Maoists throw out Indian tourists from Nepal hotel

via published on October 14, 2006

 Kathmandu:While Nepal’s Government is wooing the Indian visitor to stabilise the kingdom’s fluctuating tourism sector, a group of Indian tourists say they returned home with a bitter experience after being thrown out of their hotel by Maoist guerrillas.



According to Vinita Sharma, a member of the Indian group, they were staying at a hotel in the Lakeside area of Pokhara city, a sunny, popular tourist destination in western Nepal that is being promoted as an alternative to India’s beach capital Goa, when the incident occurred earlier this month.


The tourists were alarmed by a commotion in the night when a group of young men barged inside the hotel and began threatening the hotel manager.


“I could not understand what they were saying until I, along with the other guests, were asked to vacate our rooms for the new arrivals,” Sharma said.


“I later came to know that they were Maoist cadres who wanted to stay in the hotel for free.”


Sharma wrote about the group’s plight to a local daily, the Himalayan Times, which published it on Thursday, the day the Maoists were holding a key round of negotiations with the government at Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s residence in the capital.


“Are the Maoists a political party or a terror outfit?” Sharma asked in her letter. “In India, only people of the underworld or terrorists behave like this. I really feel sorry for the Nepali business community.”


The publication of Sharma’s letter coincided with another local daily, the Kathmandu Post, reporting how three French nationals, who had gone to remote Dolakha district in northern Nepal, to help build a truss bridge for the villagers, were extorted by a group of Maoists.


They were first asked to pay NRS 500 for obtaining the rebels’ “People’s government’s” permission to build the bridge and then asked to pay five per cent of the construction cost, amounting to NRS 64,000 (about $850)


Both the incidents occurred less than a month after the Maoist chief Prachanda apologised to a top French climber’s widow for his cadres’ misdemeanour, refunded the money extorted from her and said that tourists would not be harmed by his party.


“We would also like to take this opportunity to reassert that foreign tourists are most welcome to visit Nepal and they need not fear any security hazard or any other inconvenience due to the ongoing political conflict in the country,” the letter signed by Prachanda and his deputy Baburam Bhattarai said.


The letter was written to Katia Lafaille, wife of renowned French climber Jean-Christopher Lafaille, who went missing in Nepal earlier this year while trying to summit Mount Makalu solo without bottled oxygen.


In April, Katia and her sons had come to the Makalu base camp to bid a last farewell to the mountaineer, whose body has still not been found. At that time, Maoist cadres in the area forced the grieving family to pay NRS 10,000 as “people’s tax”.


However, when the matter was brought to the notice of the Maoist top brass by the French ambassador to Nepal, Michel Jolivet, they returned the money with an apology.


Even with relative peace in the countryside in the aftermath of the peace process, Nepal has still not been able to revive its tourism sector, partly due to the Maoists running amok in the rural areas and extorting tourists.


The number of visitors coming to Nepal by air in September fell by 7.4 per cent to 25,484, compared to the same month last year, Nepal Tourism Board said. The decline was mostly due to a fall in the number of Indian tourists.


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