Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Nepal unrest continues, curfew extended

Police fired on stone-throwing protesters at the mountain resort of Pokhara west of the Nepalese capital of Katmandu Tuesday.

Unrest continues as the government extended daytime curfews to quell the protests. The location of Pokhara is significant as this is an old recruiting stronghold for Gurkhas, the traditional defenders of the monarchy.

Pokhara's Gurung population has long offered its sons to Gurkha units in large numbers. The Gurung ethnic group together with the Magars, Rai, Limbu and Chettri have traditionally made up the vast bulk of Gurkha troops.

Although the king is envisioned by some Nepalis as an incarnation of the god Visnu, the recent massacre of the former royal family has tainted the monarchy.

Unlike his brother Gyanendra, the former king Birendra enjoyed some popularity especially after he ceded to street protests calling for the dismantling of the traditional Panchayat governing system.

Both sides are digging trenches with the government conducting house-to-house searches, and the seven party opposition vowing to continue the strike indefinitely.

Schools, transportation, stores and other services have been shut down by the strike.

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