Revolutionary Worker #1132, December 23, 2001, posted at http://rwor.org
The People's War in Nepal has escalated and intensified in recent weeks following a daring new offensive by Maoist guerrillas.
On November 23, the people's army carried out actions in more than 20 of the country's 75 district headquarters. In the Dang district in the west, Maoist guerrillas attacked the Royal Nepalese Army for the first time, killing 14 soldiers and 9 police officers. Government offices were ransacked, cash was taken from banks, and 37 prisoners were freed from jail. Major assaults also took place in Syangja, also in the west, where an estimated 1,000 rebels raided a police post and destroyed an airport and a helicopter. Then on November 25, near Mt. Everest in the east, hundreds of guerrillas engaged in a six-hour battle with government police and soldiers.
The offensive broke a four-month ceasefire and ended talks that had been going on between the government and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). Chairman Prachanda of the CPN (Maoist) issued a statement saying there was no reason for further talks because the government had refused the Maoists' main demands of an interim government, a constituent assembly, a new Constitution and a Republic.
On November 26, Nepal's King declared a State of Emergency. For the first time, the Royal Nepal Army (RNA) is being fully mobilized to combat the people's army. And the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) has been officially branded "terrorists" by the Nepalese government--in order to justify a whole slate of repressive measures.
A former Chief of Army Staff told one reporter: "The most important thing was the support of the people and all the political parties. The second mandate was imposing an emergency. The third was labelling the Maoists terrorists. Now that these have been granted, the army can do anything it wants--shoot at people, use bombs, arrest people."
The government and military are keeping strict control over information given to the press, and news reports in the bourgeois media are inconsistent and unreliable. But it is clear that fierce two-sided battles have continued. Press releases from the Nepalese government report that hundreds of Maoists have been killed and hundreds more arrested. Meanwhile journalists have been barred from gathering information in areas where fighting is taking place and no figures are being given of government casualties.
The RNA is carrying out a "Cordon and Search Operation (CSO)," using helicopters for aerial attacks. Prime Minister Deuba talks as if it is only a matter of time before the Maoists are disarmed and defeated. But news reports indicate that while the government has launched a vicious counter-offensive, the people's army has continued to carry out daring raids.
Newspapers in Kathmandu have reported on a number of guerrilla offensives: Soldiers guarding a communications station in Bhaktapur were attacked. Police posts are still being targeted by the guerrillas. On December 9, Maoist rebels attacked a communications tower in Rolpa, igniting a seven-hour fight with the RNA. One report said a helicopter carrying reinforcement soldiers was damaged by rebel fire. The tower connects Rolpa, Rukum and Jajarkot into the nation's telecom system and the attack disrupted communications in three districts. On December 11, Maoist guerrillas attacked the Tumlingtar airport in the eastern hill district of Sankhuwasabha. And there have also been reports of RNA soldiers being ambushed by guerrillas. One government official said that the only way security forces could move into many areas was through the air in order to avoid ambushes.
Widespread Government Repression
As thousands of soldiers are being sent into the mountains to hunt down and kill Maoist guerrillas, a heavy clampdown is being implemented throughout the country.
The right to assembly has been suspended, "terrorists" and suspected Maoist supporters can be given life imprisonment. Police can conduct searches without warrants, and the right to information, free speech, and privacy has been suspended.
Police and soldiers have been given sweeping powers to search, arrest and detain suspects for up to 90 days. Doctors and medics have been warned not to treat wounded Maoists, or face punishment. A "shoot on sight" order has been given for anyone seen putting up posters or other material sympathetic to the Maoists. Strict press guidelines have been issued, prohibiting news that talks negatively about the King, the army or the police or "supports Maoists."
The Committee to Protect Journalists based in New York City wrote a letter to Nepal's Prime Minister protesting the arrest of journalists and widespread censorship. According to the letter, Nepalese police raided the offices of three publications closely associated with the Maoist movement: the weekly Janadesh, the daily Janadish, and the monthly Dishabodh. The police arrested nine staff members and also confiscated equipment and written materials. Those arrested could be charged with "terrorism," which carries a life prison sentence. The CPJ letter also reveals that on November 28, the government seized all copies of the mainstream Kathmandu Post --Nepal's largest English-language daily--after the newspaper ran a photo of several Maoists. Officials warned the paper's editors not to publish articles or photos that "glorify" the Maoist movement.
