Clampdown from Kathmandu

Revolutionary Worker #1135, January 10, 2002, posted at

The people of Nepal are under a heavy clampdown of murderous military campaigns, widespread arrests, censorship, and the suspension of constitutional rights.

On November 26, Nepal's King Gyanendra declared a "State of Emergency." This move came only days after Maoist guerrillas launched a daring new offensive, carrying out actions in more than 20 of the country's 75 district headquarters. (See RW#1130). This new offensive by the revolutionary forces broke a four-month ceasefire and ended talks that had been going on between the government and the leadership of the people's war--the Communist Part of Nepal (Maoist).

Up to this point, the police had been the main force sent against the People's War. But now, for the first time, the King authorized the Royal Nepal Army to fight the Maoists. Immediately, the RNA of 50,000 soldiers immediately began carrying out a "Cordon and Search Operation"--which quickly became a "Search and Destroy Operation."

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 "Terrorism" Pretext

In recent weeks, a number of editorials in Kathmandu have pointed out how the U.S. "war on terrorism" has given the Nepalese government guidance and freedom to institute its own homeland clampdown. The government has moved to crack down on dozens of organizations with links to the Maoists, shutting down the offices of trade unions, student groups and newspapers. And learning from the U.S., Nepal's government officially declared the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) "terrorists"--in order to justify a whole slate of repressive measures.

The King issued a Terrorism and Disruptive Activities Control and Punishment Ordinance (TADO) under which the government can declare a "terrorist affected area" or "terrorist individuals." TADO's vague and broad definition of a "terrorist"--as "any individual who directly or indirectly supports financially and by any other means individual persons or groups or institution involved in terrorist and disruptive activities"--gives the government wide powers to arrest, prosecute and imprison for life all kinds of people.

Newspapers sympathetic to the Maoists can be closed down. Police can search properties without warrants. People no longer have the right to information, free speech, and the right to privacy. Suspects can have their bank accounts frozen and their passports suspended. Law enforcement and security officials have been given sweeping powers to search, arrest and detain suspects for up to 90 days without charges--and the Home Ministry can approve an extended 90 days of detention.

Medics have been warned that they will be punished if they treat wounded Maoists. Public activities by Maoists and publications supporting them have been banned. There is an overnight curfew in a number of districts. And the police have been given orders to shoot on sight anyone seen putting up posters or other material supporting the Maoists.

Like in the U.S., government officials in Nepal are also trying to create a nation of snitches--asking people to immediately hand over any information on the whereabouts of Maoists or people sympathetic to the People's War. Prizes have been offered for providing tip-offs about rebels. And on January 9, following another example from the U.S., the central bank in Nepal, Nepal Rastra Bank, froze more than a dozen accounts of individuals who are suspected of having "Maoist links."

Over the last six years the police have murdered, raped, tortured and imprisoned thousands of people suspected of being Maoist guerrillas or sympathizers of the People's War. Now, in less than two months, under the governmen's new "war on terrorism," hundreds of people have been killed in the countryside and many more have been arrested and imprisoned. One human rights organization estimates that as many as 1,300 people are in custody.

Crackdown on the Press

Security officials have raided the offices of newspapers sympathetic to the Maoists. And along with such blatant censorship, the government is trying to completely control the mainstream news media--dictating in detail what can and cannot be published.

The Ministry of Information and Communication issued a set of strict guidelines for the media. Among the things the directive says should NOT be published are: "Anything that aims to create hatred and disrespect against His Majesty the King and the Royal Family"; "Anything likely to create hatred against Royal Nepal Army, police and civil servants and lower their moral and dignity"; "Any news that supports Maoists, including individuals or groups"; and "Any matters that aim at overthrowing the government."

Meanwhile, the directive says the media can publish three things: (1) "News that expose criminal activities of Maoist terrorists. But alertness has to be made not to raise the morale of terrorists." (2) "News regarding bravery and achievements of Royal Nepal Army, police and civil servants," and (3) "Officials news that come from His Majesty's Government and the official media."

The Royal Army issued a notice to the media asking them to seek permission from the army's Information Department before publishing any news about military affairs. Journalists have been barred from going into the battle zones. And reporters have had to rely on "official" reports which are sketchy, inconsistent and full of contradictory accounts. This has allowed the government to carry out a massive campaign of disinformation. Casualties on the side of the guerrillas have been widely inflated while there have been little if any reports about defeats suffered by the police and army. The government has also spread all kinds of lies, like the outrageous claim that Maoists have mutilated the bodies of dead guerrillas and that there are big disagreements within the leadership of the CPN (Maoist).

One reporter recounted what happened when he and some other journalists decided to go into one of the areas in the west where the Royal Army has been fighting the people's army. The reporters got several phone calls in their hotel room from the nearby army barracks and the police station, warning them not to venture into the countryside. One army officer said, "We suggest that you not venture out to the Maobadi [Maoist] areas. But if you still dare to become a Rambo and take risks, we have nothing to say.... Remember that you can get caught in a cross-fire between the army and the Maobadis." Then two government officials came to the reporters' hotel room and told them, "We just received orders from mathi bata (higher-ups in Kathmandu) that you people should no longer stay here... You are prohibited from going to the Maoist areas... Do not even think of defying the orders. We are like machines, we do what we are told..."

The government's warning not to write anything "in support" of the Maoists apparently means newspapers cannot even quote Maoist leaders.

On December 17 the police arrested Gopal Budhathoki, publisher/editor of a Nepali weekly, Sanghu. Budhathoki was former president of the Kathmandu branch of Federation of Nepalese Journalists, and present advisor of the body. He is also the general secretary of the Society of Editors and Publishers. Sanghu had published excerpts from a statement from Prachanda, the Chairman of the CPN (Maoist).

On December 31, Pushkar Lal Shrestha, the editor-in-chief and publisher of the daily newspaper, Samacharpatra, was detained and interrogated for over two hours about an article in his newspaper which quoted Prachanda.

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. The letter points to the police raid of 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.

On January 10, the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ) reported that almost three dozen journalists had been arrested by government security forces under the State of Emergency.


A number of human rights groups in Nepal and internationally have protested the brutal State of Emergency in Nepal.

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." The letter also pointed to the fact that since the start of the People's War the police have unlawfully killed hundreds of people and have not been held accountable for them.

The Human Rights Organisation of Nepal (HURON) wrote a statement protesting the arrest of journalists, human rights activists, lawyers, teachers and many others. And Reporters Sans Frontières (Reporters Without Borders--RSF) wrote a letter to speak out against the arrest of journalists in the police raids on newspapers sympathetic to the Maoists.

The revolutionaries in Nepal and the masses of people are facing intense days under the brutal "State of Emergency" imposed by Nepal's King and the government. And, as the Information Bureau of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement says: "At this time of an important juncture in the ongoing People's War in Nepal, it is important for the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement and its parties and organisations to reiterate our full support for the struggle our comrades in Nepal are waging, and our confidence in their ultimate victory."

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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