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NEPAL: PM Deuba’s Visit to India: Time to take stock of the situation in Nepal: Update 54

Note No. 328            08. 08. 2004

by Dr. S. Chandrasekharan.

Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba is visiting India from 8th September for five days. His visit is coming not a day late as Nepal is now going through a very critical phase and it needs India’s support and help.

No doubt Deuba would be briefing the Indian authorities on the Maoist problem and the steps taken by his government to start the peace talks. It is now being increasingly realised that the Maoist problem will also pose a security threat to India. Recently the Himachal Pradesh Police discovered that a dense forest near Naini tal was being used by the Maoists as a training centre. Short of sending troops, India should be in a position to extend all help and support to Nepal to deal with Maoists insurgency. There has to be a demonstrable support as this would send a signal not only to the Maoists but also to the King and the political parties like that of Nepali Congress of G.P.Koirala who are opposed to him.

It is now almost three months since Deuba was reinstated as Prime Minister and much was expected from him. In an earlier update we had looked at the developments and observed that Deuba has to assert himself if he is to survive and succeed. It was also observed that the Maoists will not let Deuba to settle down and in this they are being helped by G.P.Koirala and company who are more keen to pull down both the King and the Prime Minister than in finding a solution to the Maoist problem.

But Deuba himself has not made much progress. He is yet to discipline his ministers, particularly the King’s representative, Dr. Mohammed Mohsin. He has neither been able to bring the Maoists for a dialogue nor has he been able to persuade the four agitating parties against "regression" to join his government.

In fact the four parties have announced the renewal of protest from 11th September. This time they have promised that the programme would be "fresh and decisive." It remains to be seen that with the interest of the public waning, how decisive their agitation could be.

The Maoists call off Kathmandu Blockade:

In a surprise move, the Maoists called off their blockade of Kathmandu within a week. Several reasons were being given. One Indian analyst said that the Maoists developed cold feet after assessing the response of the security forces. What was worse, he compared the present blockade to the one supposed to have been inflicted by India on Nepal towards the end nineties? He was not aware that there was no blockade as such and that the Raxaul route through which eighty percent of the goods for Nepal pass through was kept open in addition to another on the Kakarbita route. India’s action was well within the international laws for land locked countries.

The Maoists who go by the book, could not have been serious in enforcing a blockade with the objective of destroying the political and economic structure of the capital. What must have surprised them was the supine way the establishments closed their shops and the trucks from India stopped moving on the highways. Another surprise must have been the failure of the government to call the bluff of the Maoists and ensure smooth flow of traffic. If establishments where the monarchy had an interest could close merely on a call, one cannot blame Deuba for not taking a stronger stand.

It is to the credit of the Security Forces that they did not panic or over react.

It looks that the Maoists were testing the waters. Their ring round policy of dominating the surrounding districts of the capital had gone awry with the security forces repeatedly thwarting their plans with excellent intelligence and immediate action. The Maoists were disappointed that there were no protests or urban uprisings. What must have disturbed them more was the immediate reaction of India. The CCS (Cabinet Committee on Security) in India met immediately to discuss the Kathmandu situation and this was made known to the public. What was left unsaid but indicated was that India will not let Kathmandu be strangled. This message had to be given some time or other and it is as well that it was done.

The Iraqi Killings:

An Iraqi militant group calling itself Jaish Ansar al-Sunna kidnapped twelve Nepali workers who had just entered Iraq from Jordan and brutally murdered them on 31st August. The video tape released showed a masked man slitting the throat of one of the hostages and left to die bleeding while others were shot.

The Nepalese authorities were shocked by the brutality of the killings. Within the short time available, they did try to negotiate through their diplomatic representatives and even the president of the Sunni Awakaf in Baghdad was contacted. The hostage takers neither established contacts nor forwarded any demands as they did with hostages of other countries.

As expected, the reaction of the Nepalese was swift and violent. The two mosques near Durbar Marg, the Jama masjid and Takia Masjid were attacked and damaged. Copies of Quran were thrown on the streets. The offices of PIA, the Qatar Airways and Saudi Airlines were attacked. More than a hundred offices of the Manpower agencies were targeted.

Violence spread to other districts particularly in Terai in Biratnagar and Banke districts. Some properties were also attacked.

The government imposed a curfew in Kathmandu within Ring Road and the city areas of Lalitpur from 1st September and it took more than five days to bring the situation under control. Curfew has since been lifted.

The government also declared 2nd September as the national day of mourning and all government offices and educational institutions were closed for one day in remembrance of the dead Nepali hostages. An immediate compensation of Rs 10 lakhs ( one million) to the families of the dead was also announced.

