Nepalis celebrate king-opposition agreement, Maoists reject it
by Prakash Dubey
Thousands of people pour into the streets to celebrate the return of parliament. Maoist rebels denounce the agreement between the king and opposition parties, pledging to continue strikes and demonstrations.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – Thousands of people who "filled the streets for 20 days in protest against the king found themselves rallying not against the monarchy but celebrating the victory of democracy", Meena Ghimire, a human rights activist, told AsiaNews. Celebrations have followed King Gyanendra's April 24 speech in which he announced the restoration of power to parliament.

Weeks of strikes and demonstrations have seriously damaged the economy in a country where millions of people make ends meet on a day-to-day basis, but "the worst is over" Ms Meena said. "We expect the economy to get back to normal and for this reason many are celebrating."

Ramashankar Gupta, a sweet vendor near the always crowded Hindu temple of Pashupatinath in Kathamandu, said he was grateful to the king and the political parties for their reconciliation, expressing the hope that "shops will be able to open as soon as possible".

But the picture is not all rosy. Two Maoist rebel leaders have rejected the agreement, arguing that it "is a plot by the king to perpetuate the monarchy".

For Prachanda and Baburam Bhatarai, "opposition parties have greedily taken to the king's bait in exchange for power and privileges. This is a betrayal of the people's movement which aims to establish a republic in Nepal".

Maoists said they do not plan to end the general strike and peaceful protests that began on April 6.

"This is a threat to the agreement for peace and democracy proposed by the king and opposition parties," said Sushil Sashank, a political analyst.

In his view, "the Maoists' reaction probably stems from a belief that had the parties not so readily accepted the king's offer they could have gotten much more. But if they continue in their obstinacy they are going to lose in the end. I think they should support the seven-party opposition coalition and facilitate pacification. They should try to change the 1990 constitution through the restored parliament," he said.

"The Maoists should not forget that despite his military muscle, King Gyanendra failed to suppress Nepalis' democratic aspirations," he added." They cannot afford to oppose the people's yearning for peace and non-violence."