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Nepal Official Won’t Step Down

December 31, 2000

KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) _ Nepal’s deputy prime minister on Sunday refused to resign over last week’s violent protests that left at least four dead and hundreds injured.

The Group of Nine Leftists, an umbrella group of nine Communist parties, had demanded that Ram Chandra Poudel take responsibility for the deaths during the rioting over anti-Nepal remarks purportedly made by Indian film star Hrithik Roshan.

``Resignation is not an option that the government is willing to accept at this point,″ said Poudel, also the country’s home minister. ``A move like that would only encourage the elements that are responsible for triggering the violence last week.″

Roshan denied making any comments against Nepal. The Nepalese government has also cleared his name.

The Group of Nine Leftists has called a nationwide general strike on Monday and Tuesday to protest the violence.

``Our talks with the government have failed since the government is in no mood to take moral responsibility and make the home minister resign,″ said Bam Dev Gautam, general secretary of the Marxist Leninist Communist Party of Nepal. ``We are going to go ahead with the planned general strike.″

Last week, four people were killed when police fired at a rampaging mob that attacked shops and a theater screening the latest Roshan film. Violence erupted after rumors swept through Nepal quoting Roshan as saying that he hated Nepal and its people.

On Wednesday, thousands of protesters clashed with police and blocked streets with burning tires and trees in Katmandu, the Nepalese capital. Indian businesses were targeted and windows of The State Bank of India were smashed by protesters shouting slogans against Roshan and India.

Anti-India sentiments tend to simmer in Nepal. Many Nepalese accuse India of behaving like a regional bully.

Roshan said the allegations against him were ``completely unfounded and baseless.″

Poudel said: ``We have not even found one person who has actually seen this broadcast and since the person has repeatedly denied having made the comment the Nepalese government has accepted the fact that he had not made any anti-Nepal comment.″

Roshan rose to stardom last year after his first film, ``Kaho Na Pyaar Hai,″ or ``Say This Is Love″ enjoyed extraordinary success in India.

Indian movies are quite popular in neighboring Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh. In Nepal, which like India is predominantly Hindu, most theaters show Hindi-language movies.

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