Movement of thought

February 6, 2010

Nepal Waits as 2 Armies, Former Foes, Become One

Filed under: Politics — movementofthought @ 4:31 am

First published on nytimes.com

By JIM YARDLEY

JHYALTUNGDANDA, Nepal — Up in the foothills of the Himalayas, the soldiers of Nepal’s onetime rebel army have spent more than three years in camps monitored by the United Nations. Mornings begin with exercise, breakfast and drilling. Afternoons often mean political education sessions on their Maoist agenda for restructuring Nepal’s government.

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Kuni Takahashi for The New York Times

Nepalese Maoist soldiers received blessings from their division commander during their discharge ceremony at a camp in Nawalparasi.

Kuni Takahashi for The New York Times

At a cantonment of Nepalese Maoist soldiers, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, a Maoist leader also known as Prachanda, was pictured on a wall poster.

The New York Times

A camp monitored by the United Nations houses Maoist soldiers.

But, more than anything, the Maoist fighters are simply waiting, and Nepal is waiting with them, because the fate of the rebel soldiers will largely determine the fate of the nation.

Within the next four months, Nepal must complete the final and most difficult piece of the 2006 peace agreement that ended the brutal Maoist insurrection by integrating these fighters from the People’s Liberation Army of Nepal into the country’s security forces, including the Nepalese Army.

At the ramshackle headquarters of the Fourth Division of the People’s Liberation Army, soldiers in dingy tracksuits loitered in the compound’s dirt courtyard. Their leader, known as Commander Pratik, smiled when asked if integrating his troops with their enemies would prove difficult. “It is more difficult to fight one another,” he answered.

Perhaps. With Nepal facing a May 28 deadline to restructure its government and approve a new constitution, nothing is posing a greater threat to the peace process than the unresolved task of merging the two enemy armies. Maoist leaders and Nepalese political parties have alternately bickered and dithered, with Maoists stalling the dismantling of their army while negotiations go on about how to revise the Constitution.

As a result, Nepal is grasping for a lasting peace, trying to overcome the legacy of a war that has left it more militarized than ever. The 19,602 Maoist soldiers continue to train, even as they remain quarantined in the United Nations camps, or cantonments. The Nepalese Army is twice as large today, with 96,000 soldiers, as it was when the guerrilla war began, and the number of police and paramilitary police officers has steadily risen to roughly 80,000.

“How can you have one country with two armies?” asked Kul Chandra Gautam, a former United Nations diplomat and native Nepali who has consulted with different parties in the peace process. “A country like Nepal does not