Nepal's Maoists: Running Out of Issues
On 6 September 2007, Home Minister of Nepal and senior leader of the Nepali Congress, Krishna Prasad Situala publicly confirmed the Nepali Congress' decision to support the Maoists' principle demand to declare Nepal as a Republic. The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) used the issue of declaring Nepal as a republic to cane the government. At present, there is no difference between the Nepali Congress and the Maoists. The Maoists have indeed virtually run out of issues given their failure to satisfy indigenous nationalities and Mahadeshis.
I. The Maoists' threats
Yet, on 9 September 2007, the CPN-Maoist supreme Prachanda threatened to quit the interim government and launch nationwide movement from 18 September 2007 if the Maoists' 22- point demands were not fulfilled before the Constituent Assembly elections. The demands include declaration of Nepal as a Republic, proportional electoral system, formation of an inquiry commission on involuntary disappearances, roundtable conference of all sections of the society including Janajatis and Madhesis, release of political detainees, start of the process for integrating the People's Liberation Army within the Nepali Army by forming a special cabinet committee, withdrawal of army from the royal palace and nationalisation of the properties of King Gyanandra.
There are few takers. First, the Maoist's have cried wolf for such a long time that no body takes their ultimatum seriously. Second, declaration of Nepal as a republic prior to the Constituent Assembly elections is an attempt to undermine peoples' will that Maoists claim to represent. Third, despite being part of the government, the Maoists continue to behave like an armed opposition group.
That the Maoists still maintaining armed groups is the only difference with other political parties. This will have serious implications on the outcome of the constituent assembly elections.
On 4 September 2007, the CPN-Maoist decided to resume its “kangaroo courts” across the country. The Maoists had shut down their socalled “Peoples' Courts” following signing a pact with the Seven Party Alliance which end the 10-year-old insurgency and facilitated them to join the government. Dr Baburam Bhattarai justified the reactivation of the Peoples' Courts by stating, "As the common people have failed to receive justice from the current state mechanism and action has not been taken against the corrupt and criminals”.
On 7 September 2007, the Maoist-affiliated All Nepal Peasants Association (Revolutionary) reportedly decided to resume the process of confiscating the land of the “landlords” and distribute to the landless people.
II. The atrocities by the Maoists
The Maoists behave as the law unto themselves. The Maoists' youth wing, Young Communist League (YCL) has been responsible for abductions, beatings and other atrocities. On 3 June 2007, the YCL activists abducted Sitaram Prasai, the former chairman of Nepal Cottage and Small Industry Development Bank and later handed him over to the police on corruption charges. On 9 June 2007, Prachanda stated that the YCL activists would continue to take actions against the “corrupt” people. The YCL has reportedly prepared a list of “corrupt persons” and threatened to take action against them from 18 September 2007 coinciding the proposed nationwide movement of the Maoists.
On 10 September 2007, the YCL activists allegedly tied up and beat a local businessman identified as Bhola Sah of Triyuga municipality-2 in Udayapur district on the charges of selling marijuana.
On 8 September 2007, alleged YCL cadres abducted folk singer Ram Prasad Khanal from Bhairahawa of Rupandehi district. The Maoists have accused him of supporting the royal regime. The NHRC has appealed for his release.
On 1 September 2007, the Maoist cadres reportedly assaulted a former Unified Marxist Leninist (UML) Member of Parliament, Dev Shankar Poudel and painted his face black during a UML programme at Sanghutar bazaar in Ramechhap district. Earlier on 31 July 2007, Maoists had beaten up Chitra Bahadur Karki, the district committee member of UML, when he was going to district headquarters Manthali.
No action can be taken by the law enforcement agencies or the civil administration even if the Maoists commit crimes and disturb the law and order. Any action against the Maoists invites reprisals and there is no protection against such reprisals.
On 29 August 2007, Young Communist League activists attacked the police team at Choharwa area in Siraha district, looted their arms and vandalised a police van in protest against the arrest of seven Maoist cadres including former chief of the Maoist ‘district people's government', Bishnu Bidhyadhar by the Armed Police Force. The APF personnel had reportedly seized three pistols and a homemade gun from the arrested Maoists.
Earlier on 2 August 2007, Maoist cadres thrashed policemen including a Sub-Inspector at a police post in remote Piplang village of Humla district for arresting a Maoist cadre identified as Nanda in connection with the murder of Nepali Congress- Democratic leader Netra Bahadur Shahi. The Maoists released the policemen only after they signed a document stating that the arrested Maoist cadre would be released.
On 1 August 2007, the Maoists called a strike in Dolakha, Sindupalchok, and Kavre districts following the Dolakha district administration's decision to initiate action against the Maoist cadres involved in the thrashing of Dolkha Chief District Officer Uddhav Bahadur Thapa and vandalizing of the district administration office on 29 July 2007. The Maoists demanded immediate release and withdrawal of public offence cases filed against their cadres arrested for thrashing CDO Thapa.
III. Conclusion: The lack of protection
In a major breakthrough, on 30 August 2007, the government and the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF) signed a 22-point agreement which included, among others, providing compensation to those killed during the Terai movement, guarantee of inclusion of Madhesis and other marginalised groups in the Constituent Assembly, granting autonomy to the states in the federal system. The Maoists smelt rat and Prachanda described the deal as “full of conspiracy”.
If absence of killings is the indicator of peace then Nepal is enjoying peace. Otherwise, anarchy has been prevailing in the country. Yet, in this situation of anarchy, National Human Rights Commission has not been functioning and there has been serious protection gap in Nepal. No new member has been appointed since the resignation of the members appointed by King Gyanendra on 9 July 2006. On 30 August 2007, the Constitutional Council recommended the names of former Chief Justice of Supreme Court Kedar Nath Upadhyaya as the new chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and Ram Nagina Singh, a former Supreme Court judge, Gauri Pradhan, a human rights activist, Lila Pathak, former joint secretary and Dr. KB Rokaya, a teacher by profession as its members. On 12 September 2007, the Parliamentary Special Hearing Committee unanimously approved their names.
On 12 September 2007, the Parliamentary Special Hearing Committee unanimously approved their names.
That Nepal did not have members of the NHRC during this crucial period of transition is indeed one of the most shameful events in Nepal.
Asian Centre for Human Rights consistently held that Nepal must establish accountability and the Maoists too like the security forces must be accountable for the atrocities including disappearances that they perpetrated and continue to perpetrate.