Maoist chief likens himself to Buddhist emperor Ashoka

May 20th, 2008 - 2:07 pm ICT by admin  

Kathmandu, May 20 (IANS) The chief of Nepal’s Maoist party, a former guerrilla organisation that fought a 10-year savage civil war to overthrow the constitutional monarchy, has likened himself to the great Indian emperor Ashoka who became a passionate follower of the Buddha. To deepen the irony, Maoist supremo Prachanda made the remark while opening a peace meet Monday in Lumbini town, the birthplace of the Buddha, organised to honour the 2,552nd birth anniversary of the apostle of peace.

While Prachanda, who is aiming to become the next prime minister of Nepal, opened the international conference of Buddhist monks, sharing the dais with red robe-clad and tonsured Buddhist monks, dozens of protesters were marching in capital city Kathmandu, demanding punishment for the Maoists’ People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers who brutally killed a local businessman.

“We are the most peaceable party,” said Prachanda, whose denial of involvement of his party in the murder of businessman Hari Ram Shrestha was given the lie by the UN that said Maoist soldiers had admitted to the deed.

Prachanda claimed that the Maoists had shown exemplary restraint on the eve of last month’s critical election, when they had refused to retaliate to the killing of nearly a dozen of their cadres.

Saying that it was his first visit to the Buddha’s birthplace, revered as a holy site by pilgrims all over the world, the guerrilla leader made an allusion to Indian emperor Ashoka, once a fiery king who had a change of heart after witnessing the death and destruction following a mighty battle and became a pacifist overnight.

“After viewing the site that spread peace worldwide, I too feel like announcing, like Emperor Ashoka, that there is no further need for arms,” Prachanda said.

“About 2,500 years ago, the Buddha had preached the gospel of peace. Now, 2,500 years later, Nepal will once again spread the message of peace.”

Since they emerged as the largest party after the April 10 election, the Maoists, who do not believe in any religion, have been attending religious festivals, including traditional Hindu ones.

However, despite their public pledges to bring lasting peace to Nepal, the Maoists, a month after their major election victory, are struggling to form the new government.

While Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala refuses to relinquish his post, the former rebels have not been able to muster the two-third majority required in parliament to unseat the premier.

With just seven days left for a critical meeting that is expected to end Nepal’s 239-year monarchy, the former rebels have once again begun to antagonise the people, with Shrestha’s killing triggering a public backlash.

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