SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Maoist Script Unfolds
The evolving scenario in Nepal is following, in its every detail, a script written by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), with all other characters in the piece enacting their parts to the hilt, but exercising little influence over the course of events. The King and his coterie continue to defy logic to act out the villains part; the agitating Seven Party Alliance (SPA) is out on the streets, paralyzing the Government and provoking the Police and Army excesses so integral to the final attainment of the Maoist agenda; and the Maoists continue to pull the strings of the nation, combining insurgency with widening political unrest.
The four day general strike called by the SPA from April 6-9, 2006, brought normal activities across the length and breadth of the country to a standstill.
In a run-up to the strike, the Government attempted to stall the protests by ordering security agencies to bar all passenger buses plying to the capital, Kathmandu. These orders were duplicated in other urban centres by local administrations. All passenger booking-counters at various bus stops in the Dolakha and Ramechhap Districts suspended the booking of tickets for an indefinite period, while the local administration in Baglung, Parbat, Kaski and Myagdi Districts ordered transporters not to ply long-route passenger bus services that connect to Kathmandu, as well as major cities in the country, from April 5. Further, the District Administration offices at Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur in the Valley imposed a curfew within the Ring Road areas in Kathmandu and Lalitpur, and in certain places in the Bhaktapur and Kirtipur municipality. “Residents should not come out of their houses. Security forces could shoot violators or police could arrest them and jail them up to one month”, the notices stated. Further, authorities also disrupted mobile telephone services from the morning of April 8. Nepal Telecom officials said these services were disrupted following a Government order.
In view of possible active support of civil servants for the general strike, the Government, on April 2, ordered all Government employees not to participate in the SPA’s protest demonstrations. The warning came in a letter sent to all the ministries and Constitutional bodies by the Office of the Council of Ministers.
To bolster the strike, as well as to clear any accusations of active participation in the protests and comply with the requests of the SPA and civil society, Maoist ‘Chairman’, Prachanda, announced that it would observe a ‘unilateral cease-fire’ within the Kathmandu Valley with effect from the evening of April 3, and until further notice. The statement, however, reiterated the Maoists’ active support to SPA’s peaceful protest programmes and appealed to people at all levels “to come out on the streets to create a new history of a Loktantrik Nepal.”
And, indeed, out they came. Over 400 protesters were arrested in Kathmandu alone, and dozens of others injured on the first day of the general strike on April 6, even as violent protests were reported from the Kalanki, Naya Baneshwor, Chabahil and Kirtipur areas where the protesters set ablaze tyres on the streets, while the police baton-charged and fired several rounds of tear gas shells to disrupt the protests. Marketplaces, industries, schools and colleges remained closed in the capital and no vehicles, except for the diplomatic and UN vehicles, plied. The Home Ministry said that 167 persons were arrested while defying prohibitory orders effective within the Ring Road area in Kathmandu and Lalitpur.
The second day saw worse. The District Post Office in Lalitpur was set ablaze and students at the Tribhuvan University in Kirtipur ransacked the Dean’s office, briefly holding several officers hostage. Presidents of Government and corporation employees’ unions said they had extended support to the movement to safeguard their professional and trade union rights. They said employees of the Nepal Electricity Authority, various corporations and banking sectors stopped work on April 7 to express solidarity with the movement, an apparent snub to the earlier Government order issued to employees. Close to 751 protestors were detained in Jumla, Morang, Pokhara, Lamjung, Hetauda, Chitwan, Lahan, Kalaiya, Baglung, Charikot, Dipayal and Butwal.
The protests took an uglier turn on April 9, when three persons were killed and over 26 protesters injured in security forces firing in different parts of the country. In Syangja, Nepali Congress district leader Kedar Kafle was also critically injured.
As the situation continue to worsen across the country, authorities issued curfew orders in the western city of Pokhara, while fresh curfew orders were issued in Surkhet, Butwal and Chitwan Districts. Meanwhile, in Nepalgunj, the curfew period was extended by four hours with effect from April 8 till further notice.
As protests mounted, the Maoists, on April 9, predictably announced a nationwide campaign of escalating demonstrations including the defiance of curfew orders, the ‘capture’ of highways and the breaking of Royal statues. In a statement mailed to media offices and signed by Prachanda and Baburam Bhattarai, the Maoists also reiterated support to the SPA’s call to step up its pro-democracy campaign. The SPA has also extended its ‘General Strike’ indefinitely, in view of the Government’s repression.
