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Politics and Bullets: Facing Maoist Rebels in Nepal and India

I'm Steve Ember with IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

Mao Zedong led the revolutionary army that established the People's Republic of China in nineteen forty-nine. Mao led Communist China until he died in nineteen seventy-six. Today, governments in two countries that border on China face rebels following in his name.

India's Maoist rebellion goes back almost forty years. The conflict has intensified. Rebels are now active in areas of southern, eastern and central India. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently described it as the biggest threat to internal security since independence.

More than six thousand people have been killed in violence between rebels and government forces in the last twenty years. The Maoists say they are fighting for the poor and unemployed against wealthy farmers and landowners.

Government officials in New Delhi are urging state governments to form local resistance groups. Human rights activists have criticized some of the measures being taken to deal with the rebellion.

At the same time, the Indian government has been working to return democratic rule across the border in Nepal. Nepal is a small country surrounded by India and China. Rebels have been trying to overthrow the government of Nepal for ten years. At least eleven thousand people have been killed.

The rebels are now cooperating with seven political parties supporting a democracy movement. King Gyanendra seized full control of the government in February of last year. The opposition alliance organized protests that began earlier this month and resulted in deadly clashes with security forces.

Almost three weeks of demonstrations ended with a victory Monday for the opposition. King Gyanendra announced that Parliament would meet for the first time in four years. He was, in effect, returning power to elected political leaders.

At first, the rebels rejected the king’s move. They said it was a trick to let him hold onto power. But on Thursday, Prachanda the Maoist rebel leader announced a three-month ceasefire. And King Gyanendra named an eighty-four-year-old politician, Girija Prasad Koirala, as the new prime minister.

Mister Koirala was too sick to attend the opening of Parliament on Friday. But in a written statement he proposed a ceasefire, talks with the rebels and elections for a special assembly to rewrite Nepal's constitution. Parliament prepared for debate on Sunday.

And American Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher prepared to visit Nepal next week. He says the United States might renew military aid -- if the army accepts a full return to democracy.

Mister Boucher says the political parties should decide on the king’s future relationship with the government. And he says the United States would like to see the Maoists stop the violence and play a part in governing Nepal.

IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English was written by Nancy Steinbach. Read and listen to our reports at I'm Steve Ember.