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Thursday, 21 September, 2000, 11:37 GMT 12:37 UK
Strike brings Nepal to a halt
By Sushil Sharma in Kathmandu
Normal life in Nepal has been crippled by a general strike called by a group of nine left-wing parties to protest against what they describe as the government's failure on all fronts.
The underground Maoist Communist Party, which has been conducting a violent campaign for the past four years, has supported the strike, fuelling fears of violence.
Tight security has been imposed and hundreds of protestors have been arrested.
The capital, Kathmandu, and other major towns have been worst hit by the strike.
Schools, factories and businesses have been shut down, and streets are deserted as vehicles stayed off the roads.
On Wednesday, police arrested hundreds of protestors when they tried to defy a ban on torch-light demonstrations.
Such demonstrations are common the night before a general strike, but the government banned it this time on grounds of possible outbreak of violence.
A spokesman for the left-wing parties said that the ban was a violation of the people's fundamental rights.
Lilamani Pokharel accused the government of unleashing police repression against peaceful demonstrators.
Alleged police repression is one of the major issues the left-wing parties have raised during the strike.
They have also accused the government of failing to stop rising prices, providing internal security, and safeguarding the country's interests in its foreign relations.
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