Arrest for 1,500 peaceful demonstrators
Kathmandu (AsiaNews) Security forces have detained 1,500 people engaged in peaceful protest on the first of a four-day general strike called by seven opposition parties united in a pro-democracy alliance that opposes King Gyannedra's direct rule. Most of those arrested reportedly belong to the Nepalese Communist Party, a traditional rival of Maoist guerrillas, but with whom it has more recently nurtured closer rapports.
Meena Ghimire, a lawyer and human rights activist, told AsiaNews that she was troubled by the fact that police took into custody even those activists who were staging peaceful protests. "Nothing," she said, "could indicate that protesters would resort to violence. Yet they were arrested. This does not augur well for the peace and stability of the country. I am concerned that the king may slap [a state of] emergency on the country and unleash a fresh wave of terror as he did in February of 2005 when he grabbed power."
In her opinion, the current spate of arrests of peaceful demonstrators shows the king wants to establish a more draconian rule. Otherwise, "what is the rationale of such large scale arrests? The army is literally littered everywhere. They could easily contain any outburst of violence. But [instead] they are rounding up peaceful protesters just to trigger unrest so that they could have an easy excuse to promulgate a state of emergency."
Meanwhile, life in Nepal has come to a total standstill with no vehicles can be seen in the capital or other major cities, except for those of the army and police.
"To make matters worse, the crackdown coincides with the Lord Rama's birthday, a Hindu festival observed from April 6 to 7," said Pawan Pathak, a Hindu scholar. "During the festival almost every Hindu family observes special rituals and worships both at home and in public temples. But the strike has paralysed life in the country and damped the festive mood."
Pathak said that the political parties should have changed the date of the strike. "At least they could skip the first two days to let the people celebrate their festival and extend [the strike] beyond April 9. But these political parties have lost their sense of responsibility in the scramble for power."
The Hindu scholar lambasted the government as well for adding fuel to the fire by banning private transportation into Kathmandu and other major cities.
"Such measures have virtually imprisoned people in their own homes. This is preposterous. Both the government and political parties are hell bent to harass innocent people to pursue their respective agendas."