Nepali Times

Going nowhere

Monday, August 31st, 2015
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New Nepal BAN MAP

Indefinite shutdowns imposed by various political groups dissatisfied with the way future provinces are being carved in the new constitution crippled life across the country throughout August.

The Tarai districts are the most affected: two general strikes enforced by the Madhesi Front and the Tharuhat Struggle Committee have brought business, transportation and education to a grinding halt in the eastern and western plains for two straight weeks.

The Tharus had initially called a shutdown demanding a Tharuhat province only in Bardia and a few other districts. But when the major parties in Kathmandu failed to address their demands even when they increased the number of provinces to seven from six, they called an indefinite general strike from Nawalparasi to Kanchanpur.

In the central and eastern Tarai districts, an indefinite strike by the Madhesi parties was already ongoing and was in its 15th day on Monday. As the four parties rejected the Madhesi demand to halt the constitution writing process to create a conducive environment for talks, an end to suffering of common people is nowhere in sight.

In nine districts east of the Arun River, regional political groups demanding an autonomous Limbuwan state enforced strikes for six days in August. Even on Monday, public transport, schools and factories remained closed due to a strike by Federal Limbuwan Party.

With major border points closed, there is a looming shortage of petroleum in Kathmandu Valley. The Prithvi Highway connecting Kathmandu to Chitwan has not been blocked, but tankers carrying petrol, diesel and cooking gas are finding it difficult to reach Narayangad due to closures of Birgunj and Bhairawa borders.

Police are busy quelling protests in the daytime work into the night to escort convoys of vehicles up to Chitin so they can make their way to Kathmandu. The industrial corridors along Butwal, Simara and Itahari have all been badly hit.

According to the Department of Customs, more than 2,200 container trucks that were stranded had been escorted to Kathmandu from Birganj and Bhairawa during the latest shutdown. But more than 1,500 containers are still stuck there.

After violent clashes erupted in Birganj on Monday, local administration clamped a curfew.

 

 


‘Statute will not be delayed’

Sunday, August 30th, 2015
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UML leaders KP Oli and Bidya Bhandari after meeting with NC, UCPN (M) and MJF (D) leaders on Sunday. Photo: RSS

Four major political parties have decided to not suspend the constitution writing process – a precondition set by a coalition of Madhesi parties to sit in talks with the government.

A meeting of the NC, the UML, the UCPN (M) and the MJF (D) on Sunday decided to carry forward the constitution writing process and talks with the disgruntled parties simultaneously.

In response to a letter sent by Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, the Madhesi parties had put forth preconditions for talks like suspension of the constitution writing process, withdrawal of the army and commitment to honour the spirits of the Interim Constitution-2007 as well as the past pacts with them.
Ruling party leaders, however, say the army can be called back from the Tarai to create conducive environment for talks.

After protesters demanding a Tharuhat state killed eight policemen and a child in Kailali and riots broke out in Rautahat and Sarlahi last week, the government had deployed the army in these three Tarai districts. The Supreme Court later backed the government’s decision by scrapping a writ petition seeking a stay order on the army deployment.

In the Constituent Assembly (CA), debate on the draft constitution is ending today. After five days of debate on the draft, the CA secretariat has allotted a week’s time for further amendments to it. Top leaders say this period can be used to hold talks with the disgruntled parties and incorporate their views in the draft.

“We have agreed to address demands of the disgruntled parties without halting the constitution writing process,” UCPN (M) leader Narayan Kaji Shrestha told National News Agency. “One week allotted for amending the draft will suffice to do this.”

Apart from the Madhesi Front, PM Koirala has also written letters to Tharu, Janajati and Dalit leaders. But Mohan Baiday’s Maoist party that boycotted the last CA elections has not been invited for talks.


Getting away with murder

Sunday, August 30th, 2015
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A girl shows the room where SSP Laxman Neupane had hidden himself before being dragged out and lynched to death. Photo: Bachu BK

From the Nepali Press

Post Bahadur Basnet in www.setopati.com , 27 August

After protesters demanding a Tharuhat province murdered eight policemen and a child in Tikapur this week, a ‘progressive’ commentator tweeted that it was ‘an outburst of the long-suppressed anger of the Tharus’.