Nevertheless, the ‘honeymoon’ between SPA activists and the Maoists continue to leave huge holes at the ground with reports of intimidation and assault by the latter. On April 2, Maoists assaulted dozens of cadres of the People’s Front Nepal (PFN) in the Betahani village of Banke district. The central committee member of PFN, Bed Prakash Acharya, said that the Maoists assaulted them because they expressed their reluctance to participate in the insurgent’s functions. He added, further, that the incident has raised serious question about the sincerity of the insurgents in the 12-point agreement.
Even as the Maoists extended their ‘support’ to the parties, their main agenda of bludgeoning the King’s Forces continued. On April 5, in Sarlahi District, they launched simultaneous attacks on all security installations and Government offices in Malangwa and the Arjun Band Barracks of the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA) at Nawalpur. Sources said that Maoists freed over 129 inmates from the District Prison, including at least 22 Maoists. The District Administration Office, District Police Office, District Development Committee Office, District Prison and other Government offices were damaged in the attack, even as five security personnel and four Maoists were killed.
In a similar attack in Butwal on April 7, the Maoists targeted the area Police office, the western regional Police Training Centre and the Army Training Centre at Golpark after entering from the Basantapur Forest region and the upper part of the Jyotinagar and Chure forest region. In the ensuing clash, four Maoists and a civilian were killed.
Ignoring the ground realities, the administration continues to build castles in the air, with Government spokesman, Shrish Shumsher Rana, describing the Malangawa attack as a minor incident. “It is just a move of the terrorist to show their existence,” Rana said, adding that since the February 1, 2005, Royal takeover, “Now there is not a single place where they (Maoists) can claim their control.”
The King, on the other hand, stressed on the need for “permanent peace”, though there is little evidence of any movement “towards this noble cause”.
With the country already struggling with dwindling economic resources, foreign agencies have announced a further slashing of aid. DFID, the British Funding Agency, cut aid from £ 47 million proposed in 2004 to below £ 32 million in 2006. “We will now decrease it further as there is no sign of peace and democracy,” said Mark Mallalieu, head of DFID in Nepal. This aid cut will impact on rural road projects, support to local Government and water resource development. Denmark, among Nepal’s top-five bilateral development partners, has also slashed aid from 205 million Danish Kroner in 2004 to 143 million Danish Kroner in 2005. The Finnish Embassy in Kathmandu also disclosed that it had frozen two rural water supply and sanitation projects worth 22 million Euros. Further, on April 3, the Swedish Government withdrew its $25 million aid commitment for the diversion tunnel of the multi-million dollar Melamchi Water Project.
As it sought to grapple with the fallout of the demonstrations and repression unleashed by its own Forces, the regime also held forth a meaningless offer of talks with the SPA, through the Home Minister Kamal Thapa, who asked the Parties to renounce their “collaboration with the terrorists”. The Parties responded with an announcement of even more protest programs for April 10.
crises can only be compounded by the SPA’s now-extended
General Strike, as the dice continue to roll in
favour of the Maoists. The directionless violence
of the regime is taking a toll on the RNA’s soldiers
as well, with the Kathmandu based Informal Sector
Service Centre study finding that security personnel
were increasingly facing psychological problems
and trauma owing to the conflict-related stress
and mounting pressure. At least in some cases, this
has led to the rising incidence of indiscriminate
firing on civilians. The last thing the Government
needs in the present situation would be an Army
running out of control. The King, however, appears
to have no coherent plan, either to reclaim the
country from the Maoists, or to bring the SPA back
into the political process through an offer of meaningful
concessions. A continuous erosion of control, long
sought and planned by the Maoists, consequently,
seems to be increasingly inevitable.
Bengal: Polls Under a Maoist Shadow
In what is a clear indication of the gravity of the problem of left-wing extremism in the State of West Bengal, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee announced on March 31, 2006, that he would begin his electoral campaign from the "so-called Maoist Districts." West Bengal is to witness elections in five phases for the 294 Legislative Assembly seats. Polling will be held on April 17, 22, 27, May 3 and 8.
The Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) is already active in three of the State’s Districts, Midnapore, Purulia and Bankura, of which the first two border the State of Jharkhand. The Maoists, according to official sources, are also currently targeting the Nadia, Bardhaman and Birbhum Districts in their efforts to regain foothold in the State that originally sparked off the red revolution in India. The 'Naxalites' take their name from the tiny hamlet of Naxalbari in the Darjeeling district where an insurrection commenced in March 1967, to rapidly spread across the State and wreak havoc for almost six years, till it was neutralised in 1973, and eventually wiped out under the Emergency of 1975. Thereafter, West Bengal remained largely free of Left Wing extremism, except for the odd incident of violence and dispersed efforts for subversion.
