Nepal's Maoist party Tuesday ended a countrywide three-day general strike and threw an open challenge to India to begin direct talks with it instead of 'remote-controlling' the Nepali ruling parties. It also threatened to launch an indefinite general strike from Jan 24.
After paralyzing the country for two days and a half with a general strike that shut down transport, industries, markets and educational institutions, Maoist protesters Tuesday brought out 'victory rallies' in many parts of the capital that converged in a meeting in front of the interim parliament.
Watched by hundreds of riot police guarding the parliament building, Maoist chief and former prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda said talks with the ruling parties were breaking down regularly since the ruling alliance was a 'robot' taking its orders from the Indian government.
'In the past, (after King Gyanendra dissolved the elected government and imposed a handpicked cabinet), the then ruling parties asked us to hold talks with them,' Prachanda told a mass meeting of hundreds of people in the capital. 'But we refused, saying we will not hold talks with servants but only with the master (the king).'
Nearly seven years later, after an anti-monarchy movement that deposed the king, Prachanda said that time had come to say the same thing. Only this time, he said, the master was New Delhi.
'We are ready to go to Delhi and start talks,' he said.
Prachanda added that civilian supremacy in Nepal 'had been assassinated by India'.
He referred to the Indian Army chief Deepak Kapoor's reported statement at a banquet in New Delhi recently that Maoists combatants should not be incorporated into the Nepali army.
'Is he the governor of Nepal,' Prachanda asked. 'Can he order the Nepali people?' Isn't the integration a decision to be taken by Nepal's government and parties?'
Nepal, he said, became semi-colonized by the British rulers of India in the 19th century after being forced to sign an unequal treaty that made the country cede almost a third of its territory.
'The British left India but their colonial mentality remained,' he said.
Prachanda is calling for a five-point negotiation with India that will scrap all unequal treaties and make public 'secret treaties' detrimental to Nepal's national interests. He is calling for the resolution of all boundary disputes and the withdrawal of Indian troops from Nepal's Kalapani region. The Maoist chief is also calling for an end to the ballooning trade deficit between the two neighbours.
He has asked New Delhi to draw a strategy on a war-footing so that Nepal, sandwiched between India and China, can benefit from its proximity to the world's two fastest growing economies.
The Maoist chief is asking India to treat its smaller northern neighbour as an equal instead of trying to keep it reduced to a 'puppet' and 'robot'.
The Maoists Tuesday also pledged to start a month-long campaign from Christmas Day to 'awaken the people'.
Prachanda said during the meeting that his party would expose Indian and other foreign agents and the corrupt, including those indicted in a commission that was to have brought deposed king Gyanendra and the other abettors of the royal coup in 2005 to justice but was never made public.
The Maoists have also warned of an indefinite general strike nationwide from Jan 24 if the ruling parties still fail to reach an agreement.