Opposition parties abandon mass rally in capital
Nepal's major political parties have abandoned plans for a mass rally in the capital next week to protest King Gyanendra's rule, but will hold smaller demonstrations across the country, party officials said on Thursday.
The alliance of seven major political parties said that a planned four-day strike starting April 6 would still go ahead, however, as they continue to step up pressure on Gyanendra to relinquish his direct control over the government and return democracy to the Himalayan nation.
Minendra Risal of the Nepali Congress Democratic said the alliance has withdrawn their call for people from across Nepal to travel to Kathmandu on April 8 for a mass rally, instead urging smaller protests in all major cities and towns.
The proposed rally in the capital had startled the government, which responded by stepping up security, issuing notices asking people to avoid travelling to Kathmandu next week and threats to use all means to foil the demonstration.
"We will not be scared or intimidated by the government threats," said Subash Nemwang of the Communist Party of Nepal. "We will go ahead with our plans ... and will stop every attempt by the government to spoil our protest."
The government foiled a planned mass rally in January by imposing a curfew, detaining hundreds of activists and politicians and imposing restrictions on public gatherings.
Maoist rebels, who have fought the government for a decade in an effort to replace the monarchy with a communist state, have pledged their support for the rallies and the general strike but have not said what their role would be.
However, the opposition alliance has said the rebels will not be involved in the protest and strike, which would be peaceful.
The government claims it has information that "terrorists" plan to infiltrate the protest -- an apparent reference to the Maoists.
"The government claim is only an excuse to crackdown on the opposition," Risal said.
The government urged people to defy the strike and not to shut down businesses, transport and education institutes.
Anti-government protests and rebel violence have escalated since Gyanendra seized control of the government in February last year -- a move he said was necessary to quell the communist insurgency, which has left more than 13,000 dead since it began in 1996.