Wednesday, February 02, 2005

ASSESSMENT: Crackdown on Democracy in Nepal as Insurgents Rush for Shelter in India

+ Diplomatic observers in New Delhi say the events in Nepal could lead to a sudden deterioration in relations with India as the Nepalese Maoists have started taking shelter in India and the issue may be discussed on the sidelines of the upcoming SAARC summit in Dhaka. Indian officials said they had received reports that senior Maoist leaders had crossed over into India shortly after the crackdown. These officials say that one of the most wanted Maoist leader, Baburam Bhattarai, is reportedly hiding in Bihar.+

02/02/2005

Crackdown on Democracy in Nepal as Insurgents Rush for Shelter in India
By Arun Rajnath

NEW DELHI: Nepalese Maoists and insurgent leaders have crossed over into India after King Gyanendra sacked the Deuba government, declared a state of emergency and assumed power on Tuesday, Indian officials say.

The Nepalese king took power for the next three years and placed many politicians under house arrest saying the leadership had failed to hold polls or restore peace amid an escalating civil war with Maoist rebels.

Reuters reported that fixed and mobile phone networks in what is one of the world's poorest nations were apparently shut down and communications links with the rest of the world disrupted. International flights were turned back from Kathmandu airport, and Nepalese news Web sites went down, although road links with India remained open. The airport was opened late on Tuesday and a state-run Royal Nepal Airlines flight arrived in the Indian capital. It was not known when other flights would resume. Sacked Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba was Nepal's 13th premier in its 14 turbulent years as a constitutional monarchy. Nepal has had no parliament since 2002. In a strongly worded statement, India said the move would bring the monarchy and mainstream parties into direct confrontation and would strengthen the Maoists.

Diplomatic observers in New Delhi say the events in Nepal could lead to a sudden deterioration in relations with India as the Nepalese Maoists have started taking shelter in India and the issue may be discussed on the sidelines of the upcoming SAARC summit in Dhaka.

Indian officials said they had received reports that senior Maoist leaders had crossed over into India shortly after the crackdown. These officials say that one of the most wanted Maoist leader, Baburam Bhattarai, is reportedly hiding in Bihar.

Likewise Ram Bahadur Thapa, (who has Badal, Lakhan, Bhimsen and Prem as aliases) and who is also a ‘Politburo and Standing Committee’ member and incharge of special central command has also entered India. Krishna Bahadur Mahara alias Amar Singh, who acts as the Maoists’ spokesperson and is incharge of the ‘Foreign Section (India)’ may also cross over to India.

Other top-level commanders of the insurgents include among others, Yan Prasad Gautarri alias Alok, Chitranarayan Shrestha, Shashi Shrestha, Hisila Yani, Man Bahadur Mahara, Santhosh Bura, Lekhraj Bhatt, CP Gajurel.

In the political wing, the important Maoist leaders include Comrade Parvati (a nom de guerre of Baburam Bhattarai’s wife Hsila Yemi), Matrika Yadav, Deb Bahadur Gurung, Krishna Dhoj Khadka, Rekha Sharma, Rabindra Shrestha, Bamdev Chhetri and Mumaram Khanal are among the Wanted List. All of them are soon expected to enter Bihar or the Terai region of Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal.

A former Director General of the Border Security Force, Prakash Singh told the South Asia Tribune: “Nepalese Maoists have made their bases in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal. These Indian States have common border with Nepal.”

“Nepal has been requesting India to initiate action against these Maoists who have close links with the Indian Naxalites, but nothing concrete has been done so far. Nepalese Maoists come here, they stay here, get arms and ammunitions from their counterparts and return to their original bases in Nepal,” he said.

Mr. Singh says: “The Nepalese King has declared emergency mainly because of the failure of the Deuba Government to tackle the Maoists. Some elements in the Deuba Government had their sympathies with the Maoists. It is a well known fact that Nepalese Maoists usually hide in Bihar and Terai region of Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal.”

The Terai is a narrow belt of land between the foothills of Garhwal and Kumaon comprising districts of Nainital, Bijnor, Pilibhit, Rampur and Shahjahanpur. Tharu and Boksa tribals originally inhabited it. It was full of dense forests, malarial swamps and wild animals, including tigers, leopards, bears, wild boars and elephants. The tribal eked out a living out of fruit of the forest.

Baburam Bhattarai heads the political wing of the Maoists called the United People’s Front. Bhattari also has many aliases including Lal Singh, Jitbir, Mukti Manab. As Politburo and Standing Committee member he is reportedly responsible for planning and foreign affairs. He was also a co-coordinator of the dialogue team in 2003 formed to talk with the Nepalese government. In the Central Committee meeting of the Maoists in September 2004, he was given the charge of the mid central command.

The open border between India and Nepal is permitting Nepalese Maoist guerrillas to evade counter-insurgency operations in their homeland. The Maoists are infiltrating India mainly through border areas in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Uttaranchal, West Bengal and Sikkim. Recently, arrested militants have disclosed that arms training are being conducted in the forests of Bagha in the West Champaran district of India.

