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Dispatches From Nepal

February 3, 2006

AP Correspondent Matthew Rosenberg is in Nepal to cover King Gyanendra’s attempt to hold municipal elections even as discontent with his royal dictatorship grows and Maoist insurgents press their fight. This is a blog of his experiences.

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FRIDAY, Feb. 3, 4 p.m. local

KATMANDU, Nepal

Two hours after landing in Katmandu and I’m out on the street waiting to see a sight that’s become as identified with Nepal these days as Mount Everest _ a protest.

But this protest is proving to be more akin to a foothill than the world’s highest peak.

It’s an hour or two from quitting time, but the dozen or so twenty-somethings who had planned to spend the afternoon shouting slogans decrying King Gyanendra’s rule are instead thinking about calling it a day. With the cops hot on their trail, they can’t even manage to gather in one place.

The original plan was to get together in front of a small Hindu temple in the city’s old Patan neighborhood, a warren of narrow streets and dirt alleys lined by brick buildings with carved doors and filigreed balconies.

But as young men gathered, the police showed up and chased them away.

They regrouped down the street. More cops.

A few minutes later, they were on the next block. But so were the cops.

So it goes these days in Katmandu, where, in the year since King Gyanendra seized absolute power, these small-time rallies have become as common as the cat-and-mouse game protesters play with police.

In fact, ordinary Nepalis nowadays pay scant attention to such scenes _ those browsing Friday at Patan’s numerous stores simply step onto the curb whenever groups of young men run by, the police not far behind.

After about two hours, the dozen or so protesters _ all male _ manage to gather at one spot, light a few torches and head off down the street, shouting about the king.

_Matthew Rosenberg

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