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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 April 2006, 17:13 GMT 18:13 UK
Gathering anger against Nepal's king

By Sanjoy Majumder
BBC News, Kathmandu

Nepalese protest in Kirtipur, Kathmandu
Hundreds of people joined a protest in Kirtipur, Kathmandu
"I hope you've brought peace to our troubled land."

The immigration officer at Kathmandu 's Tribhuvan international airport looked up as he stamped my passport, resplendent in his blue uniform.

"We need democracy, total democracy not partial," he said.

"Make sure you put that in your report. Without democracy we cannot develop as a nation. Enough is enough."

For the past few days, the tide appears to have turned against King Gyanendra.

What started out as a political protest by a seven-party alliance, and then translated into a show of people power as Nepalis stormed the streets across the country, has finally crossed another frontier.

Professionals, lawyers and now bureaucrats - including from the all-powerful home ministry - have joined the struggle, some in spirit and others more substantially.

Public sentiment

The one institution above all others that has remained loyal to the king has been the Royal Nepalese Army.

But as flak-jacketed soldiers patrol the corner of every street in the Nepalese capital, they are acutely aware of the public mood.

"The public sentiment here is far too strong," says one local journalist.

"The protests have spread far wider and appear to be much more intense than those of 1990," he added, careful to remain unnamed, with the administration particularly severe against the media.

Lakshmi, Nepalese protester
The king... is so removed from reality that he has to step aside
Lakshmi, protester

That was the year when the former monarch, King Birendra, was forced to usher in multi-party democracy in the wake of public protests.

The mood against his brother, who ascended the throne after King Birendra's brutal murder in the 2001 palace massacre, is equally strong.

On the eve of a planned mass protest in the capital, political rallies took place in pockets around Kathmandu.

In the suburb of Kirtipur, more than 1,000 people gathered at the main market square as speaker after speaker railed against the king.

"This is a criminal regime," shouted one speaker, representing local traders.

"The king must go - he must go now."

"He must go - he must go now," chanted the crowd, cheering and clapping.

Single issue

Narayan Rathod Singh is a local member of the mainstream Nepali Congress Party.

He says things have moved beyond party politics.

"It is no longer important which party you belong to or what you believe in," he says.

Pawan, Nepalese protester
The king is not somebody with our interests at heart
Pawan, protester

"There is only one issue before us - restore democracy.

"There is not a single person here who does not support that," he said waving his hand at the crowd.

"I grew up believing in the king and what the monarchy represents," says Lakshmi, who was attending the rally with her children.

"But the king has let us down. He is so removed from reality that he has to step aside.

"I don't think they should grow up in a Nepal which is an absolute monarchy," she says looking down at her little son and daughter.

Ravi Thapa and his friend, Pawan, are students.

He admits that joining the protests at first was fun - daring even - but that he had thought little about the issues at stake.

Now, however, he is clear in his mind.

"When the shootings started and the beatings I knew that this was serious.

"I also realised that the king is not somebody with our interests at heart. If he did, he wouldn't have filled the jails with ordinary people.

"He wouldn't have ordered his army to open fire on innocent civilians.

"He is not an aristocrat - he's an autocrat."

A few hundred metres away from the Kirtipur rally, smoke rises from a still smouldering burnt tyre.

Children run past it shouting, unmindful of what it represents.

But for King Gyanendra, safely ensconced behind the high walls of Kathmandu's Narayanhiti Palace, it is a sign that the public mood could quite easily turn ugly.


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