Nepalese Police Arrest 70 in Clash with Maoists

The following article is from the New York Times:

NEW DELHI — Nepalese riot police officers wielding batons and firing canisters of tear gas clashed Sunday with Maoist sympathizers in Katmandu, as the Maoists staged their largest protests since abandoning the government seven months ago.

The violence was a new sign that the stalled peace process was unraveling altogether. It started as Maoists blocked roads into Katmandu, the capital, as part of a three-day general strike called to protest President Ram Baran Yadav and demand a restoration of their political power.

News agencies reported that the police arrested at least 70 people on charges of vandalism, while Maoists said as many as 100 demonstrators were injured.

Tensions have been escalating in Nepal since the Maoists left the government in May in a dispute with the president over the Nepalese military.

In the ensuing months, Maoists have staged demonstrations, seized land and symbolically declared that certain areas, including Katmandu, were autonomous zones outside the purview of the government.

The unrest poses the most severe test to date of the peace treaty signed in 2006. Under that agreement, Maoist fighters gave up their decade-long armed revolt as the group’s leaders joined the political process.

In April 2008, the Maoists won the most seats in a special legislative body elected to draft a new constitution and form a government. Four months later, the Maoist leader, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, also known as Prachanda, became prime minister in a coalition government.

But the Maoists were frustrated by the continued confinement of more than 19,000 of their former fighters. Sequestered in barracks monitored by the United Nations, those fighters were supposed to be blended gradually into Nepal’s security forces, according to the peace agreement. But the country’s army chief repeatedly fended off such integration until the prime minister fired him.

The firing was quickly overturned by the Nepalese president, in what Maoists called a blatant violation of the president’s limited constitutional powers. The Maoists then left the government in protest.

In Sunday’s clashes in Katmandu, protesters threw stones at the riot police and officers responded by clubbing the demonstrators and soaking them with tear gas, news agencies reported. A police spokesman in Katmandu told Reuters that the police charged the protesters with batons after 17 officers were hurt by hurled stones.

A statement from the regional office of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights asked that protesters and the police exercise restraint and criticized officers for using “excessive force.”

“Today’s display of violence was some of the worst on the streets of Katmandu for several years,” Richard Bennett, chief of the office, said in the statement.

One response to “Nepalese Police Arrest 70 in Clash with Maoists

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