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Nepal Update No. 13: Provide political space for the Maoists

Note No. 135                         11.10.2001

 

 

by Dr. S. Chandrasekharan

Safe landing for Maoists? Prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba expressed the view on September 25, that "Maoists were seeking a political safe  landing".  This expression of "safe landing" was also expressed earlier by Deepak  Thapa , in Himal Issue of 14th May, 2001 in his excellent paper on the Maoists.  Indeed the Maoists themselves appear to be looking for a safe landing.  Having reached a level where they have a parallel government in five districts and strong influence in another 25 districts, they are now in a position to take on the establishment  electorally.  They must have  realised  that further movement will be tough in their people’s war.  Firstly they have to contend with a King who is shrewd, pro active and is still venerated by the bulk of the people.  Secondly the well-trained army is threatening to get into the act and encounters will get bloodier involving many casualties. Till recently the Maoists had an upper hand over poorly equipped and not so well trained Policemen, who had no motivation either.  Lastly in such a situation it is the people who will get killed in large numbers and they would like to avoid.

Maoists continue to seek unity.  Of late there have been more indications that the Maoists would prefer a political space rather than seek a bloody solution to the present crisis.  It may be recalled that in the month of April, the Maoist leaders met the representatives of left parties and a representative of the King to discuss the political situation and perhaps to arrive at a common strategy.  That meeting made no dent on the determination of the Maoists to continue the civil war.

The Kantipur issue of August 17, reported that on August 15, leaders of some leftist parties including UML General Secretary Madhav Kumar Nepal, ML General Secretary Bam Dev Gautam, NWPP President Narayan Man Bijukchhe, NCP (Masal) General Secretary Mohan Bikram Singh, NCP (unity Centre) General Secretary Prakash and UPF General Secretary Lilamani Pokharel visited Siliguri in West Bengal and held a secret meeting with NCP chairman Prachanda,on issues relating to the proposed government-Maoist talks and leftist unity.

The Maoists continued with their "unity" efforts after the meeting.  On August 24, Prachanda, the Chairman made a statement (Kathmandu Post, August 25) stressing the need for unity among leftist parties and announced a decision of the party to send representatives to talk with other leftist parties in order to unite and form a new party strong enough to fight the reactionary forces.  One could infer that NCP had assessed that it cannot fight by itself.

The NCP organised another meeting of twelve leftist parties on September 23 with the objective of explaining the Maoist role in the talks with the government and forging unity among all leftist parties to launch future programmes.

Backlash against the Maoists.  There have been many reports that Maoists have been at the receiving end from the people in some places and clashes have occurred.  In Parsa two Maoist supporters were killed and four others injured in a violent scuffle that occurred between the local people and the Maoists on September 5.  In Banke, the villagers of Sonbarsa village have mobilised people for round the clock patrolling to prevent Maoists from entering the village.  Such anti Maoist committees have been formed in many other villages of the district as also in other districts in Morang and Bardiya.

The Maoists themselves are to blame for incurring people’s wrath.  Their brutal treatment and elimination in the "execution style" have not found favour with the people.  There have been instances where the Maoists have in the name of destroying old beliefs and superstition forced some of the people to eat beef.  There has been forcible collection of money and other valuables.  There was one instance of alleged rape of a minor girl by a Maoist cadre which created a commotion in the National assembly.

In an interview to the Janadisha (September 24), Prachanda described the use of force to collect donations as a "serious weakness of the party" and apologised to the people of Kathmandu Valley with a pledge to take serious initiatives to prevent such "weaknesses" in their working style.

Unity talks fail and the Maoists are isolated.  Perhaps the most important development is, that other leftist parties despite the unity efforts have come out very strongly against the Maoists.  This could be out of fear that the Maoists may capture the political space now held by the parties or to distance themselves, to avoid the growing disenchantment of the people with the Maoists.

