Sat, Jan 21, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Anti-royalist protest in Nepal stalled

EMPTY STREETS The royalist government seemed to have stopped a pro-democracy rally after detaining some 120 political activists and imposing a daytime curfew

AFP , KATHMANDU

Nepalese rush to get curfew passes in the early morning at a traffic office in Kathmandu yesterday. Nepal's royalist government imposed a daytime curfew yesterday to prevent a huge pro-democracy demonstration from taking place.

PHOTO: EPA

Kathmandu was deserted yesterday as police and soldiers enforced a daytime curfew declared by the Nepalese government after a round-up of political activists aimed at heading off anti-king protests.

Some 120 people were detained for breaking the curfew, among them political activists, protesters and civilians, a police officer said.

Most of the civilians would be freed in the evening, he said without clarifying how many activists would remain locked up.

"Everything is normal, and there have not been any reports of incidents," said the officer, who asked to remain anonymous.

Armed police and soldiers were posted every few hundred meters on main roads, and were stopping and checking the few vehicles on the roads.

Kathmandu's picture-perfect Durbar Square, where seven opposition parties had planned to hold their rally early afternoon, was empty save for police, three holy cows and a troupe of monkeys.

Residents rushed to work before the 8am to 6pm curfew came into effect, but most businesses kept their shutters down as truckloads of police rumbled through the city and soldiers took up positions at key points.

The last time a daytime curfew was imposed in the capital was when King Gyanendra sacked the government and assumed full executive powers on Feb. 1 last year.

On Thursday, security forces detained 107 activists and political leaders and cut mobile telephone services in a crackdown condemned by the US, India, the EU and Japan.

More detentions

Further detentions were reported early yesterday.

"I was placed under house arrest this morning," Bharat Mohan Adhikari, a leader from the Nepal Communist Party (United Marxist Leninist) told AFP by telephone.

"Eleven armed police are stationed in my residence, and I understand that other leaders have also been placed under house arrest," Adhikari said.

Madhav Kumar Nepal, NCP (UML) general secretary, said he, too, was under house arrest.

"Armed police surrounded my house at 4am. They came inside at 6am and at 7:30am a police superintendent came and handed over a warrant," he said.

Nepal's seven main political parties, sidelined by the king's powergrab, had called yesterday's protest to demand the restoration of democracy and to call for a boycott of municipal polls on Feb. 8.

Evening protest?

With the daytime curfew in place and their leaders in detention, political parties were yesterday planning torch-lit processions and protests after 6pm.

"Spontaneous protest programs will be organized inside Kathmandu and [neighboring] Lalitpur once the curfew ends," said Bhanu Bhakta Dhakal, a member of NCP (UML).

For people on the streets, the curfew was an irritant.

"In the name of giving security, the government is creating a difficult time for the general public. I hope this won't last long. I hope this won't last long," said Sadhana Khadgi, a roadside vegetable seller.

Rights groups feared further human rights abuses.

"The government of Nepal should be aware the international community is gravely concerned with developments this week and should take immediate steps to remedy the serious human rights violations that have taken place," Purna Sen of Amnesty International said.

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