KATHMANDU, June 18: Caretaker Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai on Monday left for Brazil to participate in the UN Conference on Sustainable Development amid strong protests from various quarters.
The prime minister had reached the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) amid tight security as the students affiliated to various opposition parties, including the Nepali Congress (NC) and the CPN-UML, staged demonstrations against the prime minister.
The agitating students, who demanded that the caretaker prime minister cancel his visit, greeted Bhattarai with black flags when he, along with a few other ministers, reached the airport at about 3:15 pm.
The agitating students argued that the caretaker prime minister should vacate Baluwatar to pave the way for the formation of a national consensus government instead of making visits abroad at such a critical juncture in the country.
The agitating students had blocked traffic in the TIA area from 2 pm, forcing traffic police to divert vehicular traffic from Gaushala and Tinkune. Five students affiliated to Nepal Students Union (NSU) who had managed to enter the airport on the pretext of flying abroad waved black flags at the prime minister even inside the airport.
Police arrested NSU leaders Ram Prasad Adhikari, Sijar Bhatta, Niranjan Thapa, Ujan Budhathoki and Saraswati Sah in connection with the incident. They were briefly detained at TIA, Gaushala and Hanumandhoka before being released later in the evening.
NC, issuing a statement, has denounced the arrests and manhandling of the protestors saying the "unconstitutional" government had infringed on the constitutionally guaranteed right to peaceful protests.
Police and agitating students had engaged in a clash after the police used force to disperse the crowd from the TIA´s main entrance. The irate students vandalized a vehicle belonging to the foreign ministry (Ba 1 Jha 5453) and another belonging to the home ministry (Ba 1 Jha 7969) during the clash. They also smashed the winshields of a passenger bus.
Differences brewing between PM and FM?
Differences appear to be brewing between Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Narayan Kaji Shrestha and Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai. If sources are to be believed, Shrestha could have avoided high profile Brazil visit due to his difference with the PM.
"Normally foreign minister accompanies the PM in these kinds of high profile visits. I believe there must be some serious differences behind him skipping the visit," a source close to him said.
Shrestha is learnt to have been miffed after Bhattarai gave foreign ministry to CPN-UML General Secretary Ishwor Pokharel. He had then declined to take oath of office of another ministry which Bhattarai had given him.
Cartoon by Rajesh KC
Opposition parties greet PM with black flags at TIA. (Photo: Bikash Karki)
(Photo: Bikash Karki)
Cops mobilized to contain irate protestors at TIA. (Photo: Bikash Karki)
Police resort to baton-charge to disperse irate protestors. (Photo: Bijay Rai)