09/20/2008, 00.00
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Nepal, Maoists promise private property, confiscate assets

by Kalpit Parajuli
The Maoists, with the backing of the agriculture minister, are appropriating land and homes, forcibly removing the occupants and clashing with police. Now the population is taking to the streets in defense of citizens' rights.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - In spite of the superficial slogans that the government and constitutional assembly are using to assert the right to private property and to promise the restitution of assets confiscated during the years of insurgency, Maoist groups in the country continue to usurp the land and property of private citizens.

Defying the orders of the government and parliament, the Nepalese minister for agrarian reform, Matrika Yadav, has led an expedition of Maoists who wanted to regain control of numerous homes and properties in a village in the district of Siraha, in the eastern part of the country. The communist guerrillas have "retaken" control of the properties, telling landless locals to rebuild their huts on the land. Minister Yadav also threatened "the use of force" and "resignation from the executive branch" if the Maoists were removed from the recently reclaimed land.

Police intervention led to a series of conflicts with the Maoists, who have no intention of leaving the area: late in the evening, the local authorities imposed a curfew, while those injured on the disputed land were counted (12 in all). In the end, the police preferred to withdraw - with some embarrassment - in order to avoid further clashes with the rebels, emboldened by the support of the agriculture minister. "On the one hand, we were ordered to remove the illegal occupants from the houses and land", says one police official, "on the other, a minister himself shows up at the site to encourage this unlawful act".

The new wave of raids unleashed by the Maoists has sharpened social conflict in the country, bringing thousands of demonstrators to converge on the capital for a public protest calling for the right to private property and the restitution of expropriated assets. They are also lodging harsh accusations against the Maoists, saying that they don't practice what they preach, promising the restitution of property but continuing their expropriations to the detriment of private citizens.

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