A meeting of seven leftist parties held in Kathmandu on September 27 strongly criticised the Maoists for "killing, maiming, torturing and manhandling" their workers and supporters in different parts of the country.  The ML General Secretary Bam Dev Gautam said on September 29 ( Gorkhapatra) that his party is opposed to the Maoist demand for scrapping the present constitution , but has no objection if the Maoists are included in an interim government.

Talks between the government and the Maoists.  Two rounds of talks between the government representatives and Maoists have taken place.  The first was held at Godavari in Kathmandu on August 30 and the second on September 13.  After failing to reach an agreement, both sides agreed in writing to continue the process of talks.  In the second round, the Maoists presented a written agenda.  Besides seeking the release of some of the detainees, the demands included the following.

* All laws and rules aimed against the people’s war including the Public Security Rules and the Armed Police Force Act should be repealed.

* Withdraw the "Integrated Security and Development Programme.

* The Royal Nepal Army should be sent back to the barracks to facilitate a better atmosphere for the talks.

On the political side, the Maoists stuck to their age-old demands which included

* The present Constitution should be abolished and the people should be granted power to frame a new constitution.

* Present Parliament should be dissolved and an interim government formed.

* Introduction of Republican system of government

With respect to India, the demands made were

* Abolition of unequal treaties including Indo Nepal 1950 treaty

* Withdrawal of Indian troops from Kalapani.

* Controlling the open Indo Nepal border

* Introduction of work permit system.

The government side on its part flatly refused to countenance the demands relating to the abolition of the present constitution and establishment of a republican state and the formation of an interim government.  The government also expressed its readiness to discuss other socio economic issues raised by the Maoists.

PM Deuba had earlier in mid August declared the first phase of reforms which included   (a) Ban on sale/transfer of properties till new laws are enacted (b) Prohibition of any social discrimination based on caste,(c) formation of a National commission to work for the larger interests of oppressed people (Dalit), (d) pass Women’s property rights bills, (e) legislation for development of religion, language and culture (f) review legislation relating to corruption and make it severely punishable etc.

It is possible that the Maoists would settle for much less than what they have demanded. While changing the constitution for a republic is not possible there could be agreement on many socio economic issues.   Issues relating to India cannot be solved in the talks between the Maoists and the government but only between the governments of Nepal and India.

The Maoists are strongest in some of the poorest and most remote parts of Nepal.  A visit to the Midwestern region in Nepal would show the absolute poverty and lack of employment in those remote districts.  One could see whole villages empty with the men and women folk moving to India for seasonal work.  These districts need to be developed on a priority basis.  Perhaps international help could be obtained.  There could be then some hope for Nepal from the Maoist menace the country is now experiencing.

King Gyanendra talks to the media.  It would be interesting to see how the new King who is known for his reticence views the current situation in Nepal.  In a rare interview to the editor of Nepal Samacharpatra, he has outlined his own thinking on the burning issues of Nepal.  These are:

* If the present constitution was made after a consensus of all political parties and the late King, is not the participation of the King necessary on the important issues of the nation?

* Neither the wishes of the King nor those of the Maoists can bring about a republican system in the government.  It is necessary for all to work within the system.

* The functions, duties and powers of the King are known, but this fact is not explained to the people when issues related to them are raised.

* The people have a preemptive right to happiness and pleasure under the present system.  However the situation is serious given the public complaints that they are subjected to ridicule and exploitation in the name of democracy.

* Unlike his brother, he cannot keep quiet while witnessing such a plight of the country and the people.

* He intends to play an optimum role that the King can play for the good of the country and the people in keeping with the spirit of the Constitution framed in the cause of constitutional monarchy and multi party democracy.

King Gyanendra has given notice that he will not be a silent spectator but would take an active role with the powers given to him under the constitution.  It is a warning that he expects good governance.  Otherwise?

A list of Maoists incidents since the last update is given herewith as an appendix.  Most of the attacks have been on the policemen and police posts.  Some incidents where the UML cadres have been victims have come to notice.

Date:      Incident

July

12      In Jogbudha of Dadeldhura,  Maoist insurgents set fire to the local police post, the documents of two local banks and a non-govenmental organisation, and two government jeeps. They also set fire to the Jivanpur Police post in Dhading.

