By Ajit Kumar Singh
This article is the fifth in a series of joint productions of South Asian Outlook and IDN-InDepthNews, flagship of the International Press Syndicate. The writer is Research Fellow, Institute for Conflict Management.
NEW DELHI (IDN) – The Nepal Cabinet during a meeting on March 12, 2019, decided to ban the Netra Bikram Chand-led Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-Maoist-Chand). An aide to Prime Minister (PM) K.P. Sharma Oli stated: “After being briefed by the four security agencies, the Government concluded that the Chand party’s activities were more criminal than political: so it needs to be dealt with accordingly.”
A High Level Political Talks team formed under lawmaker Som Prasad Pandey had been asked to hold talks with CPN-Maoist-Chand. Though the team had managed to talk with some of the group’s central committee members, it could not speak directly with Chand.
On December 27, 2018, the talks team recommended that the Government continue its attempt engage Chand’s party in a dialogue, as it was a political outfit, but also noted: “It is an extremist political outfit and the government needs to take action against illegal activities of the group.”
The Chand faction has been found to be involved in several acts of violence in the recent past and is thought to be an emerging threat. Most recently, on March 13, 2019, suspected CPN-Maoist-Chand cadres carried out an explosion at the office of Bharatpur Metropolis-5, Torikhet in Chitwan District.
However, no casualty was reported. On March 8, 2019, two persons were injured in an improvised explosive device (IED) blast carried out by suspected CPN-Maoist-Chand cadres inside the residence of the Chairman of the Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies in Basundhara in Kathmandu.
Similarly, on February 22, 2019, at least three people were injured in an explosion at the entrance of the office of telecommunications service provider Ncell at Nakkhu in Lalitpur District. Soon after the blast, Police disclosed:
It is learnt that the party [CPN-MAOIST-Chand] had sought donation from Ncell some time ago. We suspect the explosion has been carried out in revenge. We, however, do not know whether Ncell paid the donation or not.
Owning up the responsibility of the February 22 incident, an unnamed CPN-Maoist-Chand leader claimed that his party targeted the private sector mobile company because it “failed to clear its tax liabilities even after the Supreme Court order.”
On February 22, 2019, a bomb disposal squad of the Nepali Army defused a pressure cooker bomb kept inside Angan restaurant at Kamaladi in Kathmandu.
The Nepal Government had delayed a conclusion on whether CPN-Maoist-Chand was a political outfit or a criminal (terror) group, but has now decided to act in view of the deteriorating security situation at the time when it is holding its second Nepal Investment Summit on March 29 and 30 in Kathmandu. The PM’s aide revealed, “Just ahead of the investment summit, such violent activities by the Chand group were sending a negative message across to investors.”
Formed on December 1, 2014, the CPN-Maoist-Chand has, since inception, been found engaged in violence. Indeed, amidst the sudden rise in incidents of violence targeting candidates and election campaigns during the first phase of Provincial and Parliamentary Elections held across 32 Hill Districts in six Provinces on November 26, 2017, the National Security Council (NSC) in a confidential report submitted on October 23, 2017, noted that CPN-Maoist-Chand was the major security threat to the elections scheduled on November 26 and December 7, 2017.
The report stated that the Chand-led group had formed a parallel People’s Government and People’s Court. Later, according to a secret circular of CPN-Maoist-Chand obtained by Republica on November 18, 2017, the party had directed its organization to prepare plans to foil the polls: “Our party comrades should resort to small and medium scale physical action in a responsible fashion but avoid causing human casualties.”
Not surprisingly, on November 24, 2017, Nepal’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA) instructed the Police to arrest top leaders of the CPN-Maoist-Chand. The instruction came in line with MoHA’s conclusion that the CPN-Maoist-Chand was a major security threat to the elections.
According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), 17 persons were injured in six incidents of bomb explosion and another 15 were injured in six incidents of clashes between political parties during the first phase. One person was killed and 26 were injured in five incidents of bomb explosion, and another six were injured in three incidents of clashes during the second phase. It is not clear, however, how many of these incidents were carried out by CPN-Maoist-Chand.
U.S. Department of State in its Country Report on Terrorism 2017 noted: Nepal did see an increase in incidents of terrorism against domestic targets, largely surrounding elections held in late 2017.
The Government of Nepal attributed the majority of the attacks to the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), a Maoist faction also known as the “Netra Bikram Chand Group” or “Biplav Group” that split from the mainstream Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Center) several years ago.
In response to these incidents, Nepal’s security organs largely directed their counterterrorism efforts against the Biplav Group, forming special teams to identify and arrest its leaders.
Not surprisingly, there was a rising demand to ban the group. Geja Sharma Wagle, a security expert, argued,
If the Government fails to undermine the activities of the [Chand] party, it could turn into a huge security threat. Similar lack of seriousness was shown by the then Government in the initial days of 1996 when the Maoists started their people’s war.
The Security Forces are expected to intensify their operations against the Chand faction. It will be interesting, however, to see how long the ban continues, given the Government’s visible reluctance before proscribing the group. [IDN-InDepthNews – 16 March 2019]
Photo: Basantapur Tower, one of the four red towers that King Prithvi Narayan Shah built delimiting the four old cities of the Kathmandu Valley namely, the Kathmandu or the Basantapur Tower, the Kirtipur Tower, the Bhaktapur Tower or Lakshmi Bilas, and the Patan or Lalitpur Tower. CC BY-SA 3.0
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