Picture courtesy- Madan Puraskar Pustakalaya ; Communist Party Activists, 1987

Routine life was disrupted in Nepal as a Maoist faction called for a nationwide strike on Nov 13 demanding food security and a reduction in the cost of basic consumer goods.

The countrywide general strike or ‘bandh’ was called by a splinter group of the Communist Party of Nepal, CPN (Maoist), led by Netra Bikram Chand.

“The main aim of our protest is to pressure the government to lower the prices of food grains, fuel and cooking gas…. The government should provide 50 percent subsidy on these items to make them affordable for the public,” said party spokesman Khadga Bahadur Biswokarma, reports AFP.

Educational institutes remained closed with most shops opting to shut doors in Kathmandu. Public vehicles, including taxis, remained off the roads. Maoist cadres vandalised at least a dozen heavy and light vehicles in different parts of the country. A large number of security personnel were deployed in the capital city streets to prevent any untoward incident. The agitators torched a parked taxi and two motorcycles, according to the police.

Thousands of commuters faced hardship and security agencies escorted vehicles on highways to ease vehicular movement. Only a few public transport vehicles were seen plying on the capital’s roads.

The police initially arrested more than 100 cadres of the CPN-Maoist, for vandalising vehicles and forcing shops to close. By the end of the day, the police reported that they had arrested a total of 223 members of the Maoist splinter group across the Himalayan Nation.

“We have arrested 223 people for trying to block roads and vandalise vehicles,” police spokesman Hemant Malla told AFP.

Maoist rebels conducted a ten-year insurgency against the state, which ended in 2006 when the guerrillas gave up weapons and entered politics. They pledged to end discrimination and transform the feudal country.

But many former agitators have walked out of the main party and formed independent splinter groups, blaming its leaders for failing their original revolutionary ideals.