At the Harihar police post in Baglung, Maoist insurgents killed one policemen and set fire to the post.

 In Parbat,  Maoist insurgents set fire to all question papers of the Proficiency Certificate Level Examination at the Parbat Multiple Campus.

In Dhanusha, a crude bomb planted by Maoist insurgents was defused by the police in the premises of the district administration office.

Mukti Prasad Sharma, a NC leader of Pyuthan who was abducted by the Maoist insurgents about one and a half months ago, was released.

13        In Parbat, Maoist insurgents destroyed a newly built police post at the Karkineta VDC.

In Tusipur, Dang, Maoist insurgents set fire to the abandoned Hemantpur Police Post.

The insurgents looted Rs 500,000 from the Bindebashini Savings and Cooperative in the Panauti Municipality. They also set fire to the vehicle belonging to the Nepal Electricity Authority.

In Chitwan, Maoist insurgents looted Rs 1.1 million belonging to the Khaireni branch of the Agricultural Development Bank while being transported on a motorcycle to the Narayanghat branch of the bank.

14        At the Sotar Solu Area Police Office in Morang, Maoist insurgents killed three policemen by burning them alive.

The Maoist insurgents released the 22 policemen abducted by them two and a half months earlier from Rukumkot.

16      In Surkhet, they set fire to the office documents and looted the Dasharathpur Range post.

In Hetauda, Maoist insurgents set fire to the office of the Agriculture Development bank.

17      Three policemen died and two others injured when  Maoist insurgents attacked a police post at Khidim in Arghakhanchi. 23 other policemen managed to safely withdraw to the District Police Office. The insurgents set the police post on fire and took away the weapons left behind.

The Maoist insurgents hacked to death Krishna Bahadur Kunwar, a NC activist, at the Pithuwa VDC of Chitwan.

18      In Nuwakot, the insurgents robbed Rs 230,000 from the branch office of the Rashtriya Banijya Bank at the Kharanitar VDC, and Rs 8,500 from the branch of Nepal Bank Ltd. at the Dhikure VDC.

The Maoist insurgents attacked a police post at Tadi of the Belkot VDC.

In Tanahu, insurgents exploded a pressure cooker bomb at the Bandipur Police Post, injuring three policemen.

The Maoist insurgents also set fire to the Mouwa Police Post at in Panchthar and destroyed a police post at Bhimad Bazar of the same district with the help of a  pressure cooker bomb.

In Palpa, a powerful socket bomb was exploded in the premises of the District Police Office.

21       The Maoist insurgents released seven policemen and five kitchen-boys from among those abducted by them from the Holeri Police Post in Rolpa.

The Maoist insurgents released 12 policemen whom they had abducted from the Dhobidanda Police Post of Ramechhap about two weeks earlier.

22      In Terhathum, the Maoist insurgents raided the Poklabang Police Post at the Simla VDC and killed two policemen and injured five others. They looted some arms and communication equipment from the post.

In Dolakha, insurgents abducted five policemen from Mudhe Bazar.

In Bajura, insurgents killed 17 policemen and injured six others by raiding the Pandusen  base at midnight.

In Dhankuta, the insurgents abducted two NC activists of the Leguwa VDC.

23       In Dhankuta, Maoist insurgents abducted Yuvaral Giri, an NDP worker.

25      A group of Maoists abducted Krishna Raj Upadhyay, Chief Engineer of the Dailekh District Irrigation Office, from Tal Pokhari of the Baraha VDC in Dailekh

In Dolakha, the five policemen abducted by the Maoist insurgents were released after three days.

29     In Sunsari, the insurgents sealed the Rajgunj Sinubari VDC office.

30     In Baitadi, two policemen abducted about a month ago were released.

31     In Tikapur, the Maoist insurgent raided the Koulali Dododhara VDC based office of the Small Farmers Bank, took away all landownership certificates and set fire to other office documents.

August

1     In Jajarkot, the insurgents set up three checkposts around the district headquarters to examine people visiting there from the rural areas.

