Government’s dealing with Chand outfit faulty, experts say, as multiple blasts unleash terrorTensions ran high in Ghattekulo a day after an explosion killed one in the neighbourhood
When a cooking gas cylinder went off on the ground floor of a three-storey house in Ghattekulo on Sunday, Sujal Dhamala was at the gate. He had just returned from school.
“There was a loud noise; I could not hear anything for a while,” Sujal, 13, told the Post on Monday afternoon. “I was scared.”
One person was killed in the explosion and another injured.
The cooking gas cylinder had gone off in the room adjacent to Dhamala’s room.
Dhamala’s mother, Sakun, had left the room only a while ago after preparing snacks for her son. The 36-year-old, who works as a cook at Churiya Mai Hostel, was just three blocks from the house where the incident happened.
“I thought the blast took place in my room,” Sakun told the Post. “I was extremely worried because the explosion time coincided with the time my son returns from school.”
There was yet another blast in Sukedhara also on Sunday, in which three people were killed. According to police, cadres of the Netra Bikram Chand-led Communist Party of Nepal were trying to rig the cylinders as explosives with a plan to plant them somewhere in the Capital on Monday, coinciding with their nationwide strike.
Officials said the improvised devices, however, went off accidentally.
The Chand party, whose activities have been banned by the government, has unleashed terror among people, in a grim reminder of the days during the Maoist insurgency.
Since the government decided to brand the Chand party a criminal outfit and launch actions against its members, the party has been in a retaliation mode.
While the government has intensified action against the Chand party, it says the door for talks is open.
But security experts and analysts say the government’s approach to dealing with the party, a breakaway faction of the Maoist party that waged a decade-long insurgency, is faulty.
“The government’s way of dealing with the Chand party has largely failed. It is trying to use stick first and dangle the carrot later. It’s trying to use force before seeking to hold talks,” said Indra Adhikari, a security expert. “As a guardian, the government should use different channels and take initiatives to bring the Chand party to dialogue,” she said.
“It looks like the organisational set-up of the Chand outfit remains intact,” said Binoj Basnyat, a retired major general of the Nepal Army, who writes on security issues. “Government actions have not affected their resources, nor have they lost people’s support—at least that’s how it appears.”
According to Basnyat, the government now has two options.
“The government should either change its approach and deal with the outfit politically,” he said. “Or it should, if it can, contain the outfit by using force.”
Chand, a firebrand Maoist leader during the conflict, had left the Maoist party led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal in 2012, along with two other senior leaders—Mohan Baidya and Ram Bahadur Thapa. The three leaders had accused Dahal of leaving the “people’s war” halfway when they joined the peace process in 2006.
In 2014, following disagreements over the principle to launch a new revolution, Chand left Baidya and Thapa to form his own party—the Communist Party of Nepal. But Thapa, two years later, returned to Dahal’s fold and is now the home minister, pitting him against Chand and his outfit.
The explosions on Sunday occurred on the eve of the Chand party’s nationwide strike demanding an investigation into the death of its cadre Tirtha Raj Ghimire.
Meanwhile, police have identified the person who was killed in Ghattekulo explosion as Bishal Shahi from Achham. He was a member of the student union affiliated to the radical force.
Shahi’s friend, Rabin KC from Rukum, also a member of the Chand party’s student wing, was injured.
“Had I known they would get involved in making bombs, I would not have kept them as tenants,” said Lokranjan Karki, the house owner. “My house is damaged, but that apart, it has put us in trouble.”
When the Post visited the area on Monday afternoon, tension still ran high.
Meanwhile, in the Ghattekulo neighbourhood, people were concerned about security, as reports continued to trickle in about security forces defusing improvised explosive devices in other parts of the Capital.
Hema Koirala, who owns a grocery shop in Ghattekulo near the house where the blast occurred, said it was a terrifying scene on Sunday.
“I have not mustered up the courage to open the shop today,” said Koirala. “Earlier such strikes did not have much effect. But yesterday’s blasts have left us terrified. We are worried about our security.