Nepal parties to continue protests against King

The main political parties in Nepal said that they would press ahead with a protest demanding King Gyanendra restore democracy.

india Updated: Jan 21, 2006 13:23 IST

Nepal's main political parties said on Saturday that they would press ahead with a protest demanding King Gyanendra restore democracy, a day after authorities scuttled a planned demonstration by imposing a curfew.

Armed police and soldiers patrolled the deserted streets of Kathmandu on Friday to enforce a daytime curfew and thwart a planned mass protest.

Although the curfew has now been relaxed, Saturday's planned rally will still contravene a ban on protests in central Kathmandu, imposed after the king sacked the government and seized absolute power last February.

"We will break the prohibitory orders," said Arjun Narsingh KC, a senior leader of the country's biggest political party, Nepali Congress.

"Showdown in capital today," the Kathmandu Post said on its front page.

The government detained more than 100 politicians and human rights activists earlier in the week and rounded up several hundred more activists on Friday.

The leaders of the country's main political parties have all been placed under house arrest for up to three months.

The United Nations, United States, India, Europe and Japan have all condemned the arrests.

"This cowardly step shows that the despotic regime is already defeated," said KC, himself on the run and speaking by telephone from an undisclosed location.

"We did not defy the curfew yesterday because that could turn violent. We want to hold peaceful demonstrations," he said, speaking on behalf of the seven-party alliance against the king.

After the curfew was relaxed last night, small groups of activists emerged from more than a dozen locations around the city and chanted pro-democracy slogans or held brief torchlight processions.

"We want democracy, down with autocracy," one group chanted.

The parties have formed a loose alliance with Maoist rebels fighting a 10-year-insurgency to overthrow the monarchy and impose a single-party communist republic. Although their aims differ, the parties and the rebels have agreed to cooperate to end what they call "the autocratic monarchy".

Last evening, the Maoists attacked two small police posts in the southwestern town of Nepalgunj and killed four policemen, according to police.

The Maoists ended a four-month unilateral truce on January 2, complaining the government had failed to reciprocate.

First Published: Jan 21, 2006 13:23 IST