As government goes all out to crack down on Chand outfit, concerns grow over escalation of conflictSecurity analysts say there is no alternative to dialogue and both parties should engage in talks.
Amid concerns that the government was maintaining a tougher stance against the Netra Bikram Chand-led Communist Party of Nepal instead of making efforts to hold dialogue, police have arrested another member of the party, in a move security experts say could set the ground for confrontation.
Security personnel on Saturday midnight detained Maila Lama, the Kathmandu Valley in-charge of the Chand party, from Kandaghari, east of Kathmandu.
Lama, who was part of the war waged by the Maoists since its initial days, is a long-time friend of Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa, who has been seen bent on launching a crackdown on the Chand party.
Lama is one of the hundreds of Communist Party of Nepal members who have been arrested by police since March when the government declared the party a criminal outfit and banned its activities following two blasts which killed one person and injured two others.
Security analysts say the government, as the guardian, should pull out all the stops to create an environment conducive for talks with the Chand outfit rather than going on an arrest spree.
“The government must make efforts to bring the party to the negotiating table and send some signals to that effect. But it seems the Oli administration is taking the completely opposite approach,” said Indra Adhikary, a security expert. “The arrests could muddle the message.”
The Chand party has so far shown no signs of joining the talks. Since March, at least nine of its members have died, three of whom were killed in police action. Six others were killed when their improvised explosive devices went off accidentally—the Dhangadhi case being the recent one.
Police have said Lama was arrested for his involvement in the blasts in the Valley that killed one person and injured two others.
“This arrest [of Lama] is a serious issue,” said Gunaraj Lohani, who wished to be identified as a writer who has close relations with Chand’s party. “The government has been saying it is in touch with Chand leaders but recent arrests suggest some conspiracy is going on against the party.”
According to Lohani, the government appears non-committal to talks with Chand.
On Wednesday, Bir Jung, Chand’s elder brother and in-charge of Mid-western Command of the party, issued a press statement saying that the government was spreading rumours of talks as part of its preparation to suppress the party.
A day later, the government spokesperson appeared to be making light of a query on talks with the Chand party.
“Dialogue with the Chand-led Communist Party of Nepal is not possible unless they turn up like CK Raut,” Minister for Communications and Information Technology Gokul Baskota told journalists during the weekly press briefing.
Raut, a long-time campaigner for “Free Madhes”, had a sudden change of heart in March when he shook hands with Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, saying he had decided to join mainstream politics, renouncing his movement to create a separate state.
Binoj Basnyat, a retired Nepal Army major general, stressed that the government should pursue the Chand outfit to bring them to dialogue.
“Any activity against the law of the land cannot be compromised,” Basnyat told the Post. “But talks to bring the Chand outfit into the democratic framework is the best and most viable option.”
Lama, who had lost the first Constituent Assembly election from Kathmandu-9, had left Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s Maoist party in 2012 along with Chand, Mohan Baidya and Thapa, the current home minister.
Chand and Lama walked away from the Baidya Maoist party in 2014 to launch what they call “unified revolution.”
Mani Thapa, a standing committee member of the ruling Nepal Communist Party, said Lama’s arrest has stoked concerns whether the Oli administration is genuine in its call for talks with the Chand party.
“Things would further complicate if such arrests continue,” Thapa told the Post. “The existing government does not know how to deal with rebels and their psychological trend.”
Som Prasad Pandey, a ruling party lawmaker who headed a talks team formed by the government to hold dialogue with the disgruntled groups in the country, said there is no alternative to dialogue.
Stating that he had held a few rounds of informal talks with Chand party leaders, Pandey said no formal dialogue took place when he headed the team because the government failed to send an official invitation for talks.
An official invitation from the government is one of the three pre-conditions of the Chand party for talks, apart from lifting the ban on its activities and unconditional release of its leaders.
“The state does not want conflict and there is no alternative to dialogue,” Pandey told the Post.
Asked if the ongoing arrests of Chand party members help create an environment for talks, Pandey said both the parties would continue their activities unless there is a truce. “Both the parties—the government and Chand outfit—must stop activities against each other,” he said, “and find a way to begin dialogue at the earliest.”
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