Clashes despite PM's resignation

PTI | ByKedar Man Singh (Agence France-Presse), Kathmandu
May 09, 2004 09:10 PM IST

Students opposed to Nepal's king clashed with police and troops gunned down 22 Maoist rebels despite PM's resignation.

Students opposed to Nepal's king clashed with police Sunday and troops gunned down 22 Maoist rebels despite the resignation last week of the widely criticised pro-royal prime minister, officials said.

HT Image
HT Image

A security official said 22 rebels were gunned down in at least four clashes since Prime Minister Surya Bahadur Thapa's resignation Friday.

The official said the rebels, who want to overthrow the monarchy, also snatched 36 teachers and students from a school Friday in the western Sindhuli district and were believed to be forcing them into indoctrination sessions.

In Kathmandu, opposition parties which had sought the sacking of Thapa brought to the street Sunday some 15,000 people who chanted slogans against King Gyanendra, who fired the elected government in 2002.

Police did not intervene against the march but raided Tribhuvan University, the top campus in the capital, to stop students from holding a mock referendum on whether to abolish the monarchy.

Students threw stones to force back the police, 12 of whom suffered head injuries, police official Ganesh K.C. told AFP.

Six students were injured in the brawl, with police lobbing at least 12 tear-gas shells, protest leader Krishna Gopal Shrestha said.

Student leader Rajendra Rai said students resumed their referendum an hour later and that 92 percent of the 5,743 voters chose to abolish the monarchy, in line with results from other campuses across Nepal.

Opposition leaders held talks Sunday and agreed to negotiate with King Gyanendra but demanded he invite leaders of the five parties to the palace at the same time, communist leader Bharat Mohan Adhikari said.

The king has said he wants the next prime minister to tackle Nepal's problems with a "clean image." Some party leaders were reportedly offended, as Gyanendra has accused them of corruption during democratic rule.

"The king wants the next government to be formed including all parties under the leadership of a person who has a clean image and who can restore peace in the country and begin the process of parliamentary elections before mid-April next year," a palace statement said at the weekend.

King Gyanendra and Queen Komal Sunday visited the royal family's ancestral town of Gorkha where 38 Hindu priests held a special bonfire to pray for peace and stability in the kingdom, a palace official said.

The Maoists, who control much of the countryside, have not reacted to Thapa's resignation. But the rebels have said the choice of prime minister in Kathmandu made no difference to them.

"The government does not matter so long as it is chosen by the king. What we want is a new constitution so the king may no longer exploit the people," senior Maoist Baburam Bhattarai said in a statement last week.

Bhattarai led the Maoist side in three rounds of failed negotiations with the royalist government last year. More than 2,500 people have died since the rebels left the talks in August and ended a ceasefire, according to human rights groups.

Despite their disinterest in the power struggle in Kathmandu, the Maoists have offered moral support to the opposition which has brought out thousands of protesters daily since April 1 demanding the dismissal of Thapa and restoration of democracy.

Thapa's resignation came a day after donors meeting in Kathmandu pledged 1.6 billion dollars to aid-dependent Nepal but urged a return to elected rule and respect for human rights in the crackdown on the Maoists.

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