Government ups surveillance on Chand party in the lead up to by-electionsWednesday night’s police action followed reports that the outfit was planning attacks just after festivals, officials say.
On Wednesday night, police arrested 21 leaders and cadres of the Communist Party of Nepal, in the biggest mass arrest since the government branded the Netra Bikram Chand’s party a criminal outfit and banned its activities in March.
According to officials, police acted on a tip-off and conducted a midnight raid on a house in the middle of a jungle near a village in Dang district.
Hundreds of Chand party leaders and cadres have been arrested over the months since it was declared a criminal outfit, but senior leaders, including Chand’s brother, were arrested in Wednesday’s police action.
Government officials said security personnel were monitoring the Chand party’s activities in recent days and had learned that it was making some “big plans” for post-festival days in the lead up to the November 30 by-elections.
“The government will make an all-out effort to quell the Chand party’s activities. They are left with no option but to sit for talks,” said Indrajit Rai, security adviser to Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa.
Though the government has invited the Communist Party of Nepal for talks, it has so far refused, putting forth three conditions: lifting of the ban on its activities, release of its leaders and cadres, and an official invite for dialogue.
The government declared it a criminal outfit in March after two blasts in the Capital that killed one person and injured two others.
So far, two Chand party members have been killed in police action in Bhojpur and Siraha while five died in Kathmandu when the cylinders they were trying to rig as explosives suddenly went off. One Chand cadre died when an improvised explosive device he was carrying went off in Dhangadhi.
After the Kathmandu incident, Home Minister Thapa had told Parliament that Chand had formed its own army, in an indication that he was planning to perpetrate violence.
Some outfit members the Post spoke to said the arrested leaders were strategising the party’s next move.
A leader who spoke on condition of anonymity from an undisclosed location said police on Wednesday night also seized the documents related to the eighth full meeting of the party’s central committee.
“The party would soon focus on effective action against the corrupt and wrongdoers, which would garner public support,” said the leader.
When police conducted the raid late Wednesday night, the leaders had just concluded a meeting and were preparing to go to bed.
“We have intel reports that the Chand group is holding such meetings in eastern, mid and western regions in preparation for attacks,” Rai told the Post. “The government has kept its forces ready to counter any possible move by the party.”
Some two weeks ago, Additional Inspector General of Police Pushkar Karki was transferred to the operations department from the Police Academy. Wednesday’s action was led by Karki.
“They are trying to expand their organisation and attempting to disrupt the state mechanism. We won’t let that happen,” said Karki. “The recent arrest is the biggest success on our part since the outfit’s activities were banned.”
Meanwhile, the party has announced a two-week-long plan starting Sunday to protest against the recent arrests, and there are now concerns whether it is on a confrontational mode.
After Wednesday’s incident, Chand in a statement said that his party would counter the “suppression” strongly.
Security experts on multiple occasions in the past have told the Post that the government should convince the Chand party to come to the negotiating table instead of taking measures to crush it, as it could prompt the outfit to resort to violent activities.
Rai admits that there could be some kind of confrontation after the upcoming festivals—Tihar and Chhath.
“They are increasing their activities to show their strength,” said Rai.
The party was formed in 2014 by Chand who enjoyed close relations with Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the leader of the decade-long insurgency, and Ram Bahadur Thapa, the incumbent home minister. Apart from sporadic attacks, the Chand party until February this year was largely involved in extortions, donation drives and some incidents of arson.
Chand believes that the Maoist leaders, including Dahal, had deviated from their ideology and left the revolution halfway. Chand has been trying to strengthen his party to launch what he calls “unified revolution”.
Rai said the government will not tolerate any violent activities from any group. “We won’t let a criminal outfit create fear and terror among the people,” said Rai.