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Blackmail by Nepal's Maoists

On 19 December 2006, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) imposed a nationwide bandh (strike) protesting the interim government's decision to nominate ambassadors to 14 countries and appointment of the Chairperson and members of the National Human Rights Commission of Nepal. Thousands of armed Maoist cadres reportedly left their UN-monitored designated camps in protest. The CPN-Maoists also announced that it would launch a 10-day countrywide protest programme from 20 December 2006 if the government did not immediately withdraw all its decisions including the appointments, expansion of police posts and transfer and promotion of civil servants. The Maoists accused the government of taking “unilateral” decisions in violation of the Peace agreement of 21 November 2006.

While the Maoists might have legitimate concern over the appointment of the country's ambassadors, the decision of their cadres to leave the camps once again shows inflexibility and its determination to dictate the government of the day. In fact, such hardened position leaves little space for dialogue. The Maoist cadres would not have left the camps without the permission of their leadership. This threat belies the assertion of Maoists' supremo, Prachanda that the Maoists would not revert back to armed insurgency.

I. Why target the NHRC?

The most surprising protest has been against the appointment of the members of the NHRC. Former Chief Justice Bishwanath Upadhyaya, Gauri Pradhan and Lila Pathak were appointed to the NHRC on the recommendation of the Constitutional Council on 18 December 2006. Since the resignation of the NHRC members appointed by King Gyanendra on 9 July 2006, NHRC could not function effectively.

As on 23 October 2006, the National Monitoring Committee of the ceasefire between the government of Nepal and CPN-Maoist received 1,300 complaints since the signing of the 25-point ceasefire code of conduct in May 2006. About 75 per cent of these were against the Maoists. Most of the complaints were related to extortion, abduction, torture, seizure of property, display of arms in public places and parading of armed groups.

Or is it a case that the Maoists want to appoint their own nominees as members of the NHRC, just like what defamed King Gyanendra did, to silence the NHRC, which among others have been making noises about the recruitment of the child soldiers?

II. Recruitment of child soldiers by the Maoists

In blatant violation of the ceasefire, on 14 November 2006, Maoists reportedly abducted three students identified as Junu Maya Tamang, 14, Dil Maya Tamang, 14 and Phul Maya Tamang, 15 of Chautara Secondary School at Semjong in Dhading for recruitment. On 17 November 2006, the NHRC of Nepal confirmed that the CPN-Maoists were forcibly recruiting children into Peoples' Liberation Army. The Commission stated that the rebels either lured children with money or forcibly took them away from their classrooms. Earlier, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in his report of 26 October 2006 stated “There is increasingly strong evidence of the presence of children with the People's Liberation Army (PLA), the military wing of CPN-M, and that they are used as combatants, informants and in various logistical capacities.” The UNICEF reportedly documented 295 cases of child recruitment, 39 per cent of whom are girls, and out of which 137 have been active even after the signing of the ceasefire.

III. Armed Maoists: The main threat to peace and democratic Nepal

Since the signing of the ceasefire agreement between the Seven Party Alliance and the Maoists on 26 May 2006, armed Maoists cadres have emerged as the biggest obstacle to peace in Nepal. While the army returned to the barracks, the Maoists have been running a parallel “law enforcement” system across the country by “arresting” alleged offenders and delivering justice by sending them to “jails” or “labour camps”. 

The writ of the government of Nepal led by G P Koirala does not run beyond the Kathmandu valley. Even in the Kathmandu valley, according to OHCHR-Nepal, the CPN-Maoist held individuals in captivity. In September and October 2006, the OHCHR-Nepal visited eight places of detention and it reportedly received reports of at least seven other locations in Kathmandu Valley used by CPN-Maoist for interrogation.

The tripartite Agreement on Monitoring of the Management of Arms and Armies signed by the United Nations, the government of Nepal and the CPN-Maoist on 28 November 2006 sought to bring some semblance of law and order to an otherwise lawless situation.

The tripartite agreement provides that “Maoist army combatants and their weapons shall be confined within designated cantonment areas” under UN monitoring. “Each main cantonment site will be allowed 30 weapons of the same make and model to be used only for clearly defined perimeter security by designated guards”. The Agreement further states that “All Maoist army combatants will be registered at the main cantonment sites. This registration will include the provision of age, name, rank, responsibilities within unit/formation, date of entry into service and will provide the basis for a complete list of personnel.”

Yet, in blatant disregard for the Agreement on Monitoring of the Management of Arms and Armies, on 19 December 2006, thousands of Maoist cadres left their designated camps with their arms to demonstrate against the Government's decision to appoint ambassadors and NHRC members. According to reports, some 3,500 combatants from Chulachuli, Ilam and around 1,900 PLA personnel from two sub-camps in Morang have left their camps with arms. Majority of the PLA personnel, who left the camps with weapons, have reportedly been staying in locals' homes, thereby creating fear and insecurity among the public.

IV. Conclusion

The people of Nepal yearn for peace as the international community does. The Maoists are aware of the situation and have been virtually holding the government of GP Kiorala to ransom with virtual threat to return to war.

It might not be out of place to comprehend the reaction of the Maoists should they fail to get majority in the parliament. Holding free and fair elections in a country where unarmed political leaders belonging to the Seven Party Alliance will contest with the armed Maoists remains the most serious challenge. So far, the Maoists have only showed intransigence like the feudal lords. A democratic Nepal remains a far fetched dream.

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