Indian diplomat’s car attacked as strike cripples Kathmandu (Lead, Changing dateline)

November 20th, 2008 - 7:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Nov 20 (IANS) Mobs pelted stones at an Indian diplomat’s car close to the Indian embassy here Thursday as violent protests erupted on the capital’s streets for the second consecutive day over the murder of two youths that is being blamed on the ruling Maoist party.While S.K. Joshi, head of chancery at the Indian embassy, was unhurt, vandals broke the window screen of his Maruti car as he was driving to his office.

The attack occurred minutes away from the heavily guarded former royal palace though Joshi’s car bore the Diplomatic Corps number plate indicating it belonged to a foreign diplomat.

Diplomatic cars are normally allowed passage, along with ambulances and UN vehicles, during unrests.

While the stoning comes against the backdrop of rising anti-India feelings in Nepal after a brief honeymoon during king Gyanendra’s army-backed government when India was looked up as a major friend of Nepal’s beleaguered political parties, diplomatic sources in India maintained there was no anti-India sentiment behind the incident.

“It was only a case of a person being at the wrong place at the wrong time. There was no targeting of the official or India behind the incident,” a diplomatic source said in New Delhi.

India is not likely to release any statement on the event, as it is not being classified as a diplomatic incident, the source said, adding that a police report was filed on the incident.

The Kathmandu valley was paralysed by a general strike called by members of the public and supported by the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML), that is the second largest party in the coalition government of Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’, as well as the main opposition party, former prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s Nepali Congress (NC).

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 Prachanda and asking Home Minister Bam Dev Gautam to quit for failing to restore law and order.

They also vandalised public buildings and intimidated shopkeepers as well as motorists who had ventured out.

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.

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

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 district.

The two men, who were said to have been UML cadres, 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.

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 will be here Nov 24-26. Mukherjee will be the first Indian minister to visit Nepal after the Maoists came to power.

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