Kathmandu: Police arrested 223 members of a Maoist splinter group across Nepal Sunday for vandalising vehicles and forcing shops to close while trying to enforce a nationwide strike.
The protesters from the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) had called on factories, schools and public transport to shut down across the Himalayan nation as they pressured the government to provide food subsidies.
“We have arrested 223 people for trying to block roads and vandalise vehicles,” police spokesman Hemant Malla said.
Malla said that three vehicles had been vandalised but no casualties have been reported. Kathmandu’s usually gridlocked streets were largely empty and many shops remained shut.
“The main aim of our protest is to pressure the government to lower the prices of food grains, fuel and cooking gas…. The government should provide 50 percent subsidy on these items to make them affordable for the public,” said party spokesman Khadga Bahadur Biswokarma.
Nepal’s inflation rate soared to 12 percent last year following a massive earthquake and a months-long border blockade by demonstrators unhappy with the terms of a new constitution but has since eased to 7.9 percent, according to the country’s central bank.
Maoist rebels staged a ten-year insurgency against the state that ended in 2006 when the guerrillas laid down their arms and entered politics, vowing to end centuries of inequality and transform the feudal country. But many former rebels have walked out of the main party and formed independent splinter groups, accusing its leaders of betraying their original revolutionary ideals.
Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who is better known by his nom de guerre Prachanda or “the fierce one”, was elected the country’s prime minister in August.