On January 2, the Chief Minister had particularly identified the Binpur, Bandawan, Ranibandh and Belpahari areas as being affected by the Maoist menace, adding, “(The) Naxalite movement is a major problem in south Bengal (but) we will succeed in suppressing the Naxalites as we could in the seventies.” Responding to the Maoist presence in Purulia, Bankura and West Midnapore, the Chief Minister reportedly asked the Indian Institute of Technology – Kharagpur to prepare a comprehensive development plan for the area. However, there also appears to be a slight hint of desperation here, as, or instance, in the the Communist Party of India – Marxist (CPI-M) politburo member Biman Bose’s statement in Purulia District on January 10, 2006, when he asked his cadres to take up arms in retaliation to Maoist attacks and ensure that raiding rivals do not ‘go back alive’.
In the months preceding the elections West Bengal and particularly the Purulia, Bankura and Midnapore Districts (polling on April 17), have already witnessed significant violence by the Maoists, with the most prominent incidents including:
A total of 19 CPI-M activists and 20 security force personnel have been killed by the Maoists over the last two years. Unsurprisingly, the Maoists are opposed to the elections and have issued a edict to boycott the polls, with the warning: ‘If you defy the diktat, you die’. The Maoists have called for a poll boycott in the three affected Districts purportedly as a mark of protest against ‘lack of development and police highhandedness’. Their posters ask the people to refrain from voting as the “pseudo Marxist Government has not done anything for you except begging for votes... rather they have prepared the blueprint of police brutalities.”
The impact is already visible. Since January 1, 2006, eight persons – six CPI-M and two Jharkhand Party activists – have been killed and the police apprehend more violence. ‘Somen’, the CPI-Maoist ‘state secretary’, declared on April 5, 2006, "It hardly matters which party gains out of this – CPM or Jharkhand Party. This is part of our campaign strategy and we will enforce this call in our base areas in West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia.” Responding to a query on who are the targets, he unambiguously stated: "The political leaders, who have been hand-in-glove with the administration to unleash repression.”
Significantly, electoral campaigning has been on a low key in many villages in Purulia as a result of the Maoist threat, as candidates for the April 17 polls in the District drew up their campaign itinerary carefully avoiding the CPI-Maoist strongholds. Some leaders of the ruling CPI-M in the two other ‘base’ districts – Bankura and Midnapore – have reportedly refused Police escort, apprehending that the Maoists could target them more easily if they took Police assistance.
The fear also extends to the police, and senior police officials in the three Districts have received over 250 applications for transfer to ‘safer’ areas, fearing Maoist attacks. There are also reports of Maoists from Andhra Pradesh and Jharkhand infiltrating into West Bengal to disrupt the elections. The role of cadres from Andhra Pradesh was underlined by Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, who has been insisting on de-linking the old and new Maoist movement in the State, describing the present genre of Maoists as “exports from Andhra and Jharkhand.”
According to the State’s Inspector General of Police (Law and Order) Raj Kanojia, the Police have identified 13 ‘sensitive’ Police Stations in the three Districts. Special security arrangements were ordered for Belpahari, Salboni and Bagmundi Police Stations in West Midnapore; Bandwan, Jhalda, Jajpur and Manbazar Police Stations in Purulia; and Salimpur, Sarenga and Simlipal Police Stations in Bankura. About 90 percent of the booths in the three Maoist-affected districts were said to be ‘sensitive’. While some 300 companies of paramilitary forces were deployed in the whole of West Bengal during the 2001 Assembly elections, this time around nearly 600 companies of paramilitary forces would be deployed in 7,479 polling stations across these three Districts alone.