It is like saying that a husband who murdered his wife may have his reasons for doing so: ‘he would not have killed her if she had not cheated on him’.

This section of the intelligentsia that regards itself as ‘progressive’ argues that social injustice is the root cause of most violence. They believe that the oppressed cross a threshold where they can’t take injustice anymore and rise up.

So when Tharuhat protesters massacred police and a child in Tikapur, the ‘progressives’ heaved a sigh of relief. It was dramatic proof of the proletariat striking back. They argued that the murders finally woke up the state, and argued that constitution-drafting should be suspended to address the people’s aspirations for ethnicity-based states.

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A home-made weapon used by protesters to kill policemen. Photo: Bachu BK

The ‘progressive’ intelligentsia has justified violence as a means for the liberation of the oppressed ever since the Maoists waged what they dubbed as a ‘people’s war’. They said it was a just uprising against the structural violence of the state. The only way to end the conflict, they said was to fulfill their demands.

These intellectuals ended up becoming unofficial spokespersons of the Maoists. Not only did they justify violence, but they also proved that its relevance was not over as yet. Since these commentators appear in a Gandhian garb, their justification for Maoist violence carried more weight.

After the 2006 Democracy Movement nearly all civil society leaders, not just the ‘politically correct’ ones, became ‘revolutionaries’ overnight. They shed their neutrality and independence by moving beyond mediating, the radicals proceeded to radicalise society and convince the public that an equal society could only be forged through a violent uprising.

Society therefore began to believe that political violence was ok. The end justified the means. Such crimes would not be subject to the criminal justice system. After the war, some civil society leaders stood by army generals and officers charged with illegal detention and extra-judicial killings while other progressive intellectuals defended Maoist leaders facing charges of violation of human rights.

Some intellectuals even warned that punishing Maoist leaders or army generals for war crimes would jeopardise the peace process. The fact that not a singe general, Maoist leader or ministers in government ever had to face up to wartime atrocities encouraged impunity. This could be why Netra Bikarm Chanda is itching to start another war.

As violent protests erupt in the western plains, Bijaya Gachhadar finds it increasingly more difficult to stick to the agreement he signed. The Maoists are also under pressure from the extremists in their ranks. After going along with the NC-UML they now say that denying a Tharuhat province would be catastrophic.

What will happen if Kailali district with its mixed population of Tharus, Bahuns and Chhetris is placed in the Far West Province and not in Province 5 which stretches from Nawalparasi to Bardia, and which the Tharus consider their homeland?

Even if Kailali becomes part of a future Tharuhat Province, Bahuns and Chhetris will not lose anything. And if Kailali becomes part of the Far West province, the Tharus will lose nothing. They will still all be equal citizens of Nepal. Yet, the leaders of neither communities want to compromise.

NC leader Sher Bahadur Deuba is stoking the fire by insisting that not a single village of Kailali, let alone the whole district, can be separated from his Far West province. Maoist leader Baburam Bhattarai is pouring oil on the fire by saying that Kailali is the soul of the Tharuhat province and putting it in the Far West Province would be like “beheading the Tharus”.

The demands for the undivided Far West and the Tharuhat province are both offshoots of a radical interpretation of federalism, and Deuba and Bhattarai are trapped by their own rhetoric.Federalism in Nepal is nothing but an experiment in devolution, democracy and governance. It might work, or it might not. But it was cunningly linked with ‘ethnic liberation’ in our mixed society — people were made to believe that federalism would be panacea to their all problems. And any means, including murder, could be employed to attain it. In this state of impunity, political violence will continue, and tragedies like Tikapur will keep happening.

And our ‘progressives’ will keep finding excuses, saying it was just the justifiable anger of the oppressed. Even the murder of a two-year-old child can be justified.

