HARTAL IN NEPAL TO BRING MODI
by Praveen Shanker Pillai
Khatmandu, Nepal: The residents of Janakpur conducted a hartal affecting normal life. They accused the ruling dispensation of cancelling the Indian Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi's visit to Janakpur. In Janakpur, which happens to be Goddess Sita's place of birth, Modi was to attend the traditional 'Ram Barat' celebrations at the famous Ram-Janaki temple.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's stop-over at Nepal's Janakpur was on Thursday cancelled at the last minute due to opposition by some political parties peeved over their non-inclusion in the preparatory committee. Bimalendra Nidhi, Minister for Physical Infrastructure and Transport and also chief of the preparation committee in Janakpur, said: "The Unified CPN-Maoist and some Madhesi parties were not only staging rallies to oppose the preparations made by the organising committee, but they have also threatened to form a parallel preparation committee in connection with Modi's visit to Janakpur".
Protests erupted after news broke of cancellation of the much anticipated visit by the Indian statesman.
Life was thrown out of gear due to the 'bandh' called by the parties demanding that Modi visit Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha, as well as Janakpur as he had announced in August.
The Prime Minister is expected to attend the SAARC Summit on November 27-28. Modi was to visit three major pilgrimage sites — Janakpur, Lumbini and Muktinath — but his itinerary was reported in the media to be trimmed. These media reports sparked protest demonstrations.
Modi was earlier supposed to arrive in Janakpur on November 25 via land route and then fly to Kathmandu to attend the SAARC Summit. Foreign Minister Mahendra Bahadur Pandey told the media that India had conveyed that Modi would show up only at the SAARC Summit due to his involvement in various political meetings.
The 22-party alliance enforced the shutdown, accusing the government of ‘conspiring to get Modi’s scheduled visit cancelled’. Amid the ambiguity, preparations continued Friday at Janakpur to host the Indian leader.
Madheshi leader and Sadbhavana Party President Rajendra Mahato expressed his desire to see Prime Minister visit all three places. Mahato wanted a reception to be given to the Indian Prime Minister at a public venue instead of a government function. He accused the ruling dispensation of using the excuse of security to keep Modi away from the Nepali public. Protesters burnt the effigy of Prime Minister Sushil Koirala and Home Minister Bamdve Gautam, holding them responsible for the axing of the visit. Protesters demanded that Modi address a public rally.
The Nepal Government clarified that it has not received any communication of cancellation of Modi's visit to Janakpur. The Indian Embassy spokesperson also said that they have not come across any information of cancellation of Prime Minister's visit to janakpur.
Home Secretary Surya Prasad Silwal, who is in Janakpur to oversee security and other logistic factors, told the local media that he had not got any official communication from Kathmandu cancelling Modi's trip. He claimed that Modi's civic reception, welcome programme and public address would take place as scheduled at Janakpur. The capital city Kathmandu is being given a new look with solar street lights being installed, roads being blacktopped and roadside buildings being whitewashed for the upcoming SAARC Summit. The City Hall, situated in the heart of the city, which can accommodate about 1,000 people, is being renovated to host the main event of the regional meet.
The agitators had called off the strike after Minister for Physical Infrastructure and Transport Bimalendra Nidhi urged Modi through the Indian Embassy to not cancel the visit after which life gradually returned to normalcy.
Muktinath is both a Hindu and Buddhist pilgrimage site. The temple of Lord Shiva is situated at the site. Muktinath is also famous for Buddhist pilgrimages as famous Buddhist monasteries are located there.