC's youth wing on Friday, following an assault on him by prison inmates inside the Bharatpur jail on December 6 was the reason for Monday's strike.
Nepali Congress has demanded that Poudel who was lodged in jail on charges of murder be declared a martyr by the government and all charges against him withdrawn.
The party decided to go ahead with the strike ignoring an appeal by the government, civil society and diplomatic missions. Those opposing the strike took out a rally in Kathmandu. The indirect 'threat' issued by the US embassy and EU missions in Nepal to deny visas to Nepali Congress leaders if they went ahead with the strike has evoked criticism from the party.
"As a party that believes in fighting for democratic principles, we are not going to change our decisions based on whether someone gives us visas or not," said senior Nepali Congress leader Arjun Narsingh KC.
Terming the strike as unfortunate, US Ambassador to Nepal Scott H. DeLisi had said that it would put efforts like recent lifting of travel warning and possible Amercian investment in Nepal at risk.
According to estimates, the strike would cost Nepal around NRs 2 billion (Rs 1.25 billion). The Federation of Nepalese Chamber of Commerce and Industry has said that it would cost the industrial sector NRs 386 million (Rs 241 million). A meeting of the Constitutional Committee that was to discuss contentious issues of the delayed peace and constitution-drafting was called off.