Kathmandu, April 20: Another strike stifled Nepal today, but it was called by student organisations allied to major political parties, not by Maoists, the usual enforcers.
The strike brought life to a standstill, with a few stray incidents of violence amidst tight security, as the students set out to enforce the bandh.
Today’s strike was part of a three-day bandh, the next round being scheduled for April 28-29. The Himalayan kingdom, plagued by strikes and political unrest since last year — with the Maoist struggle on one hand and pro-democracy protests on the other — has been in the grip of a wave of student protests since early this year.
The student demonstrations, which initially began in response to the steep hike in fuel prices soon after the Iraq war, took a different turn after a protester was shot dead inside his campus on April 4, in the south-western town of Butwal.
While a government probe into the shooting revealed that it was uncalled for, the protests had by then spun out of control.
On the political front, parties have chalked out their own plan of action against the king’s take-over of executive authority of the state in October last year. Although this is the third time they have threatened joint action, the students’ agitation may just provide it with the momentum to carry it through. The government seems at a loss about how to control a situation slowly spiralling out of control. It is facing fire on three fronts: the students, the political parties and Maoists, who have declared the negotiations the latest ‘front’ in their ‘people’s war’.
On 17 April, nearly three months after the ceasefire was reached with the Maoists, a full-fledged dialogue team was formed under the deputy prime minister. Talks are expected to begin tomorrow, but major political parties have remained indifferent to the new development. They have refused any truck with the present government and although they have repeatedly claimed they are for peace talks, their non-participation in negotiations is likely to put a question mark on any settlement that may be reached.