Nepal earns more than  one billion dollars by exporting manpower. With the earnings from tourist industry coming down due to Maoists insurgency, funds sent from abroad formed a vital component of the economy, with over 200 manpower agencies some legal and many illegal functioning in Kathmandu with the knowledge of the authorities. Though export of manpower to Iraq is banned, the agencies have been sending people to Jordan and Syria. The present lot were caught by the kidnappers just as they were being smuggled into Iraq from Jordan. The chairman of the Moon light Consultancy- K.B.Rana who sent the unfortunate ones made a tongue in cheek statement that the company only sent the people to Jordan and did not know how they entered Iraq!

The government is seen to be waking up now and action is being taken against the manpower agencies. It is doubtful whether the government would be able to stem the outflow of manpower through illegal means. Unemployment among the educated youth, Maoists insurgency and forced closure of schools have forced people to flee Nepal in search of employment and the manpower agencies with the collaboration of corrupt officials and politicians have been exploiting them.

UN Mediation:

Kul Chandra Gautam, the UN Assistant Secretary General during his official visit to Nepal made some surprising statements and it looked as if he had come to sell UN’s intervention in Nepal in combating the current Maoists crisis. While one could understand that Gautam had to go by the brief given to him by the UN, there was hardly any provocation for him to criticise India indirectly. Some of the points made by him were

* "Let us not use possible objection by our neighbours as an excuse for not seeking UN support, if we genuinely believe that such support would be helpful." ( Gautam had come as a representative of UN Secrertary General and the question of using "us" and "we" does not arise. The reference is certainly to India which was uncalled for. No where has India objected to UN intervention and it is for the King and the Deuba government to decide.

* " Wouldn’t be better for Nepal to voluntarily seek support for making peace before the country becomes lawless wasteland, seek support for making peace, rather than face the consequences of a possible unsolicited intervention later?"- It is not clear as to whose "unsolicited" intervention he is talking about? Is it about India and if so does it have the brief of the UN?

* "It would be better for Nepal to engage UN rather than bringing in the experts from Norway, New York or New Delhi" It would have been better if Mr. Gautam had cited various instances where the UN had solved the ongoing conflicts in many parts of the world to justify such statements!

A list of incidents since Update 52 is given as an Appendix

Appendix:

Incidents 

Aug 2004 

5.         Maoists abducted a passenger bus from Bainsha at Dhanauri in    Dang district.  

6.            At least three Maoists were killed by security forces in two separate operations in Dhanusha and Siraha districts. 

7.            Maoists abducted two youths, one from Balikot VDC-5 in Arghakhanchi district and one from Pathali VDC-3 in Morang district. 

At least eight Maoist militants were killed during separate clashes with security forces in different parts of the country. 

8.           Maoists executed a 15-year old boy after abducting him in eastern Nepal.         

               A soldier was killed and two others injured when suspected Maoists opened fire on them.           

              A group of armed Maoists killed Kul Bahadur Rai, 55, and his 35-year-old wife, Laxmimaya Rai, residents of Shitalpati VDC in Sankhuwasabha district alleging them as 'informers'.           

At least five security personnel were injured in a Maoist attack in Gajyangkot area of Jumla district 

9.            Maoist attacks on telecommunication installations, radio repeater stations etc have caused a damage of Rs.600 million. 59 stations of Nepal Telecom have been damaged in Maoist attacks. 

               Two Maoists were shot dead by a security patrol of the Unified Command at Chugandanda area of Tehrathum district. 

In Paachthar, one militant was gunned down at Nagi area. Nine socket bombs, combat dresses and Maoist literature were recovered from the site. 

10.          Five militants were killed in clashes with security forces at Adichour ilaka in far-western district of Bajura.

A shoot out took place when Maoist militants hiding behind the Mahendra  hospital at Ghorahi in mid-western district of Dang opened fire on a group of policemen who had gone there to escort a sick policeman undergoing treatment.

11.         A local Maoist commander murdered journalist and human rights worker, Dekendra Raj Thapa, in the mid-western district of Dailekh.

12.          Former president of the District Development Committee (DDC) of Kailali, Chheda Lal Chaudhary, was injured when a group of Maoists opened fire on him.

13.          Maoists killed two persons in Morang district, charging them of robbery.

                Maoist militants killed their former local leader, Patiram Yadav, at Bhateriya forest area in Bela VDC of Dang district.

Three soldiers on a patrol from Royal Shuklaphanta Wildlife Reserve were killed when a group of armed militants hiding in local houses opened fire on them at Ratanpur area in the far western district of Kanchanpur.