Maoists have been making inroads into the tribal hinterland of south Bengal since the late 1990s. According to the Maoist blueprint, these arid and backward tracts, covered with hills and forests, are to be targeted vigorously to eventually become ‘liberated zones’, a strategy that the outfit is following in similar terrain in other Maoist-affected States. To this end, the CPI-Maoist has consistently sought to highlight the plight of tribals, a majority of whom are below the poverty line and without access to basic amenities. The Census 2001 indicated that basic amenities such as safe drinking water, sanitation and electricity are yet to reach most tribal homes in West Bengal. Scheduled Tribes constitute 6.37 per cent of the State’s total population and the tribal concentration in the Southern Districts is the largest in Purulia — 18.98 per cent, followed by Bankura, 10.43 per cent, and Midnapore, 8.4 per cent. Similarly, electricity has reached only 19.03 per cent of tribal homes as against 37.45 per cent of the total State population. In all three districts, 93-96 per cent of tribal families are dependent on kerosene for light. These districts are relatively backward with 4.47 per cent of the people in Purulia still fetching drinking water from rivers and canals. Many villages in the forests are still inaccessible, with health centres located far off.
That these Districts are crucial for the Maoists is also visible in the fact that they are using the corridor of Bandwan, Ranibandh in Bankura District and Belpahari in the Midnapore District to facilitate operations between Jharkhand and West Bengal. Further, Nepalese Maoists use the Bihar-Nepal border to enter West Bengal to secure a safe haven. The Maoists have also augmented their weaponry to further their goal of reclaiming their lost stronghold in the State. A 2006-study carried out by A.K. Maliwal, Chief Security Officer to the Chief Minister, indicates that the Maoists, who earlier used lower-end command wire-based explosive devices, are of late using sophisticated bombs, including vehicle-borne and remote-controlled improvised explosive devices, to substantially increase their impact. The study also notes a shift from home-made to factory-produced explosives and the use of target-activated bombs, as well as a resort to triggering parallel and simultaneous explosions. Meanwhile, the Subsidiary Intelligence Bureau has cautioned the Government about changes in the Maoists’ modus operandi, with a shift from conventional ambushes and landmines, and an increasing potential of tactics such as hijacking, which could prove more useful at a time of heightened security. The report also noted that the Maoists may also attempt to blow up radio and telephone towers.
West Bengal has been ruled by the mainstream Left Front since 1977, and has been largely successful in combating Left Wing extremism through a judicious mixture of political and security measures. But with the dangerous expansion of Maoist influence and activities in the neighbouring States, the future for West Bengal is becoming increasingly uncertain as well.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
April 03 - 09, 2006
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.
bank fines Islami Bank for transactions linked to Islamist terrorists:
Bangladesh’s central bank has fined the country’s top Sharia-based
commercial bank, Islami Bank, for transactions linked to Islamist
terrorists. "A 100,000 taka ($1,425) fine was imposed on the
IBBL under the anti-money laundering act after we had detected
some transactions by them in violation of banking rules," an
official with the Bangladesh Bank told Reuters on April 6, 2006.
"Although the amount is small, it is significant as the first
penalty of the sort imposed by the central bank, which is investigating
suspicious transactions in a number of banks," said the unnamed
central bank official. A senior official of the Islami Bank
had on March 21, 2006 denied it had played a role in financing
terrorists although central bank regulators detected funds had
been transferred to suspicious accounts from its branches. Daily
Times, April 7, 2006.
Central bank fines Islami Bank for transactions linked to Islamist terrorists: Bangladesh’s central bank has fined the country’s top Sharia-based commercial bank, Islami Bank, for transactions linked to Islamist terrorists. "A 100,000 taka ($1,425) fine was imposed on the IBBL under the anti-money laundering act after we had detected some transactions by them in violation of banking rules," an official with the Bangladesh Bank told Reuters on April 6, 2006. "Although the amount is small, it is significant as the first penalty of the sort imposed by the central bank, which is investigating suspicious transactions in a number of banks," said the unnamed central bank official. A senior official of the Islami Bank had on March 21, 2006 denied it had played a role in financing terrorists although central bank regulators detected funds had been transferred to suspicious accounts from its branches. Daily Times, April 7, 2006.
ULFA claims it restrained cadres from "armed activities" during Legislative Assembly elections in Assam: The United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), in its mouthpiece Freedom claimed on April 7, 2006 that it had restrained its cadres from "armed activities" during Legislative Assembly elections in Assam solely in the interest of its peace process with the Union Government. The outfit’s chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa, in his speech on the occasion of ULFA’s ‘27th raising day’ said that groups with "vested interests" were trying to scuttle the peace process by killing its cadres, hoping this would provoke it to walk out of the peace process. He further said that ULFA’s decision not to disrupt the polls must not be construed as an acceptance of the electoral process. "As long as these elections are held, Assam will remain suppressed under Indian colonial rule", he said. Assam Tribune, April 8, 2006.
