By S. Binodkumar Singh*
On January 26, 2022, Provincial Assembly Member Ashok Yadav was injured when cadres of the C.K. Raut-led Janamat Party attacked his vehicle in front of the Janaki temple in Janakpurdham city of Dhanusa District. Yadav’s vehicle was attacked and vandalized by Janamat Party cadres in front of the Janaki temple while he was going to cast his vote in the National Assembly (NA) election.
On January 26, 2022, Ganesh Prasai, the Mayor of the Harion Municipality of Sarlahi District, suffered head injuries when Janamat Party cadres attacked his vehicle in Janakpurdham city. Deputy Mayor Renuka Poudel who was accompanying him, escaped unhurt. According to the Police, Raut’s cadres attacked Prasai’s vehicle while they were on their way to cast their votes in the NA Election.
On January 1, 2022, 16 persons were injured in a clash between Security Force (SF) personnel and Janamat Party cadres, after the latter tried to obstruct the East-West Highway at Godar Chowk in Ganeshman Charnath Municipality, Dhanusa District.
According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), since the beginning of the year, 18 persons have been injured in ongoing protests in the Terai region (data till February 20, 2022). At least eight persons were injured during protests in Terai region in 2021.
The Janamat Party, expressing solidarity with the ‘Farmers Movement’, called an indefinite strike on the East-West Highway in the Terai region during the day-time, from December 30, 2021. The farmers in the region are demanding proper distribution of and access to fertilizers and other facilities. Further, on February 9, 2022, C.K. Raut warned that his party would obstruct local level elections if the farmers’ demands were not met. He declared that, though his party could not obstruct local level elections all across the country, it would hamper the process in the Terai region. Stating that the Janamat Party was not against elections, Raut asserted that the Government should at least meet the demands raised by the protesting farmers before going for elections. On February 7, 2022, the Government announced local elections to be held on May 13, 2023, in a single phase.
Moreover, opposition to the January 17, 2022, decision of the Province 2 Assembly, which voted to rename the Province as Madhesh Province and to make Janakpur its permanent capital, has also started. The protestors want Birgunj as capital of the Province, not Janakpur.
It is useful to recall here that, protesting against the adoption of the new Constitution on September 20, 2015, the Madhesis had blockaded border points with India from September 23, 2015, and only ended the blockade on February 5, 2016, after 135 days. According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), 32 persons, including 29 civilians and three SF personnel, were killed in blockade-related violence at that time. Further, during the insurgency (February 13, 1996 – November 21, 2006), the Terai region recorded 3,194 fatalities (467 civilians, 724 SF personnel and 2,003 Maoist cadres).
The current flare-up in the region is, therefore, dangerous and requires immediate attention.
Meanwhile, the ongoing protest demonstrations, a few of them violent, on several issues in other parts of the country also have the potential to create an environment that could be exploited by fringe and extremist elements. In the most violent protest in 2021, on December 30, 2021, six women farmers were injured in Police action in the course of a nationwide ‘Farmers Movement’ in Saptari District.
Political instability is the main reason behind these protests. After a great deal of political theatrics through 2020 and the first half of 2021, a new Government was formed on July 13, 2021, with the Nepali Congress (NC) leader Sher Bahadur Deuba assuming the office of Prime Minister (PM). The ruling alliance comprises the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist Centre (CPN-Maoist Centre), Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Socialist (CPN-Unified Socialist), Janata Samajwadi Party-Nepal (JSP-N) and Rastriya Janamorcha. Interestingly, since the beginning, the parties within the new ruling alliance have been at odds on several issues, most prominently on the issue of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a US Government-backed USD 500 million project to improve infrastructure in Nepal. While Deuba has proposed that it should be ratified in the current parliamentary session, as the US is chafing over its delay, CPN-Maoist Centre Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal aka Prachanda, CPN-Unified Socialist Chairman Madhav Kumar Nepal and JSP-N President Upendra Yadav continue to oppose the proposal, arguing that MCC should not be endorsed without examining the Jhalanath Khanal-led three-member task force report and executing amendments based on its recommendations. A meeting of the CPN-Maoist Centre Central Parliamentary Party on February 16, 2022, concluded that the MCC cannot be passed without amendment and decided to quit the Government if it was. Later, in the day, leaders and members of the CPN-Maoist Centre organized protests and demonstrations across the country warning the Government not to ratify the MCC. On the same day, CPN-Unified Socialist decided to vote against MCC in Parliament. A CPN-Unified Socialist leader said, “We will not allow the MCC to be tabled in the Parliament. And if it is tabled, we will vote against it.”
