11/23/2012, 00.00
NEPAL
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Young man who slapped Maoist leader Prachanda hailed hero by fellow Nepalis

by Kalpit Parajuli
A farmer's son, Padam Kunwar was a Maoist supporter for many years. His action against the veteran guerrilla fighter is a response to corruption scandals involving the Maoist party. On Facebook and other social networks, hundreds of groups call for his release; however, the young man could be tried and convicted on terrorism charges.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - "My brother's actions were the result of deep frustration against the Maoist party," said Pratibha Kunwar, the 28-year-old sister of Padam Kunwar, who slapped veteran Maoist leader Pushpa Lama Dahal (Prachanda) during a public ceremony. For her, his attack betrays the frustration ordinary Nepalis have against politicians. At present, the slightly bruised young Maoist activist is in police custody after Prachanda supporters tried to lynch him.

In recent months, the Maoist party, now back in power, and Prachanda's family have been in the spotlight because of various scandals involving graft and a lavish lifestyle. The former prime minister allegedly bought a mansion in downtown Kathmandu with party funds. His son apparently used his father's influence to organise expeditions to the Everest for his friends with public funds at a time when the government is in the red.

"People are unhappy about the country's situation," said Krishna Pahadi, a human rights activist. "Political leaders deceived us, reneging on all the promises they made over the years."

Such scandals have shaken public opinion, especially hundreds of young Maoists like Kunwar. His story has moved people and some opposition leaders call him a hero. Support groups have sprung up on Facebook, other social media and a number of websites.

Padam Kunwar is the youngest son of farming family that backed the Maoist struggle against the Hindu monarchy, which was toppled in 2006.

Prathibha said that Padam was only nine when his parents sent him to India to spare him the war. Once he came back to his village in 2007, he supported the Maoist revolution with his entire family, becoming an activist for the rights of poor people crushed by the caste system that existed under the monarchy.

However, he eventually became disillusioned when he saw local Maoist officials engage in abuses and corruption, turning what was once respect into hatred for Maoist hypocrisy.

His sister said that all his relatives served in the Maoist army. "My father was jailed several times for supporting the Communist during the insurgency."

Tek Bahadur, Padam's elder brother and a former official in the liberation army, is still suffering from the wounds he received during the war.

"We began supporting the Maoists in 2000," she explained. "In 2005, the military broke all my ribs during a raid at our home. Because we are too poor, I was not able to get treatment."

In recent days, opposition leaders and ordinary Nepalis launched different appeals asking for the release of the young man, who could be tried for terrorism.

 

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