Maoists under fire as Kathmandu shuts down over murders

November 20th, 2008 - 2:15 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Nov 20 (IANS) The Kathmandu valley shut down Thursday over the murder of two young men blamed on Nepal’s former Maoist guerrillas as protestors intensified their demand for a judicial probe, an apology from the prime minister and the resignation of the home minister.For the second day, the capital turned into a battlefield as protestors clashed with Maoists in different places while Maoist offices came under renewed attack.

The Nagarik Sangharsh Samiti (NSS), an organisation comprising friends, family members and neighbours of the two young men whose bodies were found Tuesday, as well as student organisations forced shops and offices to down shutters. Educational institutions remained closed as mobs patrolled the streets, forcing motorists and two-wheelers to turn back.

Students burnt tyres before colleges and university campuses, denouncing Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda and asking Home Minister Bam Dev Gautam to quit for failing to restore law and order.

The office of the Young Communist League (YCL), the strong arm of the Maoists that is being blamed for the abduction and murder of Nirmal Pant and Pushkar Dangol, was attacked in the Balaju area. On Tuesday, another YCL office in the Kalanki area had been vandalised.

Reports said demonstrators also attacked a hotel in Thamel, the capital’s famed tourist hub.

Protests also erupted in Dhading and Dolakha districts.

The outrage began growing Tuesday after police and human rights workers discovered the bodies of Pant and Dangol, both in their early 20s, buried on the bank of a stream in Dhading.

The two men, who were said to have been cadres of the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML), the second-largest party in the coalition government, had disappeared Oct 20 after being abducted, allegedly by YCL men, from a restaurant in Dhading.

The twin murder comes close on the heels of the abduction and killing of a journalist in southern Nepal, Birendra Shah, and a Kathmandu businessman, Ram Hari Shrestha.

Both the killings have been pinned on the Maoists, who two years ago pledged to renounce violence and return to peaceful politics.

Pant and Dangol’s murders were promptly taken up by the main opposition party, the Nepali Congress (NC).

On Tuesday, nearly two dozen NC lawmakers raised the issue in parliament, demanding an investigation, punishment for the culprits and compensation for the victims’ families.

The NSS said it would continue the protests till the government took action. It is also demanding the dissolution of the paramilitary structure of the YCL.

Facing growing public anger, the YCL sought to distance itself from the murders. Its leaders in Dhading issued statements saying they were being wrongly blamed.

The fresh murders could not have come at a worse time for Prachanda.

The Maoist supremo faces a stiff challenge to his leadership as the national convention of the Maoists starts Friday.

He is also likely to face questions from Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who visits from Nov 24-26. Mukherjee will be the first Indian minister to visit Nepal during the Maoist government.

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