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More clashes feared in Nepal

Nepal braced for more unrest and crackdowns as major opposition parties locked horns with King Gyanendra.

india Updated: Jan 17, 2006 13:44 IST

Curfew-clamped Nepal braced for more unrest and crackdowns as major opposition parties locked horns with King Gyanendra, announcing they would go ahead with their poll boycott campaign in the capital.

A coalition of seven major parliamentary parties said they would stage their show of might in the capital on Friday to prove to the international community that Nepal's society was against the municipal elections called by the king on Feb 8.

They will do so in defiance of a newly imposed ban on demonstrations in Kathmandu Valley. The parties are opposing King Gyanendra's power grab with the help of the army last year and are also campaigning for the boycott of the polls.

On Monday, the government clamped indefinite curfew in Kathmandu Valley, asking residents not to venture out between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m., with the security forces empowered to shoot at sight and jail violators for a month.

Curfew from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. was also announced in the tourist town of Pokhara in central Nepal and key cities and districts on Nepal. Some districts, like Dang in midwestern Nepal, have been under an 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. curfew for over two years now.

The home ministry said curfew was imposed to combat the Maoist guerrillas, who attacked two police posts in Kathmandu Valley Saturday, killing 12 people. Demonstrations, protests and sit-ins were also banned indefinitely.

Blaming the opposition coalition for the Maoist attacks, the ministry said the parties recently formed an understanding with the underground rebels and this had emboldened the outlaws.

The king, who is on a tour of eastern districts since Jan 2, when the Maoists resumed arms against the government, asked the parties to withdraw Friday's protest and begin talks to combat the Maoist menace.

However, the opposition said they would go ahead with Friday's mass meet despite the ban.

"The government is wilfully misinterpreting our understanding with the Maoists," said Krishna Sitaula, spokesperson of the Nepali Congress party of opposition leader Girija Prasad Koirala that is leading the protests.

"We have reached an agreement with the Maoists to bring peace, democracy and prosperity, making Nepal an independent and sovereign country. Friday's protest will be a peaceful one opposing autocratic monarchy and the civic polls."

CP Mainali, leader of the United Left Front, a partner in the opposition coalition, said the protesters were ready to face arrest. "There is no logic in trying to repress a peaceful protest," Mainali said.

"The Maoist violence was not caused by our protests. The guerrillas' 'People's Liberation War' started 10 years ago and at that time, we bore the brunt of it."

However, Mainali said the opposition coalition was ready to start talks with the government if the king agreed to defer the elections, call a ceasefire and make way for an interim, all-party government.

With the curfew and the threat of a seven-day shutdown called by the Maoists from Feb 5, the price of essential goods has begun rising.

There is fear that telephone lines could be cut before Friday though Nepal Telecommunications Authority denied having received any such instructions from the government.

First Published: Jan 17, 2006 13:44 IST