Maoists start war of nerves against Nepal king

May 14th, 2008 - 12:44 pm ICT by admin  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, May 14 (IANS) Nepal’s former Maoist guerrillas, who fought a 10-year war to overthrow the country’s centuries-old monarchy, have now started a war of nerves against embattled King Gyanendra. With less than a fortnight left for the apparent end of the long dynasty of Shah kings, top Maoist leaders have begun clamouring for the royal family to leave the palace well before May 28, the fateful date set by Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala for the first meeting of the newly elected constituent assembly, when Nepal will formally become a republic.

Nearly half a dozen top Maoist leaders have been making public statements in the past week, urging King Gyanendra to exit the Narayanhity palace voluntarily without waiting for demolition day.

They have subtly warned the king, who was once above law and considered an incarnation of god, that if he failed to quit the palace by May 28, either the public would throw him out unceremoniously or he would be evicted by security forces for unauthorised occupation of national property.

On Tuesday, Maoist chief Prachanda, who is vying for the post of prime minister, said at a public gathering in the tea garden district of Ilam in eastern Nepal that his party had sent a letter to the king, telling him in black and white that he must leave the palace.

Though the Maoist chief did not say how the letter was sent, it is speculated that the message was conveyed through Kamal Thapa, a former royalist minister and chief of the only large party that fought last month’s election in support of the king.

Thapa has been meeting the Maoist leaders, trying to persuade them to agree to a titular role for the king or at least, not to deliver the death blow to monarchy till the new constitution is drafted, a process that will take at least two years and buy time for the imperilled crown.

But Prachanda Tuesday rejected the appeal, saying the king would not be given any special cultural or religious role.

“The first meeting of the constituent assembly (on May 28) would (formally) declare the nation a republic, eliminate all the special rights the king enjoys and turn him into a common citizen,” the Maoist supremo said.

On the same day, two other front-ranking Maoist leaders made similar public statements in different places, mounting psychological pressure on the palace.

Prachanda’s deputy Baburam Bhattarai and another influential leader, Ram Bahadur Thapa, both of whom won in last month’s election by overwhelming margins, echoed the same sentiments in Kaski and Ilam districts respectively.

On Wednesday, the Maoist mouthpiece, the Janadisha daily, added to the pressure, saying the king had only 13 days left now, an allusion to the fateful May 28 event.

The palace, on its part, chose to fight back with silence as its weapon.

The king, who had issued two statements in less than a week last month, chose to ignore the Maoist proposal for a meeting so that a graceful exit for him could be discussed.

Though there were reports that the king’s old residence Nirmal Niwas was being renovated, there was no indication that the royal family was preparing to leave the palace immediately.

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Posted in South Asia |