Thursday, April 20, 2006

Eyewitness: 'I was shot'

Violent clashes between police and anti-monarchy protesters are continuing across Nepal as thousands of people defy a curfew imposed by the royal government.

The BBC News website spoke to one man, Milan Lamsal, in the resort town of Pokhara who was shot and wounded by security forces at the weekend.

After seeing a big crowd of demonstrators in the main street on 8 April, I could not stay indoors.
Within a matter of seconds, the wound had become excruciatingly painful Nepalis describe chaos I have been a supporter of the pro-democracy movement and the slogans protesters chanted outside were something I could not ignore.
Despite my wife's reservations, I went out and joined the protest rally that was heading towards Mahendra Pul to the north of Pokhara.
There were thousands of protesters and all looked quite energetic and determined for democracy. That injected the spirit of a true democratic demonstrator in me.
But even when every one was marching ahead with that sense of confidence, I think many had this sneaking feeling that sooner or later we would confront security personnel.
On the contrary, we saw a group of security personnel being chased by another group of demonstrators. Soon, many demonstrators in our group started pelting stones at the fleeing security personnel.
'Piece of bullet'
Suddenly, I saw someone falling down (later on I found it was Bhimsen Dahal who had died on the way to hospital).
Crowds have been fired on a number of times in Pokhara
I was not sure what was going on. Then, someone said the police had opened fire. I thought I should run.
Just when I had begun to do so, I felt something like a needle-prick in the tricep of my right arm.
There was something that had pierced through my shirt and the t-shirt I was wearing.
Within a matter of seconds, the wound had become excruciatingly painful. I did not realise that I had fallen down. I started crying for help.
Fortunately two fellow protesters carried me to a nearby hospital. The doctors took out a piece of lead from my arm and said that it was a piece of bullet.
I am surprised that the bullet could pierce though my arm but not make any hole in my shirt and t-shirt.
I am under medication now and I feel much better except for an occasional pain. The incident has made me more fearless, that is why I have been participating in protest rallies almost every day, even if that means defying curfew orders.
I think the country is demanding change - the monarchy will have to make compromises
I feel sad to remember now that the person whom I had seen falling before another bullet hit me was Bhimsen Dahal.
We knew each other although we were not so close. He was hardly 15 metres away from me when the bullet hit him and he fell down. I could not hear him because everyone was shouting and fleeing the scene.
Opening fire on the demonstrators was totally unnecessary.
True, some protesters had thrown stones at security personnel. But they could have tackled the situation in different ways, for example with baton charges or by firing blanks.
The more such brutal actions take place, the more protesters become determined.
I believe this movement should end up with a proper conclusion. I think the country is demanding change - the monarchy will have to make compromises.

