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Insurgency in Nepal


With the Start of 2005, the civil war in Nepal that had started with the 1996 Maoist uprising carried over into its 9th year having claimed the lives of nearly 11,000 rebels, soldiers, and civilians. King Gyanendra had issued an ultimatum through Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba which stated that if the rebels did not submit to peace talks by January 13, general elections would be held which excluded the Maoists from the political process.

Government forces also took the initiative by attacking a rebel position in the remote Kailali district in farwest Nepal, claiming to have inflicted 150 deaths. However, only 41 rebel bodies were recovered and confirmed killed. These incidents of discrepancy have been common in the conflict. Often time rebels collect and remove the bodies of their fallen compatriots after battles. The other relevant factor is the tendency for both the Nepalese army state run media to inflate the figures of enemy losses. Other reports of rebel deaths have been exposed as exaggerations by independent probes and human rights organizations.

The Maoist rebels ignored the deadline for peace talks citing the inability of an administration appointed by King Gyanendra to meet their primary demand of abolishing the constitutional monarchy. Unable to bring the rebels to the negotiation table, the King took a drastic step on February 1, 2005, taking absolute control over the government and deploying troops to the homes of political leaders to impose house arrest. The King dismissed the Nepalese government on the grounds that the Prime Minister and other officials had failed in their duties to hold elections and to end the Maoist insurrection. Many of the former government's politicians that had avoided arrest were forced to go underground and the following day a 10-member cabinet comprised of loyalist was named. The King ordered armed troops to patrol the streets of Kathmandu and soldiers to prevent student protests. A national state of emergency was declared and suspended the civil liberties of freedom of speech and expression. Strict censorship was enacted, making it illegal to say or print anything that criticized the King. In addition much of the nation's communication lines were cut, disabling phone lines and internet connections, further isolating the country and preventing resistance movements from organizing. These moves attracted international criticism and were viewed as a power grab which delegitimized the King's rule. It destroyed the potential for a democratic alliance with opposition parties which would have been crucial to initiating new peace processes with the rebels. Even India, a long time supporter of the King's struggle against the rebels condemned the actions.

Newly appointed Prime Minister Dan Bahadur Shahi issued the King's hard stance against the rebels, saying if they did not agreed to immediate negations that the government would step up its measures to suppress them. The rebels responded by extending an offer to the opposition parties to join them as well as organizing a strike to mark the 9th anniversary of the revolts beginnings. The blockade tactic had been employed by rebel forces before, shutting down transportation and business and causing the prices of food and oil to increase. Starting on February 13, the blockade slowed nationwide traffic to a trickle except for army escorted shipments. Logs and debris were used to block roadways and rebels opened fire on numerous conveys. After a few days the effect of the blockade dissipated, but Maoists enacted a new blockade to last from April 2 until April 13. Again the lack of transport and business severely hurt the Nepalese economy and cut off man rural communities from access to markets and schools.

On April 7, 2005, Maoists attacked a military base in the Rukum district, marking the largest confrontation between the two sides since the King had dissolved the government in February. The ensuing battle lasted for 12 hours and Army sources reported killing 96 rebels, 46 of which they can confirmed with bodies, while losing 3 soldiers. Another major clash occurred on August 7. Maoists attacked an army base in the Kalikot district and claimed that they killed 159 security personnel and took another 50 hostage. The army denied these numbers but reported 40 captured soldiers had been found lined up and executed by shots to the head as well as a lieutenant who had been tortured and killed.

On April 22, the King finally freed some 60 political prisoners who had been held captive since the takeover. While select others had been release earlier, the administration was accused of Amnesty International of detaining some 3,000 political prisoners during since the King's takeover. This action was followed by the lifting of the state of emergency status on April 39. Although seen as a positive sign, opposition leaders remained skeptical of the protection of civil liberties as well as the sincerity of the King's intentions to restore democracy.

A development which offered the prospect of establishing peace was the establishment of negotiations between rebel forces and Nepal's seven main political parties. In early July the Maoist leader Prachanda first purposed talks aimed at uniting the opposition against the King's government. The political parties stated that they would only open a dialogue with the rebels if they would guarantee a decrease in violence. In August, the political parties agreed to a monitering system to ensure that the rebels fulfilled their promise not to attack civilians, NGO staff, or political party works in the areas of the country which they controlled. Despite reports that abductions and killings by rebels continued to occur in remote areas of the country, the Maoist declared a unilateral 3 month cease-fire on September 3, pledging to call off offensive operations and only fight if attacked. The action served as a gesture of good will towards forming an alliance with the non-violent political parties in opposition to King Gyanendra's anti-democratic rule. The political parties organized a 6,000 person protest of the King's rule in Kathmandu on September 13, which was dispersed by riot police with tear gas, water hoses, and batons and led to the arrest of over 600 protesters. Another 400 people were arrested during demonstrations on September 16, including 81 journalists. The rebels also released 60 hostages in an effort force the government into reciprocating. With both international criticism as well as an increasingly unified internal opposition, the government headed by King Gyanendra was under immense pressure to reinstate a multi-party democracy in Nepal.

In November, 2005 in a memorandum of understanding titled "The Second Understanding between the Seven Party Alliance and Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)" the Seven Party Alliance conditionally aligned itself with the Maoists in their fight against King Gyanendra. This marked a crucial development in the political environment in Nepal as a united front against the monarchy made it exceedingly difficult for King Gyanendra to position hiself as an advocate for democracy. This in turn led to more civil unrest.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:28:49 ZULU