KATHMANDU — The leader of Nepal’s 10-year Maoist insurgency was left shaken on Friday when a former supporter slapped the ex-guerilla across the face, smashing his glasses.
Police dragged away 25-year-old Padam Kunwar during the angry confrontation with Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal — better known as Prachanda, or the Fierce One — at a reception in the capital Kathmandu.
“We have arrested him but he is undergoing treatment at hospital after he was beaten up by Maoist members,” police spokesman Keshav Adhikari said, adding Kunwar would be questioned later.
The attacker, said to be an alienated former party member, grabbed the 57-year-old’s hand and slapped him hard on the cheek, breaking the former revolutionary’s spectacles, during a tea-drinking ceremony.
Kunwar was whisked away by police drenched in blood after Prachanda’s supporters mobbed him and rained blows down onto his head and face.
Barshaman Pun, finance minister in the Maoist-led caretaker government, described the incident as “very unfortunate” and said it raised doubts over Prachanda’s security.
The Maoists waged a revolt against the state from 1996 until a ceasefire in 2006, during which an estimated 16,000 people died.
Prachanda’s followers swept him to power in 2008 elections and he was briefly prime minister before standing down following a row over the dismissal of an army chief.
Prachanda is Nepal’s third senior politician to be assaulted recently by members of an increasingly frustrated public who have protested violently against a lack of political progress in the impoverished Himalayan nation.
In January last year, a 55-year-old man slapped the chairman of the opposition Unified Marxist Leninist party at an event for new members.
In May, a Kathmandu tea shop owner hit a Maoist lawmaker across the face, saying the country’s political leaders had “betrayed the people”.
“We have taken this as an anarchic act. This has given a wrong message. It has cast doubts over the security of our leaders,” Pun told reporters.
The tea ceremony finished hastily after the incident and security around Prachanda was intensified.