To read the original article in Nepali, click here:

Also read:

Ground zero in Kailali, Om Astha Rai

A day after

Planning to kill

 


Tharus flee villages

Thursday, August 27th, 2015
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Only Tharu women, children and elderly are left in villages of Kailali district. Photo: Bachu BK

Bachu BK in Kailali

After the massacre of eight policemen and one 18 months old child in Tikapur, most Tharu youths have fled villages of Kailali district fearing arrests.

In villages adjacent to Tikapur, only women, children and elderly are seen these days. Youths have either fled villages or are recovering from injuries at various hospitals. “Young men are not here,” says Guna Das Chaudhary, an elderly medical shop owner in Manuwa village where thousands of protesters had gathered before advancing towards Tikapur. “We are all terrified.”

On Monday, thousands of protesters brandishing spears, knives and spades ran over police and Armed Police Force (APF) personnel killing SSP Laxman Neupane, inspector duo Keshav Bohara and Balram Bista, 18-months-old Tek Bahadur Saud and four other security personnel. A police constable, Janak Negi, succumbed to his injuries while undergoing treatment in Kathmandu last night.

adssfEven youths from the hill community have fled villages, fearing attacks by Tharu protesters. “Both communities are suspicious with each other,” says Naresh Malla of Joshipur village. In his village, the hill community has only 15 families and most of his friends have left for nearby towns.

After the Kailali carnage, the government has declared Tikapur and surrounding villages as a riot zone and has deployed the army there. The army, police and APF teams have been patrolling the area 24 hours. Police have arrested more than two dozens of injured protesters from hospitals, fueling fears among the Tharu youths that they might also be arrested.

“Badghar (ethnic organisation) had instructed all youths to take part in protests, they would otherwise have to pay a fine of Rs 1,000,” says  Sita Chaudhary of Manuwa village. “So, youths cannot stay on in villages.”


Planning to kill

Thursday, August 27th, 2015
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A policeman recovers a piece of burnt police vest worn by AFP constable Ram Bihari Chaudhary, who was burnt alive by protesters in Tikapur. Photo: Bachu Bik

From the Nepali Press

www.himalkhabar.com, 25 August

When Madhesi leaders Upendra Yadav, Rajendra Mahato and Amaresh Singh provoked Kailali’s ethnic Tharus to drive away ‘outsiders from their lands’ three weeks ago, supporters of the Tharuhat movement were divided about their response. Attacking ‘outsiders’ would have sparked ethnic violence.

However, when the a rally organised by hill settler supporters of the ‘Undivided Far-west’ province demanded came across Tharu protesters in Tikapur of Kailali on 21 August the situation nearly turned ugly. Police brought the situation under control by dispersing both groups of agitators, and the local administration got all parties to agree that future protests would be peaceful.

That night some Tharu leaders held a late night meeting in a village near Durgauli and planned to use violence to jolt the state and push through their agenda for an autonomous Tharu province. But they were divided over their target: some wanted to attack supporters of the ‘Undivided Far-west’ while others wanted to attack the police. They finally agreed to target the police because killing Far West supporters would spark communal violence.

Tharuhat Struggle Committee’s Kailali district coordinator Resham Chaudhary, Birman Chaudhary of the UCPN(M) and Phul Man Chaudhary and Nep Bahadur Chaudhary of the Baidya faction of the CPN-M were at the meeting. Birman was an elected member of the previous Constituent Assembly while Phul Man contested the second CA elections from the UCPN (M).  Nep Bahadur is a former Maoist guerrilla commander and is now Kailali in-charge of the CPN-M.

“After that meeting, they gathered former Maoist guerrillas in Tikapur from nearby districts and scouted the places where they could trap us,” said a top police source. “But our intelligence failed us, and we didn’t know it beforehand.”

The group planned to trick the police into believing that their rally would be peaceful. A day before the killings,Tharu leaders held an all-party meeting in presence of CDO Raj Kumar Shrestha and issued a press statement that they would not resort to violence. Birman and Nep Bahadur were signatories.

“That is why we were not on high alert because we did not expect any violence,” said a top police officer. “But the way police officers have been killed suggests involvement of trained ex-guerrillas.”

