A referendum will be held in Nepal “as soon as possible” on whether the people wish the present panchayati system to continue with “suitable changes” or if they desire a multi-party democratic set-up with universal adult franchise and secret ballot, a royal proclamation stated. The historic proclamation follows weeks of violent student demonstrations which spread to various parts of this mountain kingdom, climaxing in rioting and arson in the heart of Kathmandu last night which resulted in troops being called to control the situation. Whether the proclamation, which could well mean the beginning of real democracy in Nepal, will defuse the situation, is not yet clear because of competing political interests that have joined the agitation.
The central government has refused to “make any exception” in case of foreigners wanting to enter protected or restricted areas. Some time ago, Kohima wanted New Delhi to relax restrictions on foreigners visiting Nagaland for religious functions or educational seminars. The central government said that it will not be possible to depart from the standing rules because “this would impinge on the security interests of the State.” For many years, certain areas in the north and north-eastern India have been declared as restricted or protected areas for reasons of security. Foreigners have to obtain special permits to travel to these areas.
Asian Games hurdle
The preparations for holding the prestigious Asian Games in New Delhi in 1982 have received a serious setback with the Works and Housing Ministry having withdrawn its cooperation to the organising committee. The housing minister, Sikander Bakht, said that he was constrained to take this action as he was extremely unhappy at the way the organising committee was handling matters connected with the Games.