May Day in Kathmandu: Naxals throw down the gauntlet

This comes from the Times of India:

KATHMANDU: Nepal’s former Maoist guerrillas paralysed the capital and 10 more key cities with an impressive show of strength on May Day, rallying tens of thousands of cadre and supporters to throw a challenge to Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal’s ruling coalition as well as the Indian government, accusing it of propping up the “inflated balloon government of Nepal”.

Ratna Park, a public ground at the heart of the capital named after the former queen mother, was turned into a sea of people waving the red Maoist flag and cheering lustily as the Maoists held their promised mass meeting, a nearly four-hour extravaganza peppered with songs and dances by their cultural troupes. Despite the large turnout, the former guerrillas however kept their pledge and the meet was peaceful and disciplined, proving wrong fears that there could be violence after the government reported large-scale seizure of home-made arms and explosives.

In his nearly 50-minute speech under a sweltering sun, Maoist chief and former prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda said that talks were still on among his party and the two biggest ruling parties to reach an agreement but the chances were dim. “If there is no agreement today, there will be a nationwide general strike from tomorrow,” he said, urging people, the business community and hotels to put up with the inconvenience for the sake of a “historic change”.

“We don’t want to call a strike,” Prachanda said. “But we have no option. This is a battle to save the peace process, the constituent assembly and the constitution.” However, he reiterated that even during the strike, the party was ready to negotiate with the ruling parties. He also said that the indefinite strike called from tomorrow would be peaceful.

The former revolutionary came down heavily on the government, calling it a bunch of hoodlums, the corrupt and courtiers who had accepted foreign powers as their masters in order to keep their seats of power intact. Though at first Prachanda did not directly name India, the neighbouring government with whom his party is now locked in a growingly acrimonious feud, he attributed the prime minister’s bold stand not to resign but to deploy the army if necessary due to the latter’s meeting with Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh on the sidelines of the 16th SAARC Summit in Bhutan.

“(The Indian authorities) think the (Nepal) army is in their pockets and they can do anything they want to,” he said in a scathing attack, which ended in an appeal to the army and police to follow people’s aspirations instead of taking orders from an “unholy and unnatural” government that was formed of people defeated in the elections.

Continuing the anti-Indian tirade, Prachanda said the Maoists did not want to war on India; however, they wanted equal relations based on the new reality in Nepal. Unequal treaties with India should be scrapped, border encroachment disputes resolved and Nepal’s right to self-determination to be respected. Prachanda branded the ruling parties as Khazi Lhendup Dorjee, the first chief minister of Sikkim after its merger with India in 1975. Many Nepalis regard him as a traitor who sold out the country to New Delhi.

Prachanda also made an appeal to the international community, asking it to monitor his party’s protests in the days to come and not to doubt its commitment to peace and a new constitution.

Things are hotting up in Nepal for sure. You can read Jed Brandt’s great eyewitness report here, and an interview with Chairman Prachanda here.

1 Comment

  1. May 4, 2010 at 9:06 am

    still amazing and shameful that most parts of the western left are ignoring the interesting stuff which is going on in India and Nepal

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