Normal life affected due to country-wide protests: Normal life has been affected across the country since April 6, 2006, when the nationwide general strike called by the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) began. On April 9, the Government declared a 13-hour curfew in the capital Kathmandu beginning 7:00 in the morning citing possible violence and loss of property during agitations being carried out by the seven opposition political parties. Three persons were killed and over 26 protesters injured when security forces opened fire at anti-King protestors in Banepa, Bara, Syangja, Butwal, Nawalparasi, Gaindakot, Lekhnath and Pokhara on April 8 and 9. Curfew orders were enforced in the Surkhet, Butwal, Nepalgunj and Chitwan districts. Violent protests were reported from the Kalanki, Naya Baneshwor, Chabahil and Kirtipur areas where the protesters set ablaze tyres on the streets. Marketplaces, industries, schools and colleges remained closed in the capital and no vehicles, except for the diplomatic and UN vehicles, plied. More than 500 people have been arrested during the course of these protests. Nepal News, April 10, 2006.
declare unilateral cease-fire in Kathmandu valley: The Communist
Party of Nepal- Maoist (CPN-Maoist)
announced that it would observe a unilateral cease-fire within
the Kathmandu valley with effect from April 3-evening until
further notice. The chairman of CPN-Maoist, Prachanda, stated
that his party had taken the decision “to cease all of its military
activities” in the capital valley keeping in view the requests
made by the alliance and civil society groups and also to expose
claims by the royal Government that the Maoists were planning
to infiltrate into the protest programmes organized by the Seven
Party Alliance (SPA). He added that his party would extend its
“full support” to the programmes of general strike, rallies
and non-cooperation announced by the SPA between April 6-9 as
per the spirit of the second memorandum of understanding entered
between his party and the SPA. He also alleged that the Government
was conspiring to what he called unleash “state terror” against
the peaceful movement being launched by the opposition parties
against the 14-month-old direct rule of the king. Nepal
News, April 4, 2006.
Balochistan Liberation Army proscribed: The Government on April 9, 2006 banned the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) after declaring it as a terrorist organisation for its alleged involvement in terrorist activities. The Federal Government exercised its powers under section 11(b) of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997, to proscribe the BLA. According to a notification issued by the Interior Ministry, the BLA is headed by some tribal leaders. According to evidences collected by the Federal Government, the notification said the BLA was involved in sabotage activities, including rocket attacks on national installations, civilian population and security forces. It was also accused of laying landmines in various parts of the province. Interior Secretary Syed Kamal Shah told reporters that anyone associated with the BLA or supporting its terrorist activities would be tried under the Anti-Terrorism Act. He said the investigation into several past terrorist acts found that majority of the incidents had been planned, engineered and executed by BLA operatives to create a situation of anarchy in Balochistan. Dawn, April 10, 2006.
Banned Sipah-e-Sahaba holds rally in Islamabad: Activists of the outlawed Sunni group Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) held a rally in capital Islamabad on April 7, 2006 and reportedly vowed to establish a global caliphate, beginning with Pakistan. In a rally attended by thousands of activists of the banned group to commemorate the birth of the Prophet Muhammad, SSP leaders called for an Islamic theocracy in Pakistan. "The concept of nation state is an obstacle in the way of the establishment of Khilafat. We will start the establishment of Khilafat in Pakistan and then will do so across the world," said Zaheerul Islam Abbasi, a former general who was arrested in 1995 for trying to topple the Government of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Activists distributed pamphlets in Islamabad preaching Jihad and hatred against Shias, as their leaders delivered speeches to a crowd of around 5,000. They also sold video compact discs of the beheadings of American soldiers in Iraq, and militant activities in Afghanistan and Pakistan at the rally. One of the organisers thanked the Islamabad administration for allowing the rally, which was reportedly held under floodlights in a bus depot, with hundreds of riot police watching. Daily Times, April 8, 2006.
43 terrorists and three soldiers killed during clashes in North Waziristan: A Government spokesperson informed on April 6, 2006 that 43 terrorists and three soldiers had died during the clashes at Shawal and Datakhel in North Waziristan a day earlier. Official sources said two children and a woman were injured while several houses were damaged after security forces (SFs) had started shelling in response to the terrorist attack near Miranshah on April 6-night. Troops resorted to heavy artillery shelling when suspected terrorists fired two rockets on the SFs in Miranshah. Locals said artillery shells had hit several residential compounds in the Tolkhel, Qutabkhel and Chashma villages near Miranshah. Dawn, April 7, 2006.
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