Thousands shout 'hang Gyanendra' in Nepal rally
Thousands of people in Nepal berated King Gyanendra as Maoist rebels held their first mass rally in the capital in over three years.Updated: Jun 02, 2006 16:45 IST
Their fists raised in the air and clutching red flags, tens of thousands of Nepalis berated King Gyanendra on Friday as Maoist rebels held their first mass rally in the capital in over three years.
"We will burn the crown and we will run the country," the people shouted as they filled into a dust-choked public ground just 500 metres from the royal palace for the rally in Kathmandu.
Dozens of soldiers carrying automatic rifles stood in front of the heavily guarded palace. Scores of riot police maintained a vigil outside the venue where red hammer and sickle Maoist banners fluttered.
Armoured cars and soldiers holding machine guns manned major road intersections.
The Maoists have called the rally to build pressure on political parties to hold speedy elections to an assembly that will determine the country's political future.
Weeks of violent street protests forced Gyanendra in April to give up his absolute grip power, reinstate the parliament he disbanded in 2002 and return power to political parties.
The Maoists have held rallies outside the capital to win support since Nepal's new multi-party government last month matched an earlier ceasefire declared by the militants.
"We want to build a new Nepal," said Chhemata Biswokarma, a 20-year-old woman who had travelled 200 km to attend the Kathmandu rally.
Chants of "Gyanendra thief, leave the country" and "Hang Gyanendra" were also heard.
Thousands of posters bearing the portraits of rebel leader Prachanda had been put up in the ancient temple-studded city, although organisers said he would not be present.
"Rumours are being spread against the rally that we will display our arms," chief rebel negotiator and Maoist spokesman Krishna Bahadur Mahara told reporters.
"We will not carry arms or wear combat dress," he said. "It will be a peaceful rally." Media reports said people would be brought by the rebels in hundreds of buses to fill the venue. "Unconditional constituent assembly," read a huge Maoist banner that hung from an iron railing near the venue.
Last week, the multi-party government and the Maoists held their first meeting since 2003 and agreed to hold elections to a constituent assembly to decide the monarchy's future, a key Maoist demand.
Mahara said the parliament should be dissolved and the constitution scrapped before that.
"We are demanding a national political conference to draft an interim constitution and an interim government to organise early elections for the constituent assembly," he said.
The Maoist insurgency has claimed more than 13,000 lives since 1996 and wrecked the economy of the tourism and aid-dependent kingdom.
First Published: Jun 02, 2006 13:52 IST