Party says sorry for the ‘trouble’
KATHMANDU, DEC 20 -
The nationwide general strike called by the Nepali Congress (NC) on Monday brought normal life to a standstill across the country.
Despite the party leadership’s claims that the protest would be peaceful and vehicles of the press, ambulances and those carrying tourists and milk would not be obstructed, violence was reported from different parts of the country.
The party had called the general strike after the government on Sunday refused to withdraw charges against Tarun Dal’s Chitwan Chairman Shiva Poudel and declare him a ‘martyr’ as demanded by the NC. Poudel, who was critically injured in an attack in the Chitwan District Prison on December 6, died on Saturday. He was in police custody on a murder charge when he was attacked.
The banda was, however, called off at 4:30 pm after the government decided to meet the demands of the NC.
Vehicles of Kantipur Publications and Sagarmatha Television were briefly held and vandalised by protesters at Shantinagar and Gwarko in the Capital respectively. The protesters vandalised eight ambulances in Damak in Jhapa district. After vandalising an ambulance carrying patients from the Bhutanese refugee camp in Damak, protesters vandalised other ambulances that went to the site in protest. Protesters also ransacked the main office of Unilever Ltd, a multinational company, in Basimada VDC in Hetauda district.
Vehicles and shops were also vandalised in Biratnagar, Kavre, Ramechhap, Dharan, Bardiya, Rukum, Pokhara, Baglung and Gorkha. Government offices, too, remained shut in Mugu and Humla districts.
In Kathmandu, the banda was enforced at every nook and cranny of the city. While tyres were burnt in major intersections and roads near colleges like Trichandra Campus, Balmiki Campus, Nepal Commerce Campus, Amrit Science Campus and Shankardev Campus, picketers forced shops to down shutters. A car and a tourist van were set on fire by protesters at Til Ganga and Chabahil in the morning. Three motorcycles and a bus belonging to the Teaching Hospital were vandalised at Putalisadak, Kalanki, Baneshwor and Ghantaghar respectively.
According to DSP Dhiraj Pratap Singh, the spokesperson of the Metropolitan Police Range Kathmandu, altogether 29 protesters were arrested. They were, however, freed in the evening. Police had to use force to stop protesters from going berserk near Keshar Mahal and Trichandra Campus in the afternoon, he said.
Owing to the banda, Purbanchal University (PU) had to cancel exams scheduled to start on Monday. Banda picketers also stopped Sanskrit exams underway at Balmiki Campus and tore answer sheets and question papers.
According to NC Central Working Committee (CWC) member Badri Pandey, 30,000 cadres of the party’s sister organisations were deployed in the Capital to enforce the banda. “We had to do something like this or keeping silent would have meant the NC failed in seeking justice,” he said.
In a statement in the afternoon, the NC apologised to the public for the “trouble” and said the protest programmes were “temporarily” lifted.
“We will launch other protest programmes and react more strongly if the government fails to declare Poudel a martyr before December 24,” the statement said, adding that Poudel’s funeral will be held in Chitwan on Tuesday.