General strike paralyzes Nepal capital


Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala faced possible ouster as anti-Nepal comments attributed to a popular Indian film star paralyzed the Himalayan capital for a second day on Thursday.

Nearly half of 113 Nepali Congress lawmakers signed a no-confidence motion Thursday. They were short of one signature to remove Koirala from the prime minister’s office he has held since March.

“We were compelled to file the motion seeking Koirala’s ouster to prevent the country from plunging into a crisis and save the country, democracy and restore peace and security,” Sher Bahadur Deuba, leader of the dissident group, told reporters.

The party secretary will call a meeting of lawmakers within 15 days to settle the leadership issue. The party, which has a majority in Parliament, has the power to oust the prime minister and replace him.

Koirala’s party colleagues revolted as a general strike called by left-wing student groups paralyzed life in the Nepalese capital on Thursday. Schools, colleges and businesses were shut down.

Katmandu was nearly deserted, with only a few people on the streets.

The row began Tuesday, when rumors swept through Nepalese towns bordering India claiming South Asian heart-throb Hrithik Roshan told a television interviewer that he hated Nepal and its people.

The 26-year-old actor who shot to fame last year with the release of his first movie, “Say This Is Love,” told the AP he had never made such comments and was remorseful that people had been killed in his name.

On Tuesday, police shot and killed four people while trying to contain a rampaging crowd that attacked shops and a theater screening Roshan’s latest movie, “Mission Kashmir.” Some 180 people were injured, including 30 police officers.

Anti-India sentiments simmer in Nepal. The country, which is dependent on its larger neighbor for many of its economic needs, often accuses India of being a regional bully.

On Wednesday, thousands of protesters clashed with police and blocked streets with burning tires and trees in Katmandu. Indian businesses were targeted and windows at The State Bank of India were smashed by protesters shouting slogans against Roshan and India.

Koirala’s opponents claimed that they have the support of Krishna Bhattarai, the previous prime minister who was ousted through a similar no-confidence motion.

“Koirala had removed Bhattarai, accusing him of failing to control the Maoist insurgency. Instead, the problem has worsened about 10 times and there is no such thing as good governance any more,” Deuba said.

The Maoists’ insurgency has been a key issue in Nepal since the rebels began fighting a war from the remote hills five years ago. More than 1,500 people have been killed in the communist insurgency.

“It is just not the Maoists issue. The government has failed to provide security to the people and protect their lives and property,” Deuba said.

Instability has dogged Nepal’s politics with eight governments ruling since democracy was restored through a popular movement in 1990.