Nighttime curfews have been instituted in many districts, and there is at least one report of a person being shot and killed on the spot for violating curfew.
Police in Sindhupalchowk arrested at least 20 people, including 16 government employees, on charges of supporting the Maoists. The police said the arrested government employees were from the District Forest Office, Nepal Bank Limited, Agriculture Development Bank, Nepal Electricity Authority, Drinking Water Office and Postal Office.
The Director of the Asia & Pacific Program of Amnesty International wrote to Nepal's Prime Minister saying, "We are concerned that the declaration of the state of emergency and the suspension of fundamental rights could be interpreted by army and police personnel to include a suspension of the right to life. We are particularly concerned about reports that the army and police in [some districts] have been given the authority to 'shoot on sight' any curfew violators. This appears to give official sanction to the security forces to commit extrajudicial executions."
India, with a long history of dominating Nepal economically and politically, has been watching the People's War in Nepal--and now this recent escalation--with growing concern. Nepal's King Gayendra said, "India has been very cooperative. They understand it is not in their interest to have a destabilized Nepal."
In recent months, the Indian government had already put thousands of soldiers on the border with Nepal. And in the West Bengal area of India, the Indian government had carried out raids and arrested a number of Nepalese Maoist leaders. Now, India has stepped up its military control at the border. One news report said, "Intelligence sources are apprehensive that violence unleashed by the Communist groups in Nepal may spill over to India as the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) in Bihar and the Peoples War Group (PWG) in Uttar Pradesh and elsewhere are quite active."
At the end of November, in a hush-hush operation, India sent 11 trucks full of sophisticated weapons and surveillance equipment to Nepal. News reports said the covert arms shipment was "escorted" by select personnel of the Indian armed forces and was pulled off in two installments in civilian trucks, not army vehicles. Intelligence officials said the effort was to "camouflage" the export of state-of-the-art arms and military hardware belonging to the Indian army. The Indian government has also given Nepal two Cheetah helicopters previously used by the Indian army. These crafts, which can be fitted with machine guns, are to be used by the Nepalese army in their campaign against the Maoists.
On December 11, a senior official of the U.S. State Department met with several top Nepalese government officials in Kathmandu. U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Donald A. Camp told journalists, "I am here on behalf of the U.S. government to express our support to the government of Nepal in its efforts against the Maoists...We want to help Nepal in its efforts to solve the Maoist problem." When asked if military assistance was discussed, the U.S. official said he did not want to comment.
According to the Kathmandu Post, even before renewed fighting broke out on November 23, a Nepalese government official had revealed that the U.S. had promised to supply Nepal with a number of modern fully armed helicopters. In concert with how "the war on terrorism," is being used to justify all kinds of things, it was said that these helicopters were being supplied to "fight terrorism" in Nepal. Nepal's Asssistant Home Minister stated, "Since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the U.S. is committed to eliminate terrorism from the globe and its promise of supplying us the helicopters is part of that goal."
February 13, 2002 will mark the 6th anniversary of the initiation of the People's War in Nepal.
Since 1996, the people's army in Nepal has been growing and gaining strength. It is now in a position to conduct successful actions at the level of temporary battalions [of several hundred soldiers], and permanent and temporary companies have been built up under different regional commands. There are dozens of regular platoons and hundreds of regular squads in addition to thousands of armed masses who have enrolled in people's militias. In vast rural sections of the country, there are guerrilla zones and base areas in which new forms of revolutionary people's power have been set up.
Elections have been held to form Local United People's Committees and District United People's Committees, which formulate and carry out new governing policies. In May 2001, the formation of people's governments were announced in huge mass meetings in districts in the West, where the People's War has been the strongest. This growth in strength and support among the masses prepared the revolutionaries in Nepal to face today's escalating and intensifying situation.
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