Ameet Dhakal

KATHMANDU: Thousands of people, mainly from the business community, took to the streets in Kathmandu on Tuesday in protest against Maoists' "excesses" and demanding security to the businesses.

The rally passed through major thoroughfares including Bhotahati, Ratnapark and Maitighar before converging into a mass meeting at Basantapur. Addressing the meeting, business leaders sharply criticised the Maoists for their continued "highhandedness" and urged the Government to provide security and create a congenial atmosphere for business establishments.

Heeding the call for a general strike by business organisations, industries, factories, import-export firms, education institutions, banks and airlines services remained closed in the capital.

The closure also affected lives in other parts of the country but the capital city was among the hardest hit.

Cadres suspended

The business organisations such as the Federation of Nepalese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI), Confederation of Nepalese Industries (CNI) and Nepal Chamber of Commerce (NCC) had taken the lead in staging the protests against the Maoists. The closure was announced in protest against the beating of hotelier Hari Lal Shrestha by the Maoist-affiliated Youth Communist League after the former refused to pay a donation of Rs 2 million. Businessmen said such intimidation by the Maoist cadres was growing.

The president of the Maoist-affiliated trade union, Rishiram Jamarkatel, said his organisation had suspended the cadres involved in the abduction and beating of the hotelier. But talking to reporters in western Nepal, Maoist Chairman Prachanda said the incident was blown out of proportion.

He also alleged that royalists were involved in the current protest by businessmen and entrepreneurs.