Wednesday, February 09, 2005

FLASH: India Throws Open Border to Fleeing Nepalis and Maoists

+ What is most significant is India’s newfound affection for Maoists. Officially, New Delhi brands Maoists as terrorists. But King Gyanendra’s palace coup has clearly impacted India’s policy towards Maoists rebels fighting to topple the monarchy and create a communist state. And Indian communist leaders seem to be responsible for the change of heart. They are exerting pressure on the federal government to adopt a soft line towards Nepali Maoists for the sake of democracy. +

India Throws Open Border to Fleeing Nepalis and Maoists
S.N.M. Abdi

CALCUTTA, 9 February 2005 — Security agencies manning the Indo-Nepal border have been issued orders to let in all Nepali citizens, including Maoists, fleeing the crackdown after the dismissal of the Himalayan Kingdom’s democratically elected government.

West Bengal, Bihar, Sikkim, Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal share a 1750-km-long border with Nepal guarded primarily by Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and Special Services Bureau (SSB) — a RAW-like outfit controlled by the Cabinet secretariat.

“We have received instructions to provide shelter to any Nepali leader, including Maoist rebels, if they want to enter India”, a senior SSB commander revealed on condition of anonymity.

The SSB commander added that although “patrolling has been stepped up, we are welcoming any Nepali trying to escape the Royal Nepal Army’s crackdown” in the wake of the February 1 dismissal of the Deuba government in the neighboring country.

Security too has been beefed up. Increased surveillance and round-the-clock patrolling of the border show that while New Delhi is not leaving anything to chance, it has decided to let in both cadres and leaders of any political background into India.

What is most significant is India’s newfound affection for Maoists. Officially, New Delhi brands Maoists as terrorists. But King Gyanendra’s palace coup has clearly impacted India’s policy towards Maoists rebels fighting to topple the monarchy and create a communist state.

And Indian communist leaders seem to be responsible for the change of heart. They are exerting pressure on the federal government to adopt a soft line towards Nepali Maoists for the sake of democracy.

There are reports that several leaders and scores of activists are making their way to West Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand in eastern India fearing arrest and detention by the RNA.

A government official disclosed that Vinay Dhwaj Chand, Nepali Congress leader and Member of Parliament representing Baitari constituency, and former Education Minister Dilendra Bahadur have crossed over to Uttaranchal and are staying with their relatives.

In the past, Katmandu accused communist groups in India, particularly outlawed left-wing outfits in Bihar and West Bengal of training, arming and providing shelter to Maoist rebels.

Last year, bowing to Katmandu’s pressure and India’s own reservations about Maoists, New Delhi cut its lone rail link with Nepal after Katmandu lodged a protest claiming the cross-border train was being used by Maoist guerillas to smuggle arms and ammunition into the landlocked kingdom.

Severing the link to aid Katmandu’s fight against the rebels fitted with India’s foreign policy, which now seems to be changing.

Earlier, India supplied Nepal not only helicopter gun ships, automatic weapons and shared vital intelligence, but also had a policy of deporting Maoist rebels arrested in India. But now Maoists are being allowed to walk in. Analyst’s say Indian states adjoining Nepal’s southern Terai region are the poorest in the country and there is strong sympathy for Maoists there.

“People on both sides of the border speak the same language and land ownership lies at the root of the escalating socio-political conflict,” said analyst Manojit Mitra.