Nepal protesters defy repression

Nepalese police fired tear gas and charged with batons in clashes with pro-democracy activists in Kathmandu Jan. 21. Street battles lasted for two hours around Durbar Square. The protests came after the house arrest of political leaders campaigning to force King Gyanendra to give up power. Over 500 activists were arrested in the sweeps, including former foreign minister Ramsharan Mahat, former finance minister Mahesh Acharya, both from the Nepali Congress party. (NDTV, India, Jan. 22)

Nepal’s political parties vowed that they would continue to hold protests until King Gyanendra steps down as absolute ruler. “Our struggle will continue until the king gives up all the power and restores people’s rule. There will be no break in the struggle for democracy,” said Madhav Kumar Nepal, general secretary of Communist Party of Nepal.

According to the Central People’s Movement Co-ordination Committee there will be demonstrations through Jan. 25 in major cities across Nepal, followed by a nationwide strike on Jan. 26. (Press Association, Jan. 22)

Meanwhile, guerilla attacks are also escalating. At least 23, including 17 Maoist rebels, were killed in fresh violence at Phaparbari in central Makwanpur district Jan. 22.

The government has imposed curfew and disconnected mobile telephone services in the Kathmandu Valley. Nepali Congress leader and former prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala, placed under house arrest in the wake of a protest against King Gyanendra, was freed Jan. 22. But another opposition leader Hridayesh Tripathi, a front-ranking leader of the Nepal Sadbhavana Party (Anandi), was arrested that same day as he returned from New Delhi. (Times of India, Jan. 22)

See our last post on Nepal.