The Maoists abducted three persons including a teacher from Kunathali area in Surkhet.

15.           A Maoist militant and a civilian were killed when the villagers of Tirtiya VDC in Morang district retaliated against Maoist militants.

Maoists looted medicines that was to be distributed to people suffering from diarrhoea that has attained epidemic proportion in the remote far-western district of Bajura.

A group of Maoists beat an elderly villager to death at Hill VDC in west Nepal

16.          A group of Maoists abducted nearly 300 students from Katahari secondary school in Ramechhap district.

Maoist exploded a bomb in the backyard of Soaltee hotel.

18.          At least two Maoist militants were killed in skirmishes with the security forces in Palpa and Kaski districts.

               Armed Maoists killed chief of the Nepal Red Cross Society, Ilam chapter, Til Bahadur Limbu.

20.          Suspected Maoists set off a powerful bomb at a police post in Kaushaltar of Bhaktapur district.

                Suspected Maoists shot at a policeman on duty in front of the Land Revenue Office at Dillibazar in Kathmandu.

                At least two Maoists were killed in separate encounters with security forces in Panchthar district.

21.          Suspected Maoists shot and killed a junior police officer on duty at a police post in Kathmandu.

23.          Maoists detonated a bomb at the Department of Water Induced Disaster Prevention in Bhaktapur.

              At least two Maoists were killed in a clash with security forces in Ilam.

25.          Maoist militants abducted over 300 teachers and students from the western part of Jajarkot.

A policeman was killed and eight others injured when a landmine laid by the Maoists went off at Khajura in Banke.

A Maoist militant committed suicide in army-custody in Phidim, the headquarters of Pacchthar district.

Two Maoists were killed in a clash with security forces in Dhanusha district.

28.          Maoist militants targeted and exploded bombs at the main factory of Nepal Lever Limited- a major Nepal-India joint venture company at Basamadi in Makwanpur district.

                Maoists shot and killed two Royal Nepalese Army soldiers in Butwal.

               Suspected Maoists shot dead a police sub-inspector at Balaju.

Maoists shot and injured Krishna Bhattrai, an assistant sub-inspector at Balaju.

               The Maoists exploded a bomb at the premises of Nepal Electricity Authority office at Panauti Municipality.

               The Maoists detonated a bomb at the newly built Information Technology Park at Banepa, Kavre district. 

29.          At least two Maoists were killed in separate encounters with security forces in Morang and Lamjung districts.

September  2004

1.         One security person and a militant were killed and several government offices were destroyed in an attack in the Jumla district headquarters. 

3.            Maoists beat man to death in Rupandehi. Maoists abducted him from his residence, took him to a nearby jungle and beat him gruesomely to death. Maoists charged him of spying on them.

4.            Suspected Maoist militants attacked the house of Nepal Sadvawana party (NSP) -Anandadevi, leader Bharat Bimal Yadav in Mahottari of east Nepal. Yadav is the vice president of the NSP (Anandadevi), one of the four agitating parties.

5.            At least six Maoists including a ‘brigade commissar’ were killed in an encounter with security forces at Kalyanpur area in Siraha district.

At least six militants, including two members of the Maoist central committee, were killed in a security operation.

               Three soldiers were killed and seven others injured when a landmine exploded near Talghare of Byas municipality in Tanahu district. The militants were blamed for the explosion.           

               One civilian was killed in crossfire between the security forces and the Maoists at Kohalpur area of Banke district.           

An area commander of the militant outfit was shot dead by security men during a search operation at Bisanpur of Bara district.

Maoists abducted over 250 students and teachers from two high schools in Myagdi district.

6.            One militant was killed in an exchange of fire at Adheri area of Morang district, at the No. 2 Brigade of the Royal Nepalese Army at Hile, Dhankuta.

Indian villagers killed five Nepali Maoist militants at Latakniya along the Nepal-India border. The militants were killed in clashes with the villagers.

The Maoists detonated a pressure cooker bomb at the office of the District Drinking Water Office at Parasi Bazar in Nawalparasi.

7.            Four policemen were injured, when a Maoist-laid pressure cooker bomb exploded in a police post by Rapti river near Hetaunda Municipality of Makwanpur district.

               Maoist exploded bomb at the main entrance of Hotel Malla in Kathmandu.           

At least two Maoists were killed in a clash with security forces at Mechinagar Municipality in Jhapa.

Some three dozen leaders and workers of People's Front Nepal (PFN) were injured when a group of Maoists attacked during their mass meeting at Dullu in the western district of Dailekh.

Maoist militants looted property belonging to half a dozen political activists and teachers at Khairi Gairha VDC in Dailekh.

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