Kathmandu: In a massive show of strength, tens of thousands of Maoist cadres dressed in red marched on the streets of the Nepalese capital on Saturday in a bid to force Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal-led 22-party coalition government to step down.
Wearing red caps and shirts and carrying red flags, thousands of Maoists chanting anti-government slogans marched from different corners of Kathmandu to converge into a public meeting at Tundikhel Khulamunch here.
As the protesters marched on the streets, thousands of police in riot gear guarded the city to stop any violence during the rally.
The former rebels want to lead a national unity government as their party is the single largest group in the Constituent Assembly.
The protesters shouted the slogans like `Scrap Indo-Nepal Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1950`, `Topple the puppet government, and Form Maoist-led National Government`, `Madhav Nepal Quit the Country`, `Protect National Independence`, `Foil conspiracy hatched by Regressive Forces`.
Even as the Maoists were preparing for their muscle show and indefinite general strike, talks were being held among major three political parties -- Maoist, Nepali Congress and CPN-UML -- in a five star hotel to find a way out.
After the meeting held in the morning, Maoist vice chairman Baburam Bhattarai said that he was optimistic that some sort of understanding will be reached before their general strike which starts tomorrow.
He said their talks mainly focused on four key issues including integration and rehabilitation of Maoist combatants and power sharing.
A way out can be found if the parties agreed on the two major issues power sharing and army integration, Bhattarai told journalists after the meeting.
Nepali Congress general secretary Bimalendra Nidhi said that the talks were moving towards positive direction and they will resume the meeting in the evening after the Maoists` rally.
Shops were closed factories were shut down and vehicular movement was very thin since morning. The demonstrations started at 11 am in the morning and were attended by senior Maoist leaders Prachanda, Babnuram Bhattarai, Mohan Vaidya, Ram Bahadur Thapa Badal.
The public meeting which was scheduled at 1.30 pm, started 90 minutes late at 2.30 pm.
Though Maoist leaders have said they expect half a million people to take part in the rally marking International Worker`s Day but the Khulamunch ground with a capacity of 40,000 was jam-packed and equal number of people were seen outside the venue.
Riot policemen were deployed at every junction of the city with the government mobilizing about 15,000 policemen to maintain law and order.
Airport, government secretariat, telecommunication office and other sensitive places were guarded by the Army personnel in the wake of the Maoists` protests.
The rally was so far peaceful as claimed by the Maoists.
Meanwhile, after the meeting of the 22-ruling parties held at Prime Minister`s office Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal has decided to address the nation at 6 pm today.
The meeting of the ruling parties rejected the Maoists demand for Prime Minister`s resignation. The ruling alliance also asked the Maoists to withdraw the protests and come forward for dialogue.
"It is against the spirit of the constitution and democratic practice to resign through street movement," said CP Mainali general secretary of CPN-Marixst.
Addressing the rally, Maoist central committee member Agni Sapkota said that the Maoists will retaliate if the government tried to suppress the movement with the support of foreign powers.
The Maoists were also organizing protest rallies in different parts of the country to observe the May Day.