Blasts in Kathmandu ahead of king’s ouster (Night Lead)

May 26th, 2008 - 9:54 pm ICT by admin  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, May 26 (IANS) With only two days to go before the abolition of Nepal King Gyanendra’s centuries-old crown, two bombs spread momentary panic here Monday, going off in the garden of the convention centre where a historic meet 48 hours later would end Nepal’s ruling dynasty. Police said motorcyclists hurled the bombs inside the Birendra International Convention Centre and scattered leaflets, claiming it to be the handiwork of the Ranavir Sena, an underground organisation that is demanding Nepal be returned to its old status as a Hindu kingdom.

The blasts, which caused no injury, came even as the government Monday declared the royal palace a prohibited area to prevent violent clashes between royalists and republicans. Nepal’s home ministry said processions, sit-ins and even parking vehicles near the Narayanhity royal palace were prohibited from Monday.

Prohibitions have also been clamped in the nearby Maharajgunj area where Nirmal Niwas, the private residence where the king lived before he was crowned in 2001, is located.

The stringent safety measures come ahead of the newly elected constituent assembly’s first meeting Wednesday when it will officially proclaim Nepal a republic, axing its 239-year-old lineage of Shah kings.

The Maoists, who won last month’s election and have been asked to form the new government, have said the king would be asked to leave the palace the same day.

Amid speculation whether the strong-willed king would heed the writing on the wall or choose a confrontation by refusing to vacate the palace, Gyanendra Thursday left the royal quarters for his summer residence in Nagarjuna, north of Kathmandu.

Although palace retinues were told the king and his queen, Komal, would return to the palace Monday, it remains to be seen if they would.

Prohibitory orders have also been clamped in the Baneshwor area, where the Birendra International Convention Centre is located.

The 601 members of the constituent assembly would be sworn in at the centre Tuesday. It is also the fateful place where the following day, the members would formally proclaim an end to Nepal’s monarchy.

The prime minister’s official residence at Baluwatar in the capital and other places of public importance have also been put under the prohibitory orders.

The cloud of fear and uncertainty looming over Nepal ahead of the historic Wednesday meet was strengthened when a die-hard royalist indicated that the king’s supporters were still not ready to accept the end of monarchy.

Kamal Thapa, chief of Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal, the only major party to have fought the April 10 polls in support of monarchy, warned that if the crown was scrapped without waiting for a referendum, it would lead to either a takeover by the Maoists or the army.

“What will happen after the emotional bond between the army and monarchy abruptly breaks?” the king’s home minister Thapa told a Nepali daily. “…The void created (after the abolition of monarchy) would be devastating.”

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