Oppn bows to public pressure

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KATHMANDU, APR 08 – Under widespread pressure, the 30-party alliance on Tuesday decided to withdraw its general strike called for Wednesday and Thursday after a day’s enforcement.

UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, coordinator of the alliance, had proposed in a meeting to change the modality of protest by withdrawing the shutdown. The decision follows pressure from some allies against the way of stir. The meeting held to review Tuesday’s banda condemned the government’s action against their cadres.

The parties had called a three-day closure demanding that the new constitution should be written on the basis of consensus among the key stakeholders of the peace process. The opposition decision has created an environment for talks with the ruling parties on the contentious issues of the constitution writing process. The Constituent Assembly meeting has been postponed for a week to provide time for the parties to discuss the agenda. Dahal told the media that the strike was withdrawn following calls from several quarters. Upendra Yadav of the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum Nepal, Sadbhawana Party Chairman Rajendra Mahato and Federal Socialist Party Chairman Ashok Rai had pressed for enforcing the banda for two more days. Dahal was supported by MJF-Loktantrik chief Bijaya Kumar Gachhadar in calling off the strike. Some in the alliance had even proposed an indefinite strike but Dahal said the people would retaliate against such a move. In a meeting with a team from the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry earlier, Dahal had pledged to table a proposal in the 30-party meeting for withdrawing the banda.

This brings to end the opposition’s second phase of agitation. Alliance leaders said they will soon unveil the third phase of protests.

Country brought to a standstill

A nationwide shutdown enforced by the opposition bloc crippled normal life across the country on Tuesday with many districts witnessing vandalism and arson.

At least 19 vehicles were vandalised while banda enforcers torched four vehicles, according to police. As many as 11 people, including security personnel, sustained injuries in clashes that erupted in various parts of Kathmandu Valley. Four protesters in Bhojpur, who were seriously hurt, were referred to Kathmandu for treatment.

Police held 55 banda enforcers from across the country on the first day of the banda. Police held 16 Maoist leaders including party’s Kathmandu committee Chairman Himal Sharma.Kathmandu

District Secretary Renu Dahal, All Nepal National Independent Students’

Union-Revolutionary leader Surendra Basnet, among others, were detained at the Metropolitan Police Circle, Tinkune. They were released in the evening.

In a violent clash between security personnel and banda enforcers, five rounds of tear gas shells were fired. Nepal Police spokesperson DIG Kamal Singh Bam said the clash ensued when the protesters began pelting a police van with stones.

“We did not fire any bullets as was rumoured. The sound was from the tear-gas gun,” said DIG Bam. Some senior Maoist leaders had claimed that bullets were fired at Bijulibazaar.

People against banda

Businesspeople in Khotang defied the banda after miscreants manhandled the locals. Security was heightened throughout the day fearing clashes. In Sankhuwasabha, locals turned against banda enforcers.

Cadres of the opposition alliance gathered at major thoroughfares in Biratnagar, Janakpur, Saptari, Bhojpur and Panchthar, among other districts, shutting down marketplaces and halting vehicular movement.

In Saptari, party cadres and banda supporters vandalised a motorcycle belonging to the District Public Health Office while stones were pelted at the Land Revenue Office.

In Jhapa, the Mechi Municipality office was vandalised, causing a loss of property worth Rs 100,000.

However, the strike had no effect in Mustang district where vehicles ran as usual. The market also remained open. The alliance had called off the strike in Taplejung district in view of the recent fire that destroyed 35 houses and displaced 90 families.

Effects of the shutdown were felt in Udaypur, Gulmi, Myagdi and Kaski districts as markets were closed and vehicles garaged.

In Pokhara, five vehicles were vandalised for defying the call. Police said three buses and two trucks faced the wrath of party cadres at Sainikbasti and Prithivi Chowk. Police made seven arrests for vandalism.

Banda enforcers clashed with police in Kavre during a torch rally organised by the alliance. Eight police personnel, including an inspector, and 12 banda enforcers were hurt. In Bhairahawa, banda supporters torched a motorcycle with Indian registration in the morning. Police said the cadres fled the scene after torching the two-wheeler (UP 56 J-2707) at Barmaili Tole.

‘G-25’ shows grave concern

Earlier, a group of retired bureaucrats, civil society members and professionals under the banner of G-25 had urged the opposition bloc to withdraw its protest programmes, saying that the “forced general strike is against people’s interests”.

The G-25 has warned of counter protest if the shutdown continues.  “Enough is enough. It’s time to raise our voice against those trampling upon people’s aspirations,” said former bureaucrat Suryanath Upadhyay, one of the members leading the campaign. The forum includes Dr Upendra Devkota, Shree Prasad Pandit, Bihari Krishna Shrestha and Aditya Man Shrestha, among others. It also enjoys the support of Dr Govinda KC, who recently compelled the government to backtrack on its controversial plan to grant affiliations to new medical colleges.

The forum has criticised the parties for only craving for power instead of finding a way out of the prolonged political transition. Blaming the parties for the public frustration, the forum has pressed them to come up with a constitution on time and conduct local elections.

The group also concluded that the parties were harbouring corruption. “A strong campaign will be initiated against corruption and we appeal to all [the people] to join the campaign,” the group said in a statement.

(With inputs from our district correspondents)