Kathmandu closure Wednesday over Maoist killing

May 19th, 2008 - 9:44 pm ICT by admin  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, May 19 (IANS) Putting aside their differences, student organisations affiliated to major political parties and angry local residents have called a shutdown in Kathmandu Valley Wednesday to protest the killing of a local businessman by Maoists in a guerrilla camp supervised by the UN. Led by the student organisations of Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist, protesters Monday led marches in the capital, asking for the killers of businessman Ram Hari Shrestha to be brought to justice.

Shrestha’s killing by members of the Maoists’ guerrillas, the People’s Liberation Army, created outrage and triggered continuous protests in the capital since last week as the murdered man was close to the Maoists and their top leaders, including its supremo Prachanda, were known to have visited his residence and enjoyed his hospitality.

During the Maoist insurgency, Shrestha had sheltered Maoists and provided them with food and accommodation.

The Maoists were using a room in Shrestha’s residence in Kathmandu’s Koteshwor area as their public communication office.

According to the businessman’s wife, Ramila Shrestha, her husband was marched off from the capital by guerrillas of the third division of the PLA and taken to their cantonment in Shaktikhor, in southern Chitwan district, for interrogation. The Maoists said they were missing a gun and a large sum of money from the office.

Ramila says her husband died after being thrashed in the camp. His body was thrown into a nearby river later.

On Sunday, the stricken widow submitted a petition to the prime minister, asking for the perpetrators to be punished.

Though initially the PLA allegedly admitted Shrestha had died due to the beating, later, however, Maoist chairman Prachanda issued a statement denying the PLA’s involvement.

The murder has badly tarnished the image of the Maoists, who emerged as the largest party in last month’s election, the first national polls in almost a decade.

The former guerrilla party had signed a peace pact two years ago and pledged to renounce violence.

It is now bidding to form the next government with Prachanda as the new prime minister.

Koirala has promised an inquiry into the murder. However, dozens of similar killings, both by the Maoists and the army in the course of the 10-year Maoist insurgency, have remained unpunished.

The killing echoes the murder last year of Nepali journalist Birendra Shah by Maoists in the Terai plains in southern Nepal.

The guerrillas disowned responsibility for the killing first and though they had to change their stand following tremendous public outrage, the men responsible for the brutal murder of the unarmed Shah still remain at large.

Questions are also being raised about the efficacy of the UN Mission in Nepal, that was given the job of supervising Maoist arms and combatants in their seven major cantonments.

The slain man was held in a Maoist camp and thrashed to death without the UNMIN arms monitors noticing anything amiss.

UNMIN issued a statement Monday condemning the killing and saying it was conducting an internal investigation.

“The United Nations Mission in Nepal condemns the killing of Ram Hari Shrestha, which commanders of the Maoist army have acknowledged to UNMIN was committed by members of the Maoist army,” the statement said.

“This act is a serious breach of the commitments made in the Agreement on Monitoring the Management of Arms and Armies (AMMAA) reached between the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and the then government, as well as of fundamental human rights.”

It also said UNMIN arms monitors have conducted a preliminary inquiry, the results of which will be presented at the next meeting of the Joint Monitoring Coordination Committee (JMCC).

The JMCC, chaired by UNMIN and responsible for monitoring the compliance of the parties with AMMAA, includes representatives of the Nepal Army and the Maoist army.

It also called on the Maoists to cooperate fully with the police to ensure that all those responsible for ordering or carrying out the abduction or killing are apprehended and punished in accordance with the law.

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