On Thursday morning the Nepalese capital was under strict curfew after four protesters were shot dead and many more were wounded in the worst single day of violence so far in the ongoing protests.

 

In total at least eight people have been killed and hundreds wounded since protests began two weeks ago, demanding the restoration of multi-party democracy.

 

Shushil Ghimire, Kathmandu's chief administrator, told AFP: "The curfew has been imposed from 2am until 8pm due to security reasons. Anyone found violating curfew orders will be shot on sight."

 

Unlike previous curfew's in Nepal where passes were issued to tourists, journalists, diplomats and hospital vehicles - this curfew has not taken such measures.

 

Activists have pledged to defy the curfew and bring thousands of protesters to the city's streets.

 

Fundamental right

 

Krishna Prasad Sitaula, a senior leader of the Nepali Congress, the country's biggest political party, said: "To protest peacefully is the fundamental and natural right of the people.

 

"The ban and curfew orders are undemocratic and unconstitutional. We will disobey and will hold our peaceful protest programme."

 

Sobhakar Parajuli, the Nepali Congress Party's secretary, said: "The state has taken every step to repress our movement. On Thursday we will not remain silent, we will defy the curfew order and stage the demonstration as scheduled."

 

Police have been accused of
beating and shooting children

The government however remained defiant, saying the curfew was essential to maintain peace. 

 

"We knew that it (the protest) is going to be violent," government spokesman Shrish Shamsher Rana said.

 

"We have discovered a huge cache of explosives and the Maoists were planning to use human shields to create violence. They have been forcing people to join the protests."

 

Maoist rebels launched an insurgency demanding a people's republic 10-years ago, and have joined an alliance with opposition parties against the king.

 

In February 2005, King Gyanendra seized absolute power blaming politicians for being unable to deal with the Maoist uprising.

 

Indian envoy

 

In a sign of escalating international concern over the Nepalese protests, Karan Singh, India's special envoy, was due to meet Gyanendra later on Thursday. 

 

Speaking before his visit, Singh said: "It is not our intention to interfere in the internal affairs of another country but the last thing that we would want is for Nepal to dissolve into chaos because India's vital security interests are involved."

 

"We will not remain silent, we will defy the curfew order and stage the demonstration as scheduled"

Sobhakar Parajuli,
Nepali Congress Party secretary

India
has renewed calls for Gyanendra to restore democracy and to hold dialogue with political groups. 

 

Meanwhile, the US-based group Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused Nepalese police of beating and shooting children as part of their campaign to clamp down on protests.

 

Jo Becker, an advocacy director for HRW, said children as young as 12 had been "brutally beaten" by police.

 

"These demonstrations are about reinstating political and civil rights," Becker said.

 

"As the past year has shown, further curtailing these rights will likely only deepen the crisis."