The Newyork Times

Nepal Chaos Gets Worse, as India Tries to Strike Deal

Published: April 21, 2006
KATMANDU,/April 20 — The royal government struggled to dam a tide of pro-democracy protest on Thursday. But it broke through anyway, carnival-like in some places and violent in others, as emissaries from Nepal's most vital ally, India, met with King Gyanendra in an effort to defuse a hardening political impasse.
Shehab Uddin/Associated Press
Police officers yesterday charged protesters in Katmandu who defied a curfew to demand that Nepal's king give up the total control of the government that he assumed last year and restore democracy to the country.
A four-hour television series and interactive web site by The Times, The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the ZDF network of Germany.
The demonstrations, which the government tried to head off with a strict 18-hour curfew, brought tens of thousands of people to rallies big and small on the edges of the heavily fortified city center in the largest turnout in two weeks of protests.
The deadliest event came at midday in the Kalanki neighborhood, where security forces fired on demonstrators, killing three people and wounding as many as 100, according to officials at two city hospitals where the wounded were treated. Two of the dead appeared to have been shot in the head, a hospital official said.
The clash came on the 15th day of protests called by a coalition of Nepal's seven largest political parties, demanding a restoration of parliamentary rule. As violent protests roil the country, the king has reiterated his call for dialogue with the political parties. The parties, meanwhile, vow to continue the agitation until he restores Parliament, which he suspended early last year, and gives up control of the government.
"We are people of the 21st century," shouted Prakash Muni Dahal, 60, a teacher who joined the throngs on the streets. "We will rule our country." Around him a boisterous crowd, in a brick-strewn eastern neighborhood known as Chabahil, burned the king's picture and brayed for his fall. "Gyaney!" they shouted, using the diminutive form of his name, once unthinkable here in the world's last Hindu kingdom. "Hang him!"
After a meeting with the king on Thursday morning, Karan Singh, the son of a former Indian maharaja and related by marriage to Nepal's royal family, hinted a deal was imminent. "Now the ball is squarely in the court of the king," Mr. Singh, a special envoy sent by the Indian government, said on his return to New Delhi, according to Reuters. "I am hopeful that very shortly some sort of announcement will be made by him, which will help considerably defuse the situation."
Representatives of the United Nations > Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Katmandu said they had been blocked from routine monitoring of demonstrations. The office denounced the restrictions as a "clear violation" of its agreement with the government.
Neither foreign diplomats nor the International Committee of the Red Cross could move freely in the streets. By evening the government announced that it would extend the 18-hour curfew by seven hours.
Nepal has had a fitful experiment with democracy since parliamentary elections in 1990. In 2002, with a Maoist insurgency in the hills and politicians squabbling, the elected prime minister dissolved Parliament, and scheduled elections were postponed. Several prime ministers were appointed and fired by the king. The last of them was deposed in February 2005, when Gyanendra assumed total control of the government and promised to finish off the insurgency. An estimated 13,000 Nepalese have been killed in the conflict.
In a deft political twist, the Maoists and the political parties have lately linked arms in an effort to overturn the king's control of the government. The protests have hampered ordinary life in the capital. Fuel is in short supply, vegetable prices have soared and the movement of trucks carrying goods into Katmandu has been frozen for two weeks. Thursday began with an eerie calm as the daylong curfew left shops closed, people inside their homes and police officers and soldiers guarding the roads.
Around midday, as the protests began, security forces aimed their assault rifles and fired above the heads of the protesters in the Kalanki district. Then, in circumstances that remain unclear, they killed a protester on a rooftop. A Nepalese journalist who saw the incident said a police superintendent had aimed his pistol at protesters and begun firing, killing the man on the roof.
As the body was taken away in a minivan serving as an ambulance, people in the crowd vented their grief at the police, yelling, crying and then, from the rooftops, throwing bricks, unleashing swift retaliation. The police picked up the bricks and hurled them at the crowd. They fired tear gas and rubber-coated bullets. The clash continued for hours. The Nepal Red Cross Society said it tended to 293 injured people across Katmandu on Thursday.
Tilak P. Pokharel and Tomas van Houtryve contributed reporting for this article.

Concern of Nepal over the world

Times of India :
KATHMANDU: Stepping up their offensive against King Gyanendra, leaders of the seven-party alliance on Friday said "token" moves by the monarch would not serve any purpose and pressed their demand for handing over sovereign power to the people.

A day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's special envoy Karan Singh expressed the hope that Nepal King Gyanendra would make an "announcement" that would help defuse the crisis, Nepali Congress leader Ram Chandra Poudyal said "given the way the movement has snowballed both in agenda and dimension, there is no way we can make do with token steps. Election to the Constituent Assembly is a must."

Nepali Congress Democratic leader Minendra Rijal said "aspirations of the people are least likely to be addressed until and unless the future of monarchy is put to ballot. Election to a Constituent Assembly is the bottom-line."

Meanwhile, people rushed out to buy provisions as curfew clamped for over a day was lifted for six hours on Friday morning. A Home Ministry announcement said curfew has been extended from 9:00 am to 8:00 pm.

Normal life has been disrupted in the capital, which is facing acute shortage of fuel and food supplies.

The envoy on Thursday had a two-hour meeting with the monarch and handed over a letter from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

He emphasised that a lasting solution to the problems of Nepal has to be found by the people of the country through a "peaceful political process."

During his visit to the country, Singh also met with former Nepalese Prime Ministers Surya Bahadur Thapa, Girija Prasad Koirala and Sher Bahadur Deuba and Rashtriya Prajatantra Party President Pashupati Rana.