KATHMANDU, May 21: The general strike called by the Joint Struggle Committee of Indigenous Nationalities crippled daily life across the country for a second consecutive day, with clashes and violence in the streets.
Police in the capital held 57 people involved in vandalizing vehicles, coercing people in connection with the strike and attacking security personnel. Media persons and their vehicles were attacked despite widespread protests against such behavior.
Police had to intervene with force, firing half a dozen tear-gas cells as members of the general public put off by the strike and agitators clashed at Imadol in Lalitpur. Five people were injured in the incident.
There were over a dozen incidents of agitators vandalizing vehicles, including some cases of arson. Vehicles belonging to Nepal One Television, New 24 Television and Kantipur Publications were damaged.
The surge of anger on the part of the agitators on the first day´s bandh struck terror across the country and vehicles in the streets were almost nil. Schools closed and businesses shuttered down completely.
Reports from Kaski, Jhapa, Makawanpur, Rupandehi, Nawalparasi, Chitwan, Ilam, Sunsari, Dolakha, Dang and Morang districts suggest that the general strike brought about total shutdown throughout the country. Incidents of vandalism and arson took places in cities and on highways.
The agitators impeded media persons in their work and attacked them in the districts also. They did not even spare a tractor being used in the fields at Suryapur-5, Rupandehi district.
However, agitators in some places in the capital tried to show their tolerance and respect for the press, garlanding and wrapping shawls on reporters and cameramen, following severe criticism of the relentless attacks on media.
Agitators clashed with security personnel in Pokhara. Police resorted to baton-charge and used tear-gas to disperse a crowd pelting stones at them. A woman cop and eight agitators were injured at Pritivi Chwok.
Meanwhile, peace rallies were staged in several places including Morang as the situation looked likely to worsen further.
The general strike was called by the indigenous nationalities in reaction to the same kind of agitations over the last few days by different factions demanding ´undivided Nepal´.
PM directs security chiefs to ensure safety of journalists
Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai stressed that attacks on media, diplomatic missions and human rights defenders was a matter of grave concern and directed the security agencies to take action against those involved in such attacks.
The prime minister issued the direction on Monday at his residence in Baluwatar during the central security committee meeting called in view of the growing tensions across the country, according to a statement from the prime minister´s office.
The direction to the security agencies comes a day after unprecedented attacks on media carried out by the organizers of strikes across the country.
In the meeting, the prime minister told the chiefs of security agencies that it was natural for the agitators to intensify their movements in order to press for their demands. He said the demands would be addressed politically but that it was necessary for security agencies to be on high alert.
The prime minister termed the attacks on press by agitators as unfortunate, and directed the security chiefs to ensure full security for media and journalists. Similarly, the prime minister also directed the security agencies to make sure that supply of foods, medicines and petroleum products is not hampered by the strikes.
The prime minister also vowed to take strong actions against those who try to disturb communal harmony and obstruct constitution writing process.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs Bijaya Kumar Gachchhadar, secretaries of home and defense, chiefs of the Nepal Police, Armed Police Force, National Intelligence Department and representatives of the Nepal Army were present at the meeting chaired by the prime minister.