| A woman offers flowers to a policeman, inviting him to take part in the peaceful protest, in Kathmandu on Sunday. (Reuters)
Kathmandu, April 16: King Gyanendra held talks with diplomats from India and the US amid a call for full-blown civil disobedience and speculation about the likely imposition of emergency in Nepal.
Indian ambassador Shiv Shankar Mukhejee and America’s James Moriarty were among the envoys called by the king during the day for talks.
The invitations were sent out as the ground situation within Kathmandu valley and elsewhere threatened to spiral out of control.
Political parties waging a campaign for democracy asked people to stop paying taxes and international donors to halt aid to the royalist government.
“We ask taxpayers not to pay any tax to the government, civil servants to disobey orders and security forces to take off their uniforms and join the people,” said Krishna Prasad Sitaula of the Nepali Congress, the country’s biggest political party.
Protests erupted for the first time in Kathmandu’s Thamel tourist district and by dusk many streets of the capital were littered with stones and the ashes of burnt tyres.
“We will burn the crown and run the country,” youths shouted, dancing around a bonfire in Thamel. “Death to the government.”
The district is a sprawling maze of alleys in the centre of the capital full of backpacker hotels, bars, curio shops and trekking and travel agencies that is a magnet for tourists.
The unrest in Thamel, which many Nepalese consider a foreign enclave, was unusual. The district has usually been insulated from protests because of worries it would affect the tourist trade, a main source of the impoverished kingdom’s earnings.
In New Delhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held a meeting with his senior cabinet colleagues for over 90 minutes to discuss the Nepal situation. No official comment was available till late tonight but India ' as well as the US ' have criticised the crackdown on the pro-democracy campaign and urged the king to quickly resolve the situation.
The embattled monarch spent the entire morning holding confabulations with senior members of his government.
Thereafter, the palace sent out invites to the diplomats, including Chinese ambassador Sun Hepping. While the American envoy was the first to be called to the palace around 5 pm, the Indian ambassador went in next. The Chinese ambassador was the last to hold discussions.
Sources told The Telegraph that each of the diplomats spent an hour in the palace. Gyanendra apparently discussed various options available to him to deal with the crisis and sought the opinion of the envoys.
The sources said Mukherjee conveyed the Indian Prime Minister’s view that the monarch had to take the first step forward by inviting the seven-party alliance for talks. He also informed Gyanendra that the government cannot use repressive measures.
The sources said the American envoy reportedly conveyed a similar message.
The council of ministers of the Royalist government met this evening and discussed the possibility of imposing a state of emergency to quell the protests. At a simultaneous security meeting, top officials suggested immediate imposition of emergency, sources said.