NEPAL: Nepal Government Bans Protests Near Parliament

Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Southern Asia
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 

With just four days left before a potential constitutional meltdown, Nepal's communist-Maoist government Tuesday clamped prohibitions near the parliament building, banning all protests and rallies within a 50m radius.

Security forces swung into action in the morning, removing by force the various pressure groups who had been holding peaceful demonstrations before parliament for days, demanding the promulgation of the new constitution within the stipulated May 28 deadline.

Riot police carried nearly 20 struggling former lawmakers from near the building, loading them into vans and evicting them from the prohibited area.

They also demolished the makeshift canopies built by the protesters and carted away the rough mats they had used to sit.

The former lawmakers had been on a token hunger strike for 17 days.

Police also removed groups of women who had been meeting before parliament for almost a month, asking the ruling parties to conclude the peace process and ensure women's rights in the new constitution.

There have been several more protests by civil society members. One of the most moving ones saw grieving family members gathering with Mukesh Kayastha, a teen who has been in a coma since 2006, when he took part in the pro-democracy movement against King Gyanendra's army-backed regime and was badly injured by security forces.

Ironically, the same Maoist party that cracked down on peaceful protests had led much more violent and disruptive protests for nearly two years since the fall of its government in 2009, including a six-day general strike and protracted blockades of the prime minister's office and other key ministries.

The home ministry that ordered Tuesday's crackdown on peaceful protests is led by Maoist minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara, who is seeking to withdraw criminal cases against Maoist cadres.

Mahara himself faces the accusation of having sought NRS 50 million from a China-based businessman to bribe MPs into voting for his party.

The parliament building will turn into a battlefield this week when the prime minister seeks a vote to extend the deadline for writing the new constitution by a year.

He needs the support of two-third of the nearly 600 sitting MPs but has fallen short of the required number after one of his allies split, with half of its lawmakers joining the opposition.