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15 injured in protests, sides gear up for tomorrow

Written by: Staff
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Kathmandu, Apr 24 (UNI) Pro-democracy protestors today continued their struggle for full democracy, though not on an aggressive note, under the close scutiny of security personnel with both sides seeming to shore up their strength for tomorrow.

Leaders of the seven political party alliance (SPA) have announced that they would personally lead the agitation.

Protest rallies were held at Chabahil, Gongabu, Patan, Bhaktapur, Narayangopal Chowk, Kalanki, Mangalbazar of Patan, Tahachal and Bhaktapur and other places, calling on the people to join the massive struggle scheduled for tomorrow.

Reports received here said over 15 people were injured when police baton charged and fired teargas shells to disperse the protestors near Narayan Gopal Chowk.

UNI correspondents driving down the road at Maharajganj, close to the residence of veteran politician Girija Prasad Koirala and the Pakistan Embassy, saw stones apparently thrown by the agitators on the road, while cement girders were used to block the road -- a classical Maoist ploy according to experts.

Curfew was again imposed in the Nepalese capital from 1100 hrs, while cellphone networks were again down for the third day in a row.

However, in various areas, local residents could be seen moving freely in certain localities where some shops were also open, albeit with with half-down shutters. Security personnel appeared impervious to their presence, as residents of the city have been, so far, fairly indifferent to the ongoing struggle.

Most of the entry points into the city, where demonstrators usually gather, were deserted earlier with security personnel saying they expected sizable crowds only by late afternoon.

Chabahil, Koteswor, Gongabu, Maitighar and New Baneshwor wore deserted looks with only the security personnel -- both police and army -- present.

The only action seen was where police personnel had stopped four people -- three pedestrians and a cyclist -- and made them do sit-ups as 'punishment' for violating the curfew.

However at Kalanki, where demonstrators had succeeded in breaching the security cordon yesterday though they were soon contained, there were some crowds milling but with no party flags or symbols of affiliation.

A handbill, issued by the Joint Forum for Human Rights and Peace -- an umbrella group of 30 rights bodies and NGOs -- was being distributed to those present. The handbill urged the political parties not to accept any solution which did not envisage the inclusion of the Maoists in the proposed interim government and announcement of elections to the Constituent Assembly.

Nepali Congress' working Committee member and spokesman Krishna Sitaula told UNI that they would continue their agitation till their 'roadmap' was accepted.

''We want revival of Parliament, which will then elect an all-party government -- answerable to parliament only -- which will announce elections to a Constituent Assembly and call on the Maoists for dialogue. This government will be succeeded by an interim government, which will contain representatives of the Maoists,'' he said.

Answering a question on whether the Maoists were comfortable with the roadmap, he said this incorporated one of their key demands -- a Constituent Assembly -- to decide the nation's future dispensation, as well as their involvement in discussions on how such an assembly had to be elected but admitted that they had a credible fear.

''Pointing out that the previous parliament also had the goal of dialogue with the Maoists but did not deliver on their commitment, they have a fear that the King and Parliament will again gang up on them,'' he said.

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