Thousands protest in Kathmandu against Maoist strike
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At least 20,000 people took to the streets in Kathmandu to demand an end to a shutdown that entered its sixth day on Friday. The business community, human rights organisations and civil society groups organised the demonstration against Maoists who are asking for the resignation of the prime minister and the formation of a new national unity government.
Some reports from Kathmandu indicate that as many as 35,000 people took to the streets of the Nepalese capital to oppose the Maoist-led strike. Although there was no violence, police fired some warning shots and tear gas to avoid possible confrontations.
Talks between the Maoists and political parties have been ongoing since Sunday but there are no indications that the deadlock, which has left businesses shut, schools closed, transportation paralysed and people confined to their homes, will be broken.
Doctors, lawyers, business executives, singers, teachers and labourers all joined the rally against the strikes, which the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry estimates to have cost Nepal’s economy around 23 million euros a day.
The government is refusing to give in to the Maoists’ demands. They want to remove Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal and install a Maoist-led administration.
The Maoists, who mobilised thousands on a May Day demonstration in support of their call, are often accused of backing strike calls with the threat of violence and some supporters were trying to forcibly close businesses that attempted to remain open.
The United States called for the Maoists to end their strike on Thursday, expressing concern about the risk of violence.
“The Maoist-imposed strike in Nepal is creating serious hardships for the people of Nepal and risk of dangerous confrontation is growing,” said Robert Blake, the assistant secretary for South Asian affairs.
This latest unrest comes following the end of a 10-year Maoist guerrilla insurgency against the government which ended with the signing of a peace deal in 2006. Nepal’s Constituent Assembly is due to draw up a new constitution before its term expires on 28 May.
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