Nepali Times
Nation
Pokhara not in the mood


RAMESH POUDEL in POKHARA


Preparations for the public felicitation ceremony for King Gyanendra and Queen Komal in Pokhara on Sunday has been overshadowed by the heavy casualties in the battle of Beni last week.

Even as helicopters bringing in casualties of security personnel and civilians are still arriving at Pokhara, and gunships climb off to the west to attack Maoist positions, pickups bedecked with banners are exhorting the people of this tourist town with loudspeakers to welcome the king and queen. The people of Pokhara look somber and seem divided about whether the felicitation should go ahead.

The king and queen will be staying at the royal residence at Ratna Mandir by the banks of Phewa Lake and this is also the entrance to the main tourist area. Security is already very tight.

The Maoists, as is their practice, have already declared a two-day banda on Saturday and Sunday to prevent people from coming for the ceremony which will be held at the stadium. In neighbouring Lekhnath Municipality, the scene of numerous Maoist attacks in recent months, the rebels declared their "Peoples' government" last week.

Reports reaching here said a convoy of vehicles, including those from the palace, being escorted by helicopters along the Prithibi Highway to Pokhara was shot at by Maoists at Jamune in Tanahu. Rebels have been repeatedly forcing the 1,057-member felicitation committee to resign.

Meanwhile, local newspapers and FM stations have focused on the Myagdi clash and the human toll. In such an atmosphere, people are in a confused state of mind. "I would like to take part in the felicitation program," said Pramod Sharma, a local entrepreneur in Lekhnath Municipality. "But I am scared that rebels may do something."
That there is local support for the felicitation can also be seen from the fact that people have made financial contributions for the event from businesses.

But some believe this is not the right time for felicitation. "How can you have one at a time like this?" asks Srijana Adhikari in Pokhara Bazar. Leaders of the agitating political parties are equally vocal. "This is not the time when the king should choose to be felicitated," said Rabindra Adhikari and Shukra Raj Sharma, local leaders of the UML and Nepali Congress.

The local authorities, however, claim that preparations have been finalised, and security arrangements are in place and the people have no reason to worry. "There is no compromise in security arrangements and that is
why people are quite excited to take part in the felicitation," says Acting Regional Administrator Bodh Raj Adhikari.


LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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