Authorities in India believe that the increased presence of left-wing extremist groups in the north, specifically the Naxalites and the Maoist Communist Center (MCC), are due to the Maoist infiltration.

One of the top ideologues of the Nepalese Maoists, Baburam Battarai, now reportedly hiding in Bihar, was educated at Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University. Battarai is believed to have close links with the MCC and the People's War Group (PWG). The cooperation between these groups is not a new development. As early as December 2001, the MCC and PWG resolved to support the Maoist insurgents in Nepal.

According to Indian Home Ministry, the Maoists of Nepal have well-established linkages with Indian left-wing extremist organizations, primarily with the People’s War Group (PWG) and Maoist Communist Centre (MCC). The first signs of contacts were reportedly registered during 1989-1990, when the two groups started collaborating in order to expand their influence.

Towards this end, they began the process of laying a corridor, which is now widely referred to as the Revolutionary Corridor (RC) extending from Nepal to across six Indian States, including Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh. This entire area has been identified in Maoist literature as the Compact Revolutionary Zone (CRZ). Now Uttaranchal has been added to it.

The CRZ was organized by the Nepal and Indian members of the Naxalite (the popular term for left-wing extremism in India- the movement originated in Naxalbari [hence the term Naxal] in the State of West Bengal in the late 1960s) Movement, in a meeting at Siliguri in the Indian State of West Bengal during August 2001

Not much is known about the Maoist links with other militant or left-wing extremist groups operating in India, besides that they are linked to a few Naxalite groups through the Coordination Committee of Maoist Parties and Organizations of South Asia (CCOMPOSA). Besides, a left-wing extremist group, the Communist Party of India ––Marxist-Leninist (CPI-ML) Janashakthi, which has a marginal presence at least in six Indian States, but is very active in isolated and limited number of pockets in Andhra Pradesh, expressed support to the Maoists.

It is a co-signatory, along with 41 other left-wing extremist groups ranging from South America to South East Asia, to a resolution that ‘condemned and opposed the malpractice of the fascist state of Nepal’ and demanded ‘life security’ for imprisoned Maoist cadres, leaders and sympathizers

In this regard, Prakash Singh says: “Now emergency has been imposed in Nepal, and the King could initiate stern action against the Maoists. He would naturally like India to act on the line of Bhutan when Bhutan had initiated crackdown on the anti-Indian forces, mostly Northeast rebels. India should be cautious in its diplomatic moves as any flurry could further strain the relations between the two countries”.

But Yubraj Ghimare, Editor of the Nepalese Kantipur Times has a different story to narrate. Talking to the South Asia Tribune from Kathmandu on telephone, he said: “It is simply a step to undermine the democratic set up of the country. People, including Maoists, are in favor of democracy. They want royalty to go, and they want to establish full and complete democracy in Nepal”.

“Now the King will initiate action against the Maoist forces and their sympathizers who are fighting for the lawful and democratic rights of the people”, he added.

Mr. Ghimare says that according to rough estimates there were approximately 5,500 combatants, 8,000 militia, 4,500 cadres, 33,000 hard core followers, and 200,000 sympathizers of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) in early 2004.

He says: “The main fighting and support forces consist of Magars, Tharus, Janjatis (Gurungs, Rais, Limbus, Tamangs, Dalits, Brahmins and Chhetris, the last two also providing the political and military leadership)”.

“Among the Maoist fighters, about 60 per cent are deployed in the mid-west and west in their strongholds. Another 10 per cent are in the far west with around 10 per cent in Gorkha, the rest is located in Kathmandu valley and east of it. All of them want democracy in Nepal,” he added.

The guerrillas operate to varying degrees in 68 of the 75 districts that comprise Nepal. Their influence varies between moderate to extreme in these districts. In the districts of Rolpa, Rukum, Jajarkot, Salyan, Pyuthan and Kalikot in mid-western Nepal, Government presence is limited to the district headquarters with the rest of each district under Maoist control.

The Nepalese Home Ministry has designated these districts as 'sensitive class A'. Nine districts, namely Dolakha, Ramechhap, Sindhuli, Kavrepalanchowk, Sindhupalchowk, Gorkha, Dang, Surkhet and Achham, are classified as 'Sensitive Class B', while 17 'Sensitive Class C' districts are Khotang, Okhaldhunga, Udaypur, Makwanpur, Lalitpur, Nuwakot, Dhading, Tanahu, Lamjung, Parbat, Baglung, Gulmi, Arghakhachi, Bardiya, Dailekh, Jumla and Dolpa.

However, former Indian Ambassador to Nepal, NN Jha told the South Asia Tribune: “Indian reaction came very early as the Indian leadership should have waited for a while to watch the situation in Nepal. Indian reaction could deteriorate the bilateral relations with Nepal”.

“I am sure that the representative of the two countries will discuss the matter during the SAARC Summit in Dhaka. If not formally, but informally Nepal would raise the issue of Maoists with India which have become the center of concern for them. We have to look in this direction also,” he added.