Moreover, on February 16, 2022, six communist parties – the Mohan Baidhya-led Communist Party of Nepal-Revolutionary Maoist (CPN-Revolutionary Maoist), the Netra Bikram Chand-led Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-Maoist-Chand), the Rishi Kattel-led Nepal Communist Party (NCP), the Biswobhakta Dulal aka Aahuti-led Baigyanik Samajwadi Party (BSP), the Karnajit Budhathoki-led Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist Center Socialist (CPN-Maoist Center Socialist) and the C.P. Gajurel-led Deshbhakta Jana Ganatantrik Morcha-Nepal (DJGM-Nepal) – called a bandh in protest against MCC.
MCC, created by the US Congress in January 2004, is an independent US foreign assistance agency that aims to lead the fight against global poverty. It’s Nepal Compact is designed to improve the availability of electricity and increase road maintenance to advance connectivity, drive growth, and lay the foundation for new investment.
On the positives, through 2021, no insurgency linked fatality was recorded in Nepal. The country had just one insurgency-linked fatality (a civilian) in 2020. There were 13 fatalities in 2019 (three civilians, two SF personnel and eight extremists). Violence had surged in 2019 after a lull of almost six years, between 2013 and 2018, during which Nepal recorded just two fatalities (both civilians, in 2013). All 13 fatalities in 2019 were linked to the CPN-Maoist-Chand. The lone 2020 fatality was also linked to this group. CPN-Maoist-Chand was formed on December 1, 2014, after a split from the Mohan Baidya-led Communist Party of Nepal-Revolutionary Maoist (CPN-Revolutionary Maoist).
the CPN-Maoist-Chand will seek to address all its political issues through dialogue,the CPN-Maoist-Chand will carry out all its political activities in a peaceful manner, andthe Nepal Government will lift a ban it has imposed on the party’s activities, free all cadres from jail and withdraw court cases against them.After facing immense pressure from the Security Forces, the CPN-Maoist-Chand reached a three-point agreement with the Government on March 4, 2021. The agreement stated, inter alia:
Though the Government, according to the agreement, lifted the ban on the party on March 4, 2021, and the Home Ministry directed the Police to release all cadres of the party, reports indicate that around 2,500 cadres are still lodged in different jails. The Government failed to comply with the terms of the agreement as local security agencies warned against rushing the decision to release cadres due to two reasons:
The Chand faction cadres have not surrendered their arms and ammunition so far, and have only announced their intention to participate in mainstream politics
The Chand faction cadres may tie-up with the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist Centre leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal and the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist rebel leader Madhav Kumar Nepal in the elections of 2023.
Significantly, there is no mention in the agreement about the party surrendering its arms.
The delay in the full implementation of the agreement has caused resentment in the Chand and this has been articulated on several occasions. On July 4, 2021, Khadga Bahadur Bishwakarma, CPN-Maoist-Chand spokesperson, expressed concerns over the Government ‘indifference’ towards the agreement. The continuing delay remains an issue of concern.
On the other hand, CPN-Maoist-Chand cadres persist in extorting money from people. On January 23, 2022, CPN-Maoist-Chand cadres sent letters to the committees of Bhajani, Ghodaghodi, and Pandaoun forest communities in Kailali District demanding ‘donations’ for the party. According to sources, the party cadres collected NPR 300,000 from the Laxmi Community, NPR 200,000 from the Saraswati Community, NPR 250,000 from the Sayapatri Community, NPR 120,000 from the Soniya Community, NPR 50,000 from Ghodtal Community and NPR 20,000 from the Sadepani Community. Separately, on February 1, 2022, CPN-Maoist-Chand cadres smeared soot on Assistant Forest Officer Bishworaj Pandit’s face at the Pachmudiya Sub-division Office in Kailali District. According to Pandit, he was abused for raising his voice against the donation drive that the party had launched in the region.
Meanwhile, on January 12, 2022, Police received a First Information Report (FIR) in a conflict-era case of enforced disappearance in Dang District. The District Police Office registered the complaint by Krishna Chaudhary from Ghorahi Sub-Metropolitan City-17, whose husband Birju had allegedly been ‘disappeared’ by the then Royal Nepal Army on March 27, 2002, on the charge of being a cadre of the then Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-Maoist). He has not been traced since. This is the first FIR to be registered after the formation of two transitional justice commissions in 2015. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Commission for the Investigation of Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP) were formed on February 9, 2015, to probe instances of serious violations of human rights and to determine the status of those who disappeared in the course of the armed conflict between the State and the then CPN-Maoist, between February 13, 1996, and November 21, 2006.
Significantly, on December 17, 2021, the Government decided to provide over NPR 2 million in compensation to 29 conflict victims. Meanwhile, on February 6, 2022, CIEDP Chairman Yubaraj Subedi announced that the Government had decided to provide economic relief of NPR 1 million per person to the 93 nearest of kin of those people identified as disappeared during the decade-long armed conflict.
Despite these positive developments, persisting instability in mainstream politics has the potential to spiral out of control, threatening the hard-won peace in the country. Unless the political class resolves its bickering, Nepal is unlikely to remain turmoil free.
*S. Binodkumar Singh
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management