Officials claim that ex-guerrillas who are now affiliated with Netra Bikram Chanda and Mohan Baidya’s Maoist parties were involved in the killings and that even the UCPN (M) allowed their Tharu cadres to protest.


It’s not collateral damage

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015
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Netra Saud shows where his son Tek Bahadur was shot dead.

Bachu BK in Tikapur

Tek Bahadur Saud was not old enough to understand what was happening that afternoon. Unaware of violent protests near his house in Tikapur, he was happily playing in the courtyard.

All of a sudden, there were gunshots and Tek Bahadur fell to the ground. His father Netra Saud, an Armed Police Force (APF) soldier, rushed him inside. When he laid Tek Bahadur on the bed, he realised that his son was dead. A bullet had hit the back of his head.

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18 months old Tek Bahadur Saud was shot dead.

When the news about the Karnali carnage spread on Monday, many thought the death of 18 months old Tek Bahadur was a case of collateral damage. But Tek Bahaudur’s parents claimed that protesters intentionally targeted him.

Netra, posted at the Tikapur-based Ugratara battalion of the APF, was on duty that day. When Tharuhat protesters started attacking security personnel with spears, axes and batons just 300 meters away from his house, Netra returned home to make his family feel safe. He had no idea protesters would turn up there as well.

Durga Saud, Netra’s sister, was also on the courtyard. She saw a protester pointing a revolver at Tek Bahadur. “I heard five gunshots, and one of them was intentionally targeted at the child,” she says.

Netra says the protester who shot his son dead must have been a trained fighter. “The way he shot my son dead from 30 feet away shows he was not an ordinary villager,” he says. “He must have excelled in using guns.”

Netra claims that the shooter used the revolver snatched away from the APF personnel. Neighbors say the shooter must have attacked Netra’s house knowing that he is serves the APF. His elder brother Purna Bahadur Saud is also a DSP.

The child’s mother Yashoda has been weeping ever since. A pall of gloom has descended in the whole neighborhood.


A day after

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015
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An injured policeman at Kohalpur Teaching Hospital. Photo: Keshav Rana

A day after seven security personnel including a top police officer and a two-year-old boy were killed in Kailali, the district torn between supporters of the Tharuhat and the undivided Far West is still tense on Tuesday. Supporters of the undivided Far West province have torched properties of Tharu leaders, raising fears about communal tension. But Tharu protesters have stayed back. The local administration has imposed curfew in Tikapur, Dhangadhi and Attariya areas.

Home Minister Bam Dev Gautam has claimed that the Kailali carnage was premeditated, but Tharu leaders are claiming otherwise. They say they had no plans to attack security personnel but ‘others’ had infiltrated among them. Security officials and some Tharu leaders have informed Nepali Times that cadre of Netra Bikram Chanda’s Maoist party killed SSP Laxman Neupane, inspector duo Keshav Bohara and Balram Bista, apart from four policemen and APF soldiers, by infiltrating among Tharu demonstrators. Chanda had boycotted the Constituent Assembly (CA) elections and appears hell-bent on foiling the constitution writing process.

Chanda might have masterminded the Kailali carnage, but the lack of coordination between two security forces also seems to have worsened the situation.  Interviews with injured policemen and Armed Police Force (APF) personnel make it clear:  they were together on the field but had no coordination with each other.

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Makendra Adhikari

Police constable Makendra Adhikari, who survived the attack by protesters wielding axes, spears and baton, is now receiving treatment at Kohalpur Teaching Hospital. He says: “SSP Neupane was trying to pacify protesters. He asked us to open fire only when protesters dragged him down. But we just had tear gas and rubber bullets. And it was too late to control the crowd by using tear gas and rubber bullets.”

He adds, “We sought help from APF soldiers who were backing us from behind. They had bullets and could easily disperse the agitators. But they did not open fire.”

APF constable Surendra Hamal, who is receiving treatment at the same hospital, says they could not defend themselves as they had not been ordered to open fire. “Protesters had outnumbered us, and they were wielding axes, spears and spades but we were not instructed to open fire,” he says. “So when they started killing us, we ran away.”

Keshav Rana in Banke

 


 

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