Maoists make public appearance

None | ByIndo-Asian News Service, Kathmandu
Apr 30, 2006 11:17 AM IST

When Nepal Parliament met after four years, two Maoist leaders attended a mass rally.

With King Gyanendra's 16-month absolute rule coming to an end and a pro-democracy government taking over, security forces have lifted their stranglehold on the media while wanted Maoist leaders are making public appearances after three years of being underground.

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The website of the Maoists and websites sympathetic to the rebel cause or critical of the royalist government that were blocked by the government since 2003 became accessible again this week, after the King was forced to reinstate the Parliament on April 24.

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During the King's rule, the official media -- including the state-run Nepal Television, Radio Nepal, national news agency and two dailies -- had blacked out the seven-party opposition alliance and the Maoist guerrillas were referred to as "terrorists".

However, from Monday, when it became clear the royal reign was coming to an end, the state media lifted the blackout on the parties and began calling the rebels the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist).

On Friday, when Parliament met after four years, two Maoist leaders attended a mass rally in the capital, a stone's throw away from the army barracks.

Lekhnath Neupane, leader of the Maoists' underground student union, and Shalik Ram Jamarkattel, who heads the trade union wing, have been wanted men since 2003, when talks broke down between the government and the rebels. The latter were then declared terrorists.

Even the state media showed the two rebel leaders, marking a sea change in less than a week.

With newly appointed Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala having pledged on the first day of parliament that his government would hold talks with the rebels and declare a ceasefire, the rebels are suddenly not being hunted down any more.

There is even talk of their jailed leaders being freed in the near future.

Baburam Bhattarai, one of the front-ranking rebel leaders, recently said that his party would hold talks with the government if the latter agreed on a new constitution, lifted the terrorist tag and freed jailed Maoists in both Nepal and India.

Influential Indian Left leader Sitaram Yechuri, who attended the opening session on Friday at the invitation of Koirala, was reported as saying that his Communist Party of India-Marxist would pressure New Delhi into releasing the Nepali Maoists in Indian prisons.

Two top Maoist leaders, Mohan Vaidya and Chandra Prakash Gajurel, are among the rebels held in Indian prisons.

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