Nearly two dozen Chand party cadres arrested in biggest police raid yet on the outfitThe arrests were based on a tip-off that the group was planning ‘something big’ for the upcoming by-elections.
In one of the biggest mass arrests, police rounded up 21 leaders and cadres of the Netra Bikram Chand-led Communist Party of Nepal in Dang district late Wednesday night.
“The arrests were made from a jungle in Dang’s Mugretha Khola of Rajapur Rural Municipality, which borders India, past midnight on Wednesday,” said Deputy Superintendent Binod Bikram Shah of the Dang District Police Office.
According to police, the Chand party members had just concluded a meeting when the police raided the building, which is around five hours’ walk from the nearest police station. The party was reportedly preparing a strategy for the upcoming by-elections. Acting on a tip-off, the Provincial Police Office in Tulsipur, District Police Office, Area Police Office in Gadhawa, and Lamahi ward police office deployed security personnel in the area in plainclothes.
A police team led by Bharat Rathour, an inspector at the Gadhawa Area Police Office, surrounded the house after party members had gone to bed. Around 60 police personnel, along with 21 others from the Armed Police Force, were deployed as reinforcements. Upon encirclement, seven or eight armed sentries fled the scene, according to police.
The forests around the Maretha stream are considered a safe space for rebels. Police said they travelled around six kilometres by road and walked around three hours to reach the meeting site. This area was also used by the CPN (Maoist) during the decade-long insurgency.
Wednesday night’s police action follows months of calm regarding the activities of the Chand party. Sources in the government said the arrests were based on a tip-off that the outfit was planning “something big”.
The government declared the Chand party a criminal outfit and banned its activities in March following two explosions in the Capital that killed one person and injured two others in February. The party has long been involved in extortion and attacks on private companies.
It has turned down the government’s call for talks, putting forth three conditions instead—lifting of its ban, unconditional release of its arrested leaders, and an “official invite” for talks.
The Communist Party of Nepal is a breakaway faction of the Maoist party that waged a decade-long war against the state from 1996 to 2006.
Chand formed his party in 2014 to launch what he calls “unified revolution”. Chand, along with Mohan Baidya, had left Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s Maoist party in 2012, six years after the end of the war, saying that the Maoist chief had deviated from their ideology and had abandoned the revolution halfway.
But Chand too decided to walk away from Baidya after “ideological differences” emerged, especially with Ram Bahadur Thapa, the incumbent home minister. Thapa had also left Dahal’s party along with Chand and Baidya.
So far, at least eight Chand party cadres have died. Two were killed in police action while five others died when cooking gas cylinders they were trying to rig as explosives went off in Kathmandu. One cadre was killed in Dhangadhi when an improvised explosive device he was carrying went off suddenly.
Government officials believe that the Chand party has lately been quiet as it was trying to strengthen its organisational structure with a view to launching a “major action”, targeting the upcoming by-elections scheduled for November 30.
“Police swung into action after a tip-off that some major leaders of the Chand party were planning a gathering,” said Indrajit Rai, security adviser to Home Minister Thapa. “The Chand party had been planning to head towards confrontation [with the state].”
Those arrested include Chand’s elder brother Chandra Bahadur Chand ‘Birjung’, a central committee member who is also Lumbini bureau and mid-western command in-charge of the party.
Other leaders arrested during the raid include Rapti bureau in-charge Kesh Bahadur Bantha, Rapti bureau coordinator Ram Bahadur Thapa, Rapti bureau secretary Sabin Pokhrel, Dang district in-charge Yamlal Katuwal, district secretary Pradip Oli, the youth organisation’s central chairman Babin KC, party’s intellectual organisation member Sunil Poudel, district civil council member Ek Rak Chaudhary, and Rajapur Rural Municipality secretary Dhan Bahadur Bohara.
Likewise, district in-charge of Rastriya Dalit Morcha Suraj BK, Rapti bureau members Tilak Pun, Hit Prasad Rokka, Post Man Gharti, Dal Bahadur Khatri, Amit Gharti Magar, Bal Krishna Sharma, Jit Chhetri, Ramesh Acharya, Bishnu Thapa, and Kul Bahadur Oli were also arrested by police.
With the arrest of nearly two dozen leaders in a single raid, there are concerns about retaliatory action from the Chand party.
On multiple occasions in the past, security experts have told the Post that the government needs to avoid its confrontational approach and convince the Chand party to come to the negotiating table.