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Symbolic Maoist blast rocks Kathmandu

Kathmandu, Nov. 9: This morning, Kathmandu woke up to a powerful explosion that reverberated to great distances in the bowl-shaped valley.

The target seems to have been the downtown head office of the national flag-carrier, Royal Nepal Airlines Corporation. But the bomb exploded outside the office premises and did not cause any serious damage to the building.

Although the incident did not result in any deaths, the blast was one more in a series to indicate that the Maoists are on a rampage. Yesterday, an explosion in a town 25 km east of Kathmandu had killed a teenaged boy.

The timing of today’s bomb blast is significant for two reasons. One is that November 9 is the twelfth anniversary of Nepal’s 1990 constitution, one which the CPN (Maoist) is intent on replacing with another one written by a constituent assembly. The second is that it comes during the preparatory phase of a three-day bandh called by the Maoists from November 11 to 13.

The three-day strike had been called by the rebels in anticipation of the parliamentary polls that were to begin on the 13 November. Although the elections have been postponed indefinitely with the ouster of Sher Bahadur Deuba as Prime Minister on October 4 and the subsequent assumption of executive authority by King Gyanendra, the Maoists have stuck to their original programme.

For a country that just came out of the three-day Diwali break on Thursday, the weekend holiday followed by a three-day enforced shutdown means a suspension of normal business.

for five

more days. This is bad news especially for the tourism industry that

had just begun showing improvement.

None of the blasts in the capital have killed more than one person at

a time, although the Maoists most probably have the means. But like

in the past the coming bandh too will most likely be a total success.

The scare value of possible attacks is all in favour of the Maoists.

Almost on the sidelines is the government headed by royal-

appointee, Lokendra Bahadur Chand, is still facing a crisis of

legitimacy. The manner in which the government was constituted by

the king on 11 October has also come under flak from constitutional

experts. To make matters worse, neither of the two major

parliamentary parties, the Nepali Congress and the Communist Party

of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist), has shown any inclination to

join the cabinet despite repeated exhortations by the prime minister.

On the question of dealing with the Maoists, the government has

also repeatedly declared that it has opened the doors for talks, and

that the rebels have to indicate their desire to enter into dialogue.

Minister have dropped hints that some backroom manoeuvring may

be afoot to bring the Maoists to the negotiating table, but going by

the daily routine of attacks and the statements emanating from the

Maoist leadership, that may be a while in bearing fruit.

There were encouraging signs in the 24 October statement from

CPN (Maoist) chairman, Prachanda, which asked for a ‘political

exit’ to the present impasse through a dialogue among all political

forces, including the king, and for which the king would have to

initiate the first steps. This statement was remarkable for the absence

of anti-monarchy rhetoric and was viewed as a possible opening for

talks.

However, it was back to square one two weeks later. A statement by

the convenor of the political outfit of the Maoists, Baburam

Bhattarai, called on all parliamentary and non-parliamentary forces

in a broad united front against the ‘feudal monarchy’. Bhattarai also

announced that the upcoming three-day bandh would signal the

beginning of a ‘united people’s resistance campaign’ against the

king.

It seems whether he does it directly or through the government, the

onus of action is now on the king. On the eve of the anniversary of

the constitution, a group of eight eminent personalities, including

three who were members of the constitution drafting committee in

1990, came out with a statement that said that the present

government is not legitimate and that it lacks public support.

The statement also asked for either the reinstatement of the

parliament dissolved earlier in May or a resort to ‘interim

arrangements’ that would restore the paramountcy of the people’s

sovereign rights. The ‘interim arrangements’, they said, should also

include the Maoists—a sentiment that has become more and more

kosher as the country lurches from one crisis to another.

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