UN calls for justice as Terai toll rises
Mar 22, 2007 - 7:28:29 PM
Kathmandu, March 22 - As the toll from violence in south Nepal's Terai plains rose to 28 Thursday, the United Nations called for the perpetrators to be identified and brought to justice.
Ian Martin, UN general-secretary Ban Ki-Moon's special representative for Nepal, said he had held a meeting with Nepal's diplomatic community where officials had expressed shock and concern at the 'terrible event' in Gaur town in Rautahat district, about 160 km south of Kathmandu, where ethnic Indian protesters clashed with Maoists Wednesday.
'I hope these terrible events will cause leaders of all groups to cease putting the lives of their followers at risk,' the chief of the UN Mission in Nepal said. 'Even legitimate claims are discredited by the use of violence, and provocative acts risk unleashing greater conflict.'
The fight between supporters of the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum, an ethnic group that is demanding an autonomous Madhes state for plains people in the south, and the Madhes Rastriya Mukti Morcha, the plains unit of the Maoists, over a prominent town square where both sides wanted to hold their mass meetings at the same time erupted in a carnage with guns, bamboo poles and wooden rods used as weapons.
Martin said: 'A significant number of arms lies in different hands. Not just Maoists have arms, clearly, there are weapons in other hands.'
At least two armed factions in the Terai, both bands of former Maoists - the Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha and the Jwala Singh group - are known to have arms.
Martin said many other political parties have guns, besides at least 18,000 licensed weapons permitted by the home ministry. However, the actual number of arms circulating in Nepal may be significantly greater, he said.
The envoy reiterated that if the Terai violence continued, it could threaten the government's ability to hold polls satisfactorily by June, as Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala has pledged.
'A credible election requires not only the management of arms and armies, and the right laws and technical preparations: it requires a climate in which all political parties can campaign freely in all places, and all voters can vote free of any intimidation or fear of reprisal,' he said.
'I am dismayed to read of so many reported incidents of violations of the rights of political opponents by a variety of actors. Political freedom must extend to all groups.'
The local media have been reporting Maoist attacks on rallies organised by opposition parties, especially those supporting King Gyanendra.
A former minister and campaigner for monarchy, Rabindranath Sharma, was attacked and had his face blackened and a garland of shoes strung round his neck. On Wednesday, Maoists also prevented Pashupati Shumsher Rana, chief of the opposition Rastriya Prajatantra Party, from attending a meeting in Sindhupalchowk in northern Nepal.
Meanwhile, Maoist chief Prachanda Thursday issued a statement, blaming King Gyanendra's supporters and 'Hindu extremists from India' for the violence in
Calling it pre-planned, the rebel leader said it was a conspiracy by regressive forces to prevent elections.
He also said people from across the India border were crossing into Nepal carrying weapons and adding to the violence.
The Madhesi Janadhikar Forum said the attacks were orchestrated by the Maoists with the help of the administration in a bid to stamp out the Madhes movement.
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