Nepal Government Bans Peaceful Public Gatherings

Ban will be effective within Kathmandu valley

The government of Nepal will ban peaceful public gatherings and assemblies within Kathmandu valley beginning April 5 until further notice. But on April 4, I witnessed a number of incidents in which people were barred from exercising their right to protest peacefully. 

The ban, coming just a day ahead of the four-day long strike planned by the seven political parties’ alliance (SPA), will be in effect inside the ring road, which covers the king’s official residence, Narayanhity Palace, the ministers’ residences, army and police headquarters, and almost all the important places in the capital and the adjoining city of Lalitpur.

Kathmandu’s campuses were tense today. Shanker Dev campus, located near the city buspark, suffered the most. Police forcibly entered the campus precincts and, according to one student leader, Ananda, used “extreme force.” “They baton-charge students who were simply there to receive examination entrance cards.” They arrested at least 25 students.

Similarly, Tri Chandra campus, located near Narayanhity Palace, Amrit Science College, and Pashupati campus were tense as police and agitating students pelted each other. Students burned effigies of the autocratic ruler.

I was on the scene in Baghbajaar. In front of the country’s largest girls-only campus, Padma Kanya campus, as women tried to burn effigies, police intervened and took them away. There was a brief, tense question-and-answer session between police officers and students. “We are ladies and you have to call lady police to deal with us,” they demanded.

Students protesting infront of Padma Kanya Campus
©2006 Umesh

After that, the police simply sat aside, while students shouted “graphic” slogans against the king and crown prince and the autocracy. They burned paper and wooden boxes, causing traffic congestion, but the police did not intervene.

Tika Chaudhary, student union leader, told me that they would continue to protest until this autocratic regime collapsed.

Police barred those who were organizing a motorcycle rally from Kasthamandap to publicize SPA’s four-day strike, beginning Thursday. Likewise, police arrested 36 people from New Baneshwor who were peacefully protesting against autocratic rule.

The government claimed that it has received information that Maoists are planning to infiltrate the SPA movement and hence vowed not to let the programs proceed as planned. The SPA rejected that and claimed the government itself plans to infiltrate its peaceful program and spawn violence.

Maoists announced a ceasefire on Monday, April 3, within Kathmandu valley until further notice. But Interior Minister Kamal Thapa today claimed that the ceasefire is just a “cheap publicity stunt” of “terrorist” Maoists. He said the government would take all possible steps to head off their program.

It is widely believed that the government will clamp on a curfew order to foil the SPA’s peaceful protest program and will cut telephone landlines and mobiles.

©2006 OhmyNews Published 2006-04-05 07:53 (KST)

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