Date: 10 Jul 2008


KATHMANDU: The Nepal Maoists, who played a key role in abolishing the 240-year-old Hindu monarchy and turning the country into a secular state, have vowed to ensure special rights to the minority Muslim community in the Himalayan nation. 

"It is not enough to provide equal rights to the Muslims but they should be given special rights as compensation for having been suppressed," CPN-Maoist chairman Prachanda told a gathering of the Muslim Mukti Morcha (MMM), an organisation affiliated to the party of the former rebels. 

Prachanda's support for special rights for the Muslims is seen as an attempt to garner the sympathy of the minority community, which mainly resides in the Terai-plains bordering India where the Maoists suffered setbacks in the April constituent assembly polls. 

Declaring Nepal a secular nation was one of the 40-point demands put forth by the Maoists in 1996 when they started their insurgency in the country. Prachanda, who is poised to become the PM, promised to form a ‘Muslim commission' for the welfare of the minority community and develop pilgrimage sites of the community as tourist destinations. 

In the past, the Maoist cadres were known to slaughter cows in remote villages and even punish people for celebrating Dusshera and Diwali. Despite being a Hindu nation, the government provided equal opportunity to the Muslim and Christian minorities.