Kathmandu, Oct. 9: A day after King Gyanendra ignored a request by six political parties for a joint meeting with him, the political temperature seems to be rising in Nepal.
The parties, which included the country’s largest two — the Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) — had agreed on Monday to collectively ask the king to ensure representation of the parliamentary parties in a future government to hold the general elections that were suspended with the king’s proclamation on Friday.
Failing to meet the king yesterday, the parties handed over a memorandum which called the king’s assumption of executive powers as “unconstitutional” and urged that executive power be transferred back to the people. But there was no mention of “persons who have clean images” which the king had requested to be part of the new government.
The king had met party leaders, including ousted Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, separately on Sunday. His refusal to meet them jointly has raised eyebrows and is being read as an attempt perhaps to bypass them in the formation of a new government.
This evening, a group of around 70 Left intellectuals from the newly formed Citizens’ Society for Democracy held a silent demonstration to protest the king’s action on a busy street about a kilometre south of the palace.
The demonstrators, which included two former ministers, waved black flags and held up improvised placards denouncing the royal action.
“We are protesting because the constitution says Nepali people are sovereign. With the king’s action it has gone to him,” said former minister and human rights activist Padma Ratna Tuladhar. “We are almost sure that this is going to be a retrogressive state,’ said Pitamber Sharma, a former professor at Tribhuvan University.
The police, who were out in force, seized the placards that proclaimed that the source of state authority is the people, not the palace.
The ultra-leftist party, Jan Morcha Nepal (People’s Front Nepal), organised a public meeting later in the evening where former MP and vice-president of the party, Lila Mani Pokhrel, declared that the Constitution has not given the king the right to end democracy. “People will be forced to begin a struggle if the rights granted by the 1990 movement is taken away,” he said.
The police prevented the protestors from holding a procession afterwards.
Government media continued to report demonstrations in support of the king’s action from various parts of the country. But it has completely blacked out news of protest marches such as yesterday’s rally by affiliate organisations of the CPN (UML).
The restriction on the movement of some former ministers in place since Saturday has now extended to politicians outside Kathmandu as well. The Nepali Congress has objected to the restriction, claiming it was a violation of human rights. The government has denied that is happening.
Meanwhile, in the first major strike since the king’s address, Maoist rebels attacked the Khimti hydropower project about 200 km east of Kathmandu last night. Built at a cost of $120 million, this is the largest foreign investment project in Nepal. The damage, however, was not extensive to stop power production.