Nepal's Maoists rule out talks with Terai protesters
Kathmandu | January 25, 2007 2:15:06 PM IST
Though strife and closures continued to cripple Nepal's volatile Terai plains, where a lot of people of Indian origin live, the powerful Maoist guerrillas ruled out talks with the protesting groups, saying they were instigated by King Gyanendra and Hindu fundamentalists.
Janakpur town in Dhanusha district, a well-known pilgrimage destination for Hindu devotees from both India and Nepal, remained under curfew from 8am to 5pm after demonstrations threatened to go out of control Wednesday.
The town was crippled by a shutdown called by the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum, an organisation that has been spearheading shutdowns and blockades in the southern plains since last Friday.
At least 20 people were hurt in clashes with police in the town when a mob tried to torch the police station during the closure. Protesters also torched the office of the Maoist guerrillas in the town.
The unrest also spread to Udaypur district where a separate ethnic group, the Kirant Workers' Party, called a general strike Wednesday to press their demand for an autonomous Kirant state.
Lahan town in Siraha district, where the trouble erupted Friday, also remained tense. The Madhesi Janadhikar Forum, that called a Siraha closure Friday to protest against the death of a 18-year-old student during clashes with the Maoists, said the closures will continue, though in a peaceful democratic manner.
The Forum says it is fighting for the rights of Madhesis, people of Indian origin living in the Terai plains, who are excluded from government jobs and half of them still do not have citizenship or voting rights.
Concerned at the continuing unrest in the plains, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala have asked two prominent ethnic groups - the Forum as well as Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha (a band of former Maoists)- to begin negotiations.
However, the move is being opposed by the Maoists, who are likely to join the government next month. Maoist supremo Prachanda says while the genuine problems of the Diaspora should be addressed, there can be no talks or power-sharing with the two groups.
The rebel leader accuses the groups, who are at loggerheads with his party, of being used by King Gyanendra to create unrest and sabotage a vital election that will put monarchy to vote by June.
He also says the groups have been infiltrated by Hindu fundamentalists, who are trying to save monarchy from extinction.
The Forum admits its members include leaders from royalist parties but says they have also risen above petty party interests to champion the cause of Madhesis.
"We have Maoists as well as Nepali Congress and Unified Marxist-Leninist party leaders (two of the biggest parties in the ruling alliance) joining our demonstrations," said Upendra Yadav, chief of the Forum. "Our protests will continue till the government agrees on an autonomous Madhes state"
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