The People's War in Nepal: Some disturbing trends.
It is now three years since the people's war movement started in Nepal. What began
as a sporadic and unconnected killing of government officials and Nepali Congress workers in various parts of the country is now growing and if left unchecked has the potential to become a regular insurgency. The hilly terrain, backwardness of the people, lack of communications, ethnic rivalries and above all, the absence of a stable
government at Kathmandu are ideal ingredients for the movement to expand and attract recruits. One well-known authority on Nepali politics, Prof. Paramanand of Delhi University, described the movement as an "ill organised terrorist organisation not bothered about ideology and carrying out killings for no concrete purpose." We agree that it is just a terrorist movement based on a thin veneer of ideology. It has
no coordinated long term strategy. The weapons used are primitive and the attacks lack sophistication. It is not led by any charismatic leader. There are no external players yet. But recent incidents show some disturbing trends which need to be examined.
To celebrate the anniversary, the people's war movement of the Nepal Communist Party (Maoist) on February 13, 1999 indulged in bomb throwing and distribution of pamphlets in several parts of the country. One major incident, first in the district of
Taplejung and close to the Tibetan border was the throwing of a bomb at the District Police Office. In Khotang, bombs were thrown at the District Court, the District Development Office and the Land Tax office. In Rolpa which has had a history of Maoist attacks before, 14 police posts were attacked simultaneously. Sporadic incidents were also reported at Dhading, Gorkha, Kanchanpur, Jumla, Bara, Siraha
and Birgunj. This was the first time that the terrorists made a spectacular show of strength in terms of space, number and intensity.
The most serious incident that occurred recently on March 3 was in Dang, a place close to the UP border, where forty armed cadres attacked a police post at Chiraghat, Dang and decamped with six rifles, one pistol and other weapons. Several Policemen were killed. This attack was similar to the one in October last year when the police post at Janakpur was attacked and one constable was killed and two others seriously injured. The injured had to be airlifted to Kathmandu for immediate treatment.
Other recent incidents include:
* Bombs were exploded at the residence of the Home Secretary, Padma Prasad Pokhrel, at Sinamangal in Kathmandu on March 2.
* Two members of People's war movement were killed on Feb. 18 when they clashed with Police in the Pattharkot of Sarlahi District.
* Seven persons were killed by indiscriminate firing by the terrorists at Harjang, Rolpa district on March 11.
* Seven terrorists were killed in two separate incidents in police encounters at Chingwang and Simli in Rukum district on the same day, March 11.
* Four Maoists were killed at Kyaneshwor, Sindhuli district on the same day (March 11)
* 5 Kgs of RDX with detonators and remote control equipment were recovered from a person at Naxal in Kathmandu.
The Maoist paper Jana Awhan termed the movement, a "war of liberation." It called for the unity of the people against the "reactionary, opportunist, revisionist and neo-revisionist " forces. In another twist besides fighting against feudalism, imperialism
and expansionism, it also called for the liberation of "different classes, ethnic, indigenous and other communities." Thus it is not only sought to be a classic class war, but also involves the liberation of various ethnic communities. In a country where the ethnic communities are riven by rivalry and mutual animosity, the call for liberation of ethnic communities will find sympathetic response.
Prachand, the General Secretary of the NCP (Maoist) and chief of the so-called military commission in a statement through Janadesh, justified the killings of
Policemen at Dang and warned of actions against higher officials if the "reign of terror is not stopped by the reactionary government."
The individual incidents except for the one at Dang are not serious, but taken together, they show some disturbing trends.
* For the first time, the people's war movement made a coordinated attack at different places spread all over Nepal.
* Earlier, the incidents were mostly in remote and least populated areas of Nepal like Rukum, Dolpa, Salyan etc. Now it has spread spatially in all directions affecting districts bordering India (Janakpur of Dhanusha district, Birgunj of Parsa district, Sarlahi district and Dang) and Taplejung bordering Tibet.
* The attacks have been selective on Police posts and on government officials.
* The Capital is not safe any longer as seen from the March 2 incident. It would mean that the group has managed to get a foothold within the capital with active support from some fringe elements of ML and UML.
* Discovery of RDX, detonators and remote controlled devices at Kathmandu adds a new dimension to the movement. It is not clear yet whether the RDX was meant for the people's movement. It could be one of those regularly recovered from terrorists on transit to India from Pakistan.
* The inability of the Police to deal effectively with the terrorists is another matter of concern. The politicians do not seem to be unduly perturbed by the killings. If there
is one politician who takes seriously the incidents it is the Prime minister G.P. Koirala himself and he alone cannot solve the problem, unless all the parties those in government and in opposition work together and work out a strategy.
* Countering terrorism is always a dirty job and the Police have already come in for criticism for human rights violations.
* Though there is no hard evidence, some link appears to have been established with other ethnic groups like Nepal Utpidit Dalit Jatiya Mukti Samaj ( Nepal Depressed and Exploited Class Liberation Society), who in their annual convention in Kathmandu called for a radical change, from the liberation of ethnic communities to a cultural revolution, unity of depressed classes and linked them to the anti feudal and anti imperialist campaign.
* Some tentative links appear to have been established by the group with the extremist groups of West Bengal. Links with the extremists in north Bihar cannot be ruled out.
The Police in Nepal have managed the situation well so far. In the process they have taken some casualties. The army has not been called out. If the movement intensifies, sooner or later, the army has to get involved. A state of lawlessness already prevails
in the northern regions of Bihar. The ISI of Pakistan is also very active in the border regions.
Intensification of the people's movement in the Terai regions of Nepal will add to lawlessness on both sides of the border.
So far the movement has had only a "nuisance" value in Nepal. But as said earlier, it needs to be checked lest it grows into an insurgency movement affecting the security of both Nepal and India.