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Curfew lifted but chaos continues in Nepal

Giving in to the intense opposition building up at home and criticism abroad, Nepal King Gyanendra finally ordered the lifting of curfew.

india Updated: Jan 24, 2006 12:29 IST
Sudeshna Sarkar (IANS)
Sudeshna Sarkar (IANS)

Giving in to the intense opposition building up at home and criticism abroad, Nepal's King Gyanendra finally ordered the lifting of curfew in Kathmandu.

However, telephone lines still remained in shambles five days after they were disconnected.

The king, who returned to the capital on Sunday, on Monday night authorised the lifting of the 11 pm-4 am curfew clamped on Kathmandu and its neighbouring city Lalitpur.

A new ban last week that prohibited any kinds of demonstrations or rallies in key areas of the two cities was also lifted.

However, that did not signify total easing of the clampdown begun from last Thursday to foil a mass protest by opposition parties in the capital.

Now curfew has been extended from 9 pm-4 am in Bhaktapur, the third city in Kathmandu Valley.

It also remained in place in several outer districts. For example, Dang in midwestern Nepal, considered a stronghold of the Maoist guerrillas, has been under night curfew for three years.

Though the government ordered the resumption of post-paid mobile telephone services operated by the state-run Nepal Telecom Authority, they were disrupted once again on Tuesday morning.

The two foreign joint ventures in Nepal's telecom sector, United Telecom Ltd with major Indian investment, and Spice Nepal, with mostly Kazakhstan investors, were still not allowed to resume services.

Their services were discontinued on Thursday and it is feared the chaos would continue till the local elections scheduled for February 8 were over.

Prepaid subscribers have been subjected to the same ordeal inflicted on them last year when the king seized power with the help of the army and shut down all phone links.

The government still refused to postpone the elections.

"Security has been stepped up in the country and the situation is favourable for holding elections," Home Minister Kamal Thapa said. "Elections will be held as scheduled."

Thapa's statement came after a clash between security forces and Maoist guerrillas in Makwanpur district on the south border of Kathmandu Valley on Saturday night, in which the defence ministry said 25 people were killed.

The rebels however are claiming 86 deaths.

The clash was followed by the gunning down of an election contestant in eastern Janakpur city on Sunday.

A large number of opposition leaders still remain under arrest and many have had their home telephone lines cut.

With the king bent on the polls, the opposition, that is urging people to boycott the exercise, also ruled out beginning dialogue with the "autocratic" king.

Opposition leader Girija Prasad Koirala, released from house arrest on Sunday, said the alliance of seven opposition parties would not hold talks with the king when people's rights had been repressed.

The alliance, he said, would continue with its protest, which includes calling a nationwide shutdown on Thursday.

First Published: Jan 24, 2006 09:48 IST