Growing acts of violence add to security challenges for next week’s electionsIncidents of clashes, vandalism and personal attacks have rapidly increased, threatening free and fair polls.
On Monday night, CPN-UML’s Gandaki province secretariat member Hari Kafle got injured after a gang set upon him at a hotel in Palungtar Municipality.
Kafle’s team was campaigning for the party’s candidate for federal elections from Gorkha-2. He had to get seven stitches in his head and is undergoing treatment at a health facility in Dumre Bazar, Tanahun.
Similarly, on Sunday afternoon, a clash ensued between cadres of the Rabi Lamichhane-led Rastriya Swatantra Party and supporters of the ruling coalition at Kurintar in Chitwan.
A verbal altercation ensued after cadres of the ruling coalition vandalised the vehicle carrying cadres of Lamichhane’s party in the Munglin-Kurintar area. The relevant video has gone viral on social media, with many condemning the vandalism.
Lamichhane is the House of Representative candidate from Chitwan-2.
On the same day, there was a clash between the cadres of the CPN-UML and the ruling alliance at Naugadha Rural Municipality, in Darchula. In the clash on Sunday afternoon, Jayabhan Singh Dhami of the ruling alliance was badly injured and referred to a hospital in Dhangadhi.
With the November 20 election under a week away, incidents of clashes between the cadres of various parties as well as acts of vandalism and personal attacks have increased rapidly, threatening the possibility of free and fair elections. Many have expressed concerns over such “undemocratic activities” that may create grounds to question the elections’ credibility.
The government has announced a plan to deploy 300,000 security personnel to maintain security during the elections to elect members to both the House of Representatives and provincial assemblies. The two elections will be held in a single phase on November 20. The Nepal police has announced deployment of 71,693 police personnel and 115,000 temporary police for the elections, while the Nepal Army is preparing to deploy a 71,000-strong force. The Armed Police Force is set to mobilise another 35,000 personnel, while more than 200 will be deployed from the National Investigation Department.
Observers say having a bigger security apparatus isn’t enough if it cannot secure public security on the ground.
“There is no point deploying security personnel if they cannot stop acts of personal attacks, vandalism and clashes between cadres of different parties,” said Pradip Pokharel, chairperson of the Election Observation Committee, Nepal.
“If such incidents escalate, a kind of fear will be created on election day.”
He even brought up the decision of the outfit led by Netra Bikram Chand ‘Biplav’ to foil the November 20 elections. Pokharel said vandalism and personal attacks aren’t healthy signs.
“It’s the duty of the Election Commission and the Home Ministry to stop attacks and vandalism or any kind of violent activities that creates fear in the general public,” said Pokharel. “For example, when Rabi Lamichhane’s vehicle was being vandalised on Sunday, the local police acted like bystanders.”
For poll security, the Home Ministry has also deployed 1,300 traffic police personnel from Kathmandu Valley in 24 districts.
The increasing acts of violence “are really going to test the credibility of the Election Commission as well as the Home Ministry,” said Pokharel.
When the Post inquired about these incidents, Chief Election Commissioner Dinesh Kumar Thapaliya expressed his commitment to stopping such acts at any cost.
“The commission is concerned about acts of violence,” said Thapaliya. “Last week, we published a notice over a case in Dadeldhura, whereby independent candidate Sagar Dhakal was reportedly barred from campaigning. We raised the issue with the Home Ministry.”
Dhakal has filed his candidacy in Dadeldhura district to challenge Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba. The independent candidate was barred by the district administration from campaigning in the Prime Minister’s home district. Thapaliya said the commission has taken the matter seriously and discussed it with the home ministry as well.
Thapaliya further said that with regard to vandalism and clashes between cadres of various parties, the commission has called a meeting with security agencies, including the secretary of the Home Ministry, on Tuesday.