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King plays the fiddle while Nepal burns

Gyanendra continues to camp in Pokhara city even as strike, curfew and clashes burn his kingdom.

india Updated: Apr 12, 2006 13:31 IST

Though Nepal continued to burn under a general strike and curfew and hospitals were flooded with those injured in violent clashes in the capital and key cities, it was still party time for King Gyanendra.

The monarch, who has since February been camping in Pokhara city, a tourist destination, will return here to attend a cocktail dinner being hosted by the Royal Nepalese Army on the occasion of the Nepali New Year that begins on Friday.

Protesters have called a meeting on Wednesday afternoon near the party venue in memory of the civilians killed in the past six days.

The demonstrators said they would hold the meeting at Martyrs' Memorial, once a public venue used for such demonstrations but fenced off and put out of bounds for nearly two years now.

It is feared that security forces would try to prevent the meeting, escalating the boiling public resentment against the royalist government and security forces.

Independent journalists have also said they will boycott the party. An organisation, Network for Press Freedom, said its members would stay away from the bash.

"How could we play the flute while Rome is burning?" said a member, in a reference to the legend of despotic Roman emperor Nero who was playing the fiddle while a fire razed down his capital, Rome.

The lavish party at the RNA headquarters here couldn't have come at a worse time.

This week, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Amnesty International and even Nepal's National Human Rights Commission condemned the excessive force used by security forces to quell the protests against the king's absolute rule.

At least four people have died due to security forces' crackdown on anti-king demonstrators and over 2,000 people were arrested nationwide.

A senior member of the European Parliament has warned the king that if he did not begin immediate peace talks with the opposition parties, Maoists and members of civil society, the MEPs would pressure the UN into dropping RNA soldiers from the UN Peacekeeping Forces, a coveted assignment in the cash-strapped kingdom.

Kathmandu Valley has been under day-time curfew since April 8, forcing other important events, like university examinations and National Business Day celebration, to be postponed indefinitely.

Businesses, industries, shops and other establishments have been incurring mounting losses.

First Published: Apr 12, 2006 12:08 IST