The United States recently declared that they no longer consider UCPN (Maoist) to be terrorists. The party is no longer engaged in terrorist activity that threatens the security of US nationals or US foreign policy, even as the US acknowledged the party’s violent past (US removes Maoists from terrorist list, 07/09/12).
It is welcome news that the largest political party (based on the 2008 elections) of the country is no longer considered a global terrorist, but note that the declassification is based on US interests alone. In Nepal, however, the civil war has ended and the Maoists have joined the political fold but where one large “terrorist” might have turned a corner—such an outcome is still debatable—numerous other terrorists continue to flourish here.
There is no universally agreed definition of terrorism, but it usually refers to the systemic use of violence to create or perpetuate fear. Terrorism is largely political in nature and is notorious for intentionally targeting civilians. This piece will focus on some of the most recent terrorists that are active in Nepal even as the Maoists celebrate their release from US scrutiny.
The terrorist groups discussed here are the so-called sister organizations of political parties (with Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) as an unwitting accomplice) and All Nepal National Independent Student Union- Revolutionary (ANNISU-R). There appear to be two groups of the same name, associated with CPN-Maoist and UCPN (Maoist). These are certainly not the only terrorists operating in Nepal, but have been in the news recently for increasingly perpetuating structural violence against civilians.
The cycle of petroleum price hikes followed by national strikes has become all too familiar for Nepali people. First, NOC finds itself in a mess where it cannot pay its dues. After much begging, including throwing itself at the mercy of government coffers, NOC raises the price of petroleum products. Next, “student” wings of political parties call for the price hike to be cancelled, and give NOC and the government a few days to act. NOC rarely engages at that time, leading to sustained street violence that affect the general populace. The authorities then host talks with the street thugs and often roll back a few Rupees to appease the mob.
Last week saw the cycle in motion again, although the rollback has not materialized yet. When international oil prices go up or NOC fails to pay its outstanding debt, it jeopardizes the Corporation’s ability to import and distribute necessary supplies, forcing it to raise prices. The protestors counter that if the NOC were not as corrupt and stopped the massive leaks within its system, prices could be stabilized more effectively. Regardless, predictably, the Nepali people are caught in the crossfire to their peril.
This vicious cycle manifests as double jeopardy, particularly for the poorest. First, the price increase of essential fuel severely affects many working families that already struggle to make ends meet. Then the great protectors of the poor rise to the occasion, brandishing their entrenched structural violence with ease, undermining the rights of the very people they claim to represent. Not only do the poor pay higher fuel prices, now they cannot even go to work to earn their wages to pay for the rising prices. The terror is twofold, and devastating.
The first step towards a solution is so obvious it seems ridiculous that it has to be mentioned. The NOC knows who the chief troublemakers are, so before it announces its decision to increase prices, it should hold a pre-emptive meeting with these “stakeholders”. This meeting should address whatever concerns both parties have, and hammer out an acceptable solution for implementation.
Despite its failures as a public institution, if NOC can instigate a discursive culture that accounts for dissenting forces, it would be doing the general populace a massive favor. These negotiations have been proven to be inevitable after every price hike, so why not acknowledge it and hold discussions beforehand to spare the nation the violence? Similarly, protestors must learn to use non-violent means that require moral conviction, such as hunger strikes recently employed by Dr. KC at the Institute of Medicine, than brute force if they truly represent the will of the people. As things stand, the NOC remains an unwitting accomplice to terrorist sister wings that perpetuate a culture of entrenched structural violence to squeeze the citizenry.
PICKING ON KIDS
The terrorism of ANNISU-R is more obvious than the unwitting couple described above. Most recently, ANNISU-R “activists” have been busy attacking children and schools.
The thugs associated with CPN-Maoist first burnt Delhi Public School’s bus a couple of months ago, leaving vulnerable children to scramble to safety. Although the rogues were “civil” enough to let the children leave before the fire, they had poured fuel on the bus with the children still on the bus.
Last week, ANNISU-R related to UCPN (Maoist) attacked the same school (Maoist students vandalize school bus, 11/09/2012). The terrorists claim sainthood by invoking nationalism, arguing flimsily that the schools they attack have foreign names that must be changed immediately.
In reality, they want to shake down such schools to make a quick buck, as demonstrated by their demands for Rs 150,000 from DPS. Even if their concerns were genuine, their terror-based solution is less acceptable than the foreign names. The nation has remained so caught up on nomenclature that the substance of the education provided by schools—Nepali or foreign named—is taking the back bench.
ANNISU-R (CPN-Maoist) followed up their heroics by attacking two more schools in Kanchanpur (School vandalized for denying donation, 09/11/2012). The school authorities allege that they made monetary demands and refusal led to retribution.
The government must act immediately and decisively to punish all cadres who use extortion and violence against children and schools.
The two ANNISU-Rs claim that the monetary demands were pressure tactics to force school authorities to negotiate. Their actions amount to extortion, as they prey on the vulnerable children to make political demands. Appallingly, the state machinery turns a blind eye and rarely punishes the vandals, as if their political affiliation absolves them of their crime.
Once again, the solution to this terrorism is quite straightforward. The government must act immediately, decisively, and severely to punish all cadres that use extortion and violence against children and schools. If they hold political affiliations, the punishment should be more severe, not less, because representatives should be held to higher standards. Unless the culture of impunity stops immediately, the government becomes complicit in this terrorism.
The terrorists are winning because they have succeeded in perpetuating a culture of fear and violence in the country. Youth wings and sister organizations continue to embody the “might is right” philosophy, tormenting law-abiding citizens. While Nepalis express moments of rage, we appear to have internalized the violence and extortion that have become pervasive in our everyday lives. UCPN (Maoist) might no longer be a terrorist threat to the US but internal terrorism continues to prosper.
One man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter, but the onus is on the perpetrator to convince the populace of the distinction between the two. History might judge them kindly if these organizations somehow find a way to facilitate a more peaceful and prosperous Nepal, but the evidence so far suggests that these perpetrators are cheap thugs who terrorize the nation rather than reluctant visionaries taking up the cause of the land through violent means. I hope they prove me wrong.