After trader’s killing, Nepal Maoists face fresh murder charge

May 22nd, 2008 - 6:07 pm ICT by admin  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, May 22 (IANS) Even as protests over Nepal Maoists’ slaying of a businessman started snow balling in the capital Kathmandu, the former guerrillas have been accused of hacking to death a member of a rival party over a land dispute. Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s ruling Nepali Congress (NC) party said its member Jaylal Bom was killed by Maoists in the remote Surkhet district in midwestern Nepal.

Bom died Saturday after a group of people attacked him and hit him on the head with an axe.

In a statement issued Wednesday, NC said the attackers had been identified as Maoists who were led by a local leader called Anga Bahadur BK.

The Maoists had seized Bom’s property during their 10-year-long “People’s War”. However, when they signed a peace pact with the government two years ago and pledged to return all captured property, Bom ventured to till his land.

He was surrounded by the gang while cultivating his land and killed for claiming the land as his own. The victim’s family said that though they filed a complaint, naming 22 people, police failed to arrest the culprits.

The Maoists, in a move that is becoming increasingly common, are trying to distance themselves from the slaying, denying their party’s ‘official’ involvement.

“It was the result of a social dispute,” a Maoist leader in the district, identified as Surya Bahadur Shahi, told the media.

The fresh allegation against the Maoists came even as they faced tremendous public condemnation over the killing of businessman Hari Ram Shrestha.

Shrestha was close to the Maoists and was allegedly assaulted inside a Maoist cantonment earlier this month and died of severe haemorrhage after his organs failed.

Major political parties and student organisations have taken up cudgels on behalf of Shrestha and a shutdown was observed in the Kathmandu valley Wednesday to protest the murder.

The former rebels tried to hush up the murder by throwing Shrestha’s body into a river and denied their involvement. However, they were exposed by the hospital where a dying Shrestha had been taken by the Maoists as well as the UN agency that is supervising the surrender of arms and combatants of the Maoists.

The growing outrage Thursday forced Maoist chief Prachanda to meet the dead man’s family in order to pacify them.

The party also said it had formed a three-member committee to conduct an internal investigation.

In a bid to turn the mounting anti-Maoist sentiment, the Maoists also said that their ministers would ask the prime minister at Thursday’s cabinet meeting to form an inquiry commission and bring the guilty to justice.

The dead man’s family and neighbours, who have formed a committee to keep up anti-Maoist protests, say they will continue public demonstrations till Maoist chief Prachanda, who is the supreme commander of the People’s Liberation Army, apologises and agrees to compensate the family. They also want him to disband the militant youth wing of the party, the dreaded Young Communist League, which is believed to have a hand in Shrestha’s abduction.

The anti-Maoist wave comes just a month after the former insurgents rode to victory in last month’s critical constituent assembly elections after Nepal voted overwhelmingly for a change.

As the largest party after the April 10 polls, the Maoists are poised to lead the new government with Prachanda bidding to succeed Koirala.

The next four largest parties, including the NC, have already asked Koirala to let the Maoists assume the reins of the government.

But the former rebels, who fought a 10-year war to come to power, might not have things going their way.

Besides the fresh misgivings they have stirred up with the murder charges, the Maoists also face a demand by the other major parties for a change to the constitution that will allow the opposition to oust the Maoists through simple majority in parliament instead of the two-thirds majority required currently.

The other parties are also rooting for a ceremonial president without real powers while Prachanda has expressed his desire to be the first president of Nepal who will also wield real power.

With the parties and the Maoists still at loggerheads, doubts are also being raised about the fate of King Gyanendra, the Maoists’ traditional enemy.

The first meeting of the newly elected constituent assembly, scheduled for May 28, is to officially proclaim an end to Nepal’s 239-year-old monarchy and turn the once all-powerful king into a commoner.

However, as long as the parties fail to reach a consensus, the royal family, who became unpopular after the king tried to grab absolute power through an army-backed coup three years ago, will continue to enjoy a reprieve.

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