Patience runs out, tempers flare as Maoist strike continues
Patience is running out and tempers are flaring as the indefinite strike called by opposition Maoists in Nepal to oust the government continued for the fifth day on Thursday.
Though the strike was largely peaceful during the first three days, growing frustration due to continuing deadlock that has brought Nepal to a halt led to several violent incidents on Wednesday and Thursday.
One youth was killed and dozen others were injured at Makwanpur in a clash between groups for and against the strike. A child was injured following clashes between locals and Maoists at Budhanilkantha in Kathmandu.
Maoist demonstrators allegedly looted a bank at Baratpur and took away computers and a telephone set. Shopkeepers and commoners were also beaten up at several places and property and vehicles damaged.
The border town of Birganj remained tense as a dozen people were injured in a clash between Maoists and supporters of a Hindu outfit opposing the strike. Curfew has been imposed to stop further violence.
Despite assurances that media persons won't be targeted, four journalists were beaten up by Maoists in Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, Jhapa and Birendranagar.
"We have been agitating peacefully. But if our cadres are attacked, we will retaliate," said Maoist spokesperson Dina Nath Sharma. The UCPN (M) standing committee on Thursday blamed the government of targeting their supporters.
Shops, offices, schools remained closed and vehicles stayed off roads on Thursday as well. Supply of essential items is fast running out leading to spiraling prices.
Thousands of Maoist cadres continued to block roads and hold demonstrations in several areas of Kathmandu and other towns.
Meetings over the past days have failed to end the impasse as Maoists are demanding the Prime Minister's resignation as a pre-condition to call off the strike while the ruling parties have refused to bow down.
On Thursday, Indian Ambassador to Nepal Rakesh Sood met UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda' to discuss the political situation. Both parties refused to divulge details of the meeting.
The Swiss Ambassador to Nepal also met 'Prachanda' and offered his country's role as a mediator to end the deadlock.
In his recent report to the Security Council, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon stated that the peace process in Nepal is in peril due to failure of the political parties to address the key issues.
The Nepal government has decided to extend the tenure of the UN Mission in Nepal by another four months. The tenure of UNMIN, which is monitoring the former Maoist rebels, expires on May 15.
Concerned with developments, a dozen organizations have come together and appealed to the masses to take part in 'peace rallies' across Nepal on Friday to pressurize the government and UCPN (M) to hammer out a solution soon.