Bandh cripples life across nation as Maoist activists engage in vandalism and attacks

Sunday, 20 December 2009 08:09
Normal life throughout the nation was adversely affected from early morning on the first day of the general strike called by the Unified CPN (Maoist) on Sunday.

Kathmandu’s streets looked deserted with no vehicular movement. Long distance buses, too, did not operate. Transportation in other parts of the country has also been obstructed with vehicles mostly preferring to stay off the road. While many people have not been able to make to their work, many others were seen walking to their destinations.

Unified CPN (Maoist) cadres staging a rally at Padmodaya chowk during the bandh called by their party, Sunday, Dec 20 09.
Cadres of UCPN (Maoist) and its sister organizations gathered in various places to impose the bandh.

Schools and colleges across the country also remained closed as was most government and private offices, factories and main market places.

Shops and shopping malls in downtown Kathmandu and major squares remained shut, while few retail stores and tea-shops in the interior parts of the city were open.

There were reports of clashes between the bandh organizers and police in various parts of the country including the capital city with Maoist activists hurling stones at riot police deployed to maintain peace and order during the bandh.

Many parts of the capital city wore a look of a battle-field as activists affiliated with the Unified CPN (Maoist) and their supporters engaged in violent clashes with riot police, resulting in injuries to scores.

The bandh enforcers burnt tyres, vandalized any passing vehicles including those that were parked, and didn’t even spare ambulances and press vehicles.

Places like New Baneshwor, where the Constituent Assembly is located, including Putalisadak, Bagbazaar, Gaushala and few other places saw the most intense clashes between the police and bandh organizers during the Maoist-called strike.

In Baneshwor area, Maoist activists pelted stones on a vehicle carrying State Minister for Tourism Shatrughan Mahato, who was on his way to the airport to welcome Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal who returned from Copenhagen after attending a climate change summit today. Minster Mahato is said to have escaped unhurt in the incident with just minor damages to his vehicle.

Around two dozens persons, including CA lawmaker Yashoda Subedi and DSP Dilip Chaudhary, were injured in a severe scuffle between the Maoist activists and riot police at New Baneshwor. Most of the injured were Maoist activists with few others being police and bystanders. DSP Chaudhary was hit in the head and sustained serious injuries According to latest reports, he has undergone major surgery at the Neuro Hospital.

The clash reportedly ensued after police tried to bar protesters from removing the road dividers by using water canons. In response the protesters hurled stones at the security personnel. Police had to use batons, water canons and fire tear gas shells to disperse the irate protesters and take the situation under control.

Television images showed by-standers running for cover, squatting at the eves of closed shops or fleeing to narrow alleys as the police charged at the protesters with batons while the latter continued to hurl stones at them.

Similar scuffles were seen in front of Gaushala and Bagbazaar, including few other places too.

The situation in front of Shanker Dev Campus in Putalisadak also turned tense after the protesters started hurling stones at the police. In resulting police action, scores of protesters were injured and many were taken into custody.

Despite promising that they will not obstruct press vans, vehicles carrying diplomats and tourists, ambulances and other emergency services,the Maoist activists attacked a vehicle belonging to Shahid Gangalal Heart Center at Maharajgunj. They mercilessly pelted stones at the vehicle carrying the hospital staff, injuring four of them. The ambulance driver was severely injured and rushed to nearby Teaching Hospital while other hospital staffs were chased away.

The hospital staff were going to the hospital to perform an emergency surgery.

The protesters have also vandalized press vehicles in different places of the capital. Few photographers and camerapersons were also injured after being hit by stones hurled by demonstrators while covering the strike.

Meanwhile, reports quoted home ministry spokespersons as saying that that police have arrested more than 60 Maoist activists for engaging in vandalism and trying to enforce the bandh in various parts of the country. More than two dozen bandh organizers is said to have been arrested in the capital while 19 have been arrested in Rajbiraj for engaging in vandalism.

Similarly, the Maoist imposed bandh also paralyzed life in Pokhara, Janakpur, Tansen and Sindhuli with offices, educational institutions and main market centers closed and vehicular movement coming to a grinding halt. There are also reports of mistreatments against journalists covering the bandh by Maoist activists in Kavre.

The Maoists called a three-day general strike at the end of their third phase agitation against the President’s move on army chief case in May.

They had organised a torch rally throughout the nation on the eve of the three-day strike Saturday evening. It had turned down the request of the government including political parties like Nepali Congress and CPN (UML) to withdraw the bandh programme.

A large number of security personnel were deployed in Kathmandu from early morning today to avert any damage to property and life. Kathmandu metropolitan police had also issued circulars to all its units instructing them to remain alert throughout the period of bandh to protect property and life.