By S. Binodkumar Singh*
On November 25, 2020, two cadres of the outlawed Netra Bikram Chand-led Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-Maoist-Chand) were arrested on charges of carrying out the explosion at the Tapli Municipality office of Udayapur District in Province No. 1 on November 22. No one was injured in the incident.
On November 23, 2020, Police arrested four cadres of the CPN-Maoist-Chand from the Deurali area of Pokhara city in Kaski District, Province No. 4. The arrested persons are Kumar Pariyar, Yam Prasad Bhattarai, Kali Bahadur Pandey and Bishal Shrestha.
On November 22, 2020, a CPN-Maoist-Chand cadre, Dipendra Singh Airee (22), was arrested while he was distributing flyers along the Brahma Dev Highway in Kanchanpur District, Province No. 7.
On November 20, 2020, two CPN-Maoist-Chand cadres were arrested from Jwagal in Lalitpur Metropolitan City, Lalitpur District, Province No. 3, on charges of extorting money from businessmen and industrialists. Prem Darnal (41) and Sanjib Nepali (39), who were arrested, are members of the party’s ‘central department of finance’.
On November 11, 2020, Police arrested four CPN-Maoist-Chand cadres from Kathmandu city, Province No. 3, on extortion charges. Those arrested were identified as Bintos Silwal (33), Ramdal Shrestha (31), Tirtha Man Tamang (51) and Nandu Raj Acharya (42).
On November 5, 2020, the Armed Police Force (APF) arrested two CPN-Maoist-Chand cadres, Khem Pradhan and Tikaram Chaudhary, in Kathmandu city and recovered leaflets, banners, three mobile phones, and extortion documents from them.
According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), since March 12, 2019, when the CPN-Maoist-Chand was banned, at least 242 leaders and cadres of the outfit have been arrested across the country (data till November 29, 2020). Prominent CPN-Maoist-Chand leaders arrested include ‘central commander’ Hemanta Prakash Oli (arrested on March 23, 2019); ‘central leader’ Nar Bahadur Karki (June 24, 2019); ‘central committee member’ Gunaraj Lohani (October 22, 2019); ‘central committee member’ Chudamani Oli (November 8, 2019); ‘provincial leader’ Sitadevi Mahara, (December 14, 2019); ‘treasurer’ Arjun Katwal (February 4, 2020); ‘provincial leader’ Indal Prasad Sah (February 12, 2020); ‘politburo member’ Anil Sharma aka Birahi, (May 5, 2020) and ‘central member’ Om Prakash Pun (July 15, 2020).
Moreover, one District in-charge and seven cadres of the CPN-Maoist-Chand have been killed in various operations across the country during this period. The last of these eight killings was reported on July 10, 2019, when CPN-Maoist-Chand cadre Nir Kumar Rai was killed in an exchange of fire between the Police and CPN-Maoist-Chand cadres in Bhojpur District, Province No. 1.
However, despite the Nepal Government’s continuous clampdown on the CPN-Maoist-Chand, the group continued to engage in violence.
On January 15, 2020, a bomb exploded at the residence of Shobha Kanta Dhakal in Baluwatar area of Katmandu District in Province No. 3. The glass windows of the house and a parked vehicle inside the compound were damaged in the blast, though nobody was hurt. CPN-Maoist-Chand took responsibility for the blast.
On January 26, 2020, an explosive device was detonated at the project site of the under-construction 900-megawatt Arun III Hydropower Project in the Sankhuwasabha District of Province No. 1. Police suspect the explosion was carried out by CPN-Maoist-Chand cadres, as the hydropower project has repeatedly faced such attacks, with the blame often going to the group.
On March 11, 2020, CPN-Maoist-Chand cadres exploded an improvised explosive device (IED) at an under-construction house belonging to former Minister for Communications and Information Technology Gokul Prasad Baskota, in Madhyapur Thimi, Bhaktapur District, Province No 3. No injuries were reported as no workers were present at the site. However, the window glasses of two houses in the neighbourhood were damaged in the explosion.
On November 22, 2020, a bomb went off at the help desk area of the Tapli Municipality office in Udayapur District, Province No. 1. The explosion damaged equipment in the offices, including computers, printers, cabinets and sofas. No group or individual claimed responsibility for the action. However, Police suspect that the explosion was carried out by CPN-Maoist-Chand cadres.
According to the SATP database since March 12, 2019, the day CPN-Maoist-Chand was banned, the group has been involved in at least seven incidents of violence resulting in the death of two civilians, two Security Force (SF) personnel and eight of its own cadres (data till November 29, 2020).
CPN-Maoist-Chand was formed on December 1, 2014, after splitting from the Communist Party of Nepal (Revolutionary Maoist) headed by Mohan Baidya. Soon after, it initiated violence across the country. According to the SATP database, between January 19, 2015, the day of the first reported incident of violence by the outfit, and March 12, 2019, the day it was banned, the group was involved in at least 32 incidents of violence, resulting in the death of one civilian and injuries to 19 others, including 17 civilians and two Policemen, across the country.
The Government had attempted to hold talks with its leadership before banning the outfit. On August 25, 2018, for instance, the Government formed a five-member High-Level Political Talks Team led by Nepal Communist Party (NCP) lawmaker Som Prasad Pandey. However, the team couldn’t even initiate the process, as Chand paid no heed to repeated approaches for talks by the team. Even after banning the group, the Government has been making efforts to bring the outfit to the negotiation table. On October 24, 2019, Minister of Communications and Information Technology Gokul Prasad Baskota, in a press meet at the Ministry, stated that dialogue with CPN-Maoist-Chand was possible if the group accepted the Constitution. He urged the party to give up violence and accept the Constitution, which had ensured almost all rights, including political, social and other rights.
Separately, on January 11, 2020, the Co-Chairman of the Nepal Communist Party (NCP), Pushpa Kamal Dahal, urging CPN-Maoist-Chand cadres to join the ruling NCP without any delay declared, “I urge members of Chand-led party not to delay to join our party. The Communist parties should join hands together to successfully achieve socialism in the country.”
Meanwhile, in a statement issued by the group, on October 21, 2020, CPN-Maoist-Chand announced a week-long protest against the Government from October 31 to November 5, citing the poor response to the COVID-19 crisis. The group also accused the Government of its involvement in corruption. In the statement, the group accused the Government of being irresponsible towards the people and the nation, stating that its actions had threatened nationality, democracy and public life, making these more vulnerable.
As the CPN-Maoist-Chand group has been refusing to come to the negation table, Minister for Home Affairs Ram Bahadur Thapa, on October 16, 2020, in an indirect reference to the outfit, without naming it, observed,
Some underground forces are launching extortion drives, bringing hurdles to economic development and working against the people’s rights to live with freedom by posing a challenge to the country’s constitution.
CPN-Maoist-Chand has suffered a blow to its morale in recent days, as the Government continues its crackdown against the group. It has lost many of its cadres while a large number of party leaders and cadres are already in jail. However, with the CPN-Maoist-Chand refusing to negotiate and continuing its violent and disruptive activities, there is a risk to the new Constitution and the newly established federal republic system in the country. With rising political instability in the country, there is always a lurking danger of escalation of violence by opportunistic formations such as the Chand group.
*S. Binodkumar Singh
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management