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Nepal government rules out emergency
Published on 2 Nov. 2009 10:58 PM IST
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As Nepal's former Maoist guerrillas Monday stepped up their protests against the ruling alliance, asking for its dissolution, the government said it was not planning to deploy the army to crack down on the protesters or declare a state of emergency. Thousands of Maoist supporters, led by their former ministers and lawmakers, began picketing village administration and municipal offices across all the 75 districts, preventing people from going in or coming out. Waving the red star-spangled flag of the party with similar bandanas tied round their heads, young cadres turned the protest into a carnival in the capital, breaking out into jigs and shouting slogans lustily against President Ram Baran Yadav, who is the main target of the protests. While the government beefed up the deployment of armed police forces in Kathmandu valley and near key government offices in the outer districts to prevent vandalisation, the protests remained peaceful even on the second day with the security personnel watching impassively. "We respect peaceful protests," Information and Communications Minister Shankar Pokhrel, who is also the spokesman of the 22-party government, told IANS in an exclusive interview. "Though the home ministry has been instructed to deploy security agencies to pre-empt violence and destruction of public or state property, the army will not be deployed." The spokesman also ruled out imposing a state of emergency. However, he said that the former insurgents would not be allowed to execute their threat to lay a blockade to Kathmandu valley and Nepal's sole international airport Nov 10. "The blockade goes against democratic norms and smacks of the tactics the Maoists used during the civil war," the minister said. "However, when they signed a comprehensive peace agreement in 2006 (and ended the insurgency), they agreed to end such un-democratic means." Pokhrel did not rule out the possibility of violence during the protests that will continue till Nov 13. "If you look at the nature of past Maoist protests, they indicate a lapse into violence," he said. "Even when they announced a programme of showing black flags to ministers, there were more brickbats than black flags." Close on the heels of Pokhrel's statement, police said two Maoist cadres had been injured in a scuffle in Biratnagar city in eastern Nepal. The skirmish occurred after Maoist cadres showed black flags to Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal, who had gone there to inaugurate a polytechnic. The Maoists are demanding an apology from the president for reinstating the chief of the army, whom they had sacked during their eight-month government. The reinstatement caused the fall of the Maoist government with its allies withdrawing support. Else, they are asking the government to allow a debate in parliament on the "unconstitutional" role played by the president, a proposal that has been rejected. "An agreement can't be one-sided," Pokhrel said. "If the Maoists stick to their stand and don't admit their mistakes, how can there be a consensus?"

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