4     The insurgents released Krishan Prasad Upadhyay, Engineer at Dailekh District Irrigation Office, whom they had kidnapped on July 23 from Daleikh Bazaar.

5     In Daliekh Indra Bahadur Kathayat a Maoist activist surrendered himself before the police regretting his involvement with the Maoists.

7    The insurgents set fire to a police post at the Purkot VDC of Tanahu after detaining the five policemen stationed there in a nearby house.

10   In Morang, three Maoist insurgents who were arrested two years ago under the Arms and Ammunition, Act were released on bail.

11    The Maoist insurgents destroyed an Area Police Post at Devghat in Tanahu after capturing three policemen.

In Syangja, the Maoist insurgents forced the 15 office-bearers of the Kyashi VDC, including the Chairman and Vice-Chairman, to resign.

12     The insurgents announced a people’s government in 18 out of 79 VDCs of Sindhupalchowk within two weeks as part of their preparation to announce a district People’s government there.

14     In the Jhadeva VDC of Palpa, a group of 35 people claiming themselves to be Maoists raided 18 houses and looted property worth more than Rs 85,000.

In Rautahat, six insurgents accused of committing public crimes were released on bail.

16     The Maoist insurgents looted about Rs 44,000 from three employees of the Swabalamban (Self Reliance) Bank of Gaighat.

The Maoists looted cash and gold ornaments worth about Rs 300,000 from different shops in the Bulkot VDC and nearby areas of Nuwakot.

17     Three policemen abducted by the Maoist insurgents from Khungri Ramnam of Pyuthan on July 4 released in Holeri of Rolpa .

19     In Kawasoti, Nawalparasi, they released a policeman, Jogendra Mandal, and a teacher, Binod Sharma, whom they had abducted about a week ago on charge of being Police informers.

20     In Dolpa, the Maoists abducted the chairman of the Raha VDC, Ram Prasad Mahat.

In Ramechhap, the Maoist insurgents abducted ex-police sub-inspector Tam Bahadur Tamang, human right activists Hari Narayan Shrestha, and ex-policeman Som Bahudur Tamang.

September

12       In Syangja,  Maoists looted gold ornaments from a resident of the Shekham VDC. The Maoists were also said to be forcibly collecting donations and other commodities from the local people.

16       In Inarwa some suspected Maoists looted more than Rs 60,000 by breaking into three houses in Itahari municipality and the Horposa VDC.

In Dhading, Maoist insurgents destroyed an abandoned and partially damaged police post at the Maidi VDC and distributed timber and other materials to the local people.

17      The insurgents abducted Krishna Man Shrestha, Vice - Chairman of the Changadha VDC of Nuwakot and Rohit Rai, a local NC leader but the VC was managed to escape and Rohit was released on September 18.

Some suspected Maoists abducted nine persons from the Birtamod, Bahundangi and Magurmadi areas of Jhapa.

18     Among the seven other persons abducted by the Maoists about a week earlier from the Bahundangi VDC, five were released recently.

The insurgents were also reported to have released one NC and five UML activists whom they had abducted a week earlier from Thumpokhara of Syangja.

19     The Maoist insurgents set fire to a vehicle of Radio Nepal at Satdobato in Lalitpur.

In Dhankuta, the Maoist insurgents locked 21 VDC offices and looted the entire documents of one VDC office.

20     Two Maoist insurgents were seriously injured when explosives they were carrying went off at  Langadi VDC in Parsa.

22   The Maoist insurgents cut off the topi and severed janai of about 20 students of the Ved Vidyashram of Achham.

In Syangja, the insurgents beat up Indra Prasad Pokharel, a NC leader, accusing him of being involved in financial irregularities.

In Udayapur, the insurgents robbed Rs 12,000 from an employee of the Self-Help Banking Program.

23      In Rolpa, the insurgents killed Nim Lal Rokka, a UML worker at the Jhenam VDC.

In Nuwakot, the insurgents punished UML worker, Kaile Giri, with a public beating on the charge of raping a 12 year old girl.

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