But those bringing in petroleum products and medicines will be allowed

While enforcing a ban on vehicles with Indian number plates from entering Nepal, the radical Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) has made an exception of vehicles bringing in essential commodities.

The party, which split from the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) in June, has pledged to continue a movement to “protect national independence” and for “equal relations” with India.

Speaking to The Hindu on Sunday night, CPN-M spokesperson Pampa Bhusal emphasised that the ban, declared last week, was still in force. “But we are making two exceptions. Tankers carrying petroleum products and vehicles carrying medicines will be allowed in.”

Reciprocal treatment

“Nepali vehicles cannot go to India at all, but Indian vehicles come in. This will kill our transport sector. We want reciprocal treatment in principle,” she said.

Asked to clarify what would constitute reciprocity, Ms. Bhusal said Indian vehicles should come to Nepal’s custom point and transfer goods, and vice- versa.

Ms. Bhusal said the party would not allow “vulgar” Hindi films either, and those showing Nepal in a bad light. “Why should Nepalis be always shown as servants? Why should we show it? But we will not block films that are educative.”

The Maoists had held meetings with Nepali film producers and cinema theatre owners to find ways of regulating screening of Hindi films and encouraging the Nepali film industry.

The radical Maoists had submitted a list of 70 demands to the Baburam Bhattarai-led government in early September, with many focussing on diluting the special relationship with India. These include border regulation and stopping of hydro-power projects awarded to Indian companies.

Ms. Bhusal said the government had paid no attention to these demands, and thus their movement targeted “not India, but Nepal’s government.”

Backlash

The Maoist decision has sparked a backlash from other sections of the political class, government, business chambers and ordinary citizens. This is being cited as the reason for the partial pullback of their decision.

Both Prime Minister Bhattarai and Home Minister Bijay Gachhedar have instructed security forces not to allow any “anti-neighbour” acts and enforce the rule of law.

The Madhesi parties have opposed the ban and called it “anti-national,” with leaders emphasising that the Tarai shared a ‘roti-beti,’ economic and marital ties, with India. The joint movement planned by a coalition of Opposition parties, which would have included the Nepali Congress (NC) and the radical Maoists, has also hit roadblocks, with the NC opposing the “anti-India” campaign of its potential ally.

Prices go up

With the prices of commodities coming from India soaring, and the Dussehra festival approaching, public sentiment appears to be against the Maoist move. Most media commentaries have emphasised that any bilateral problem should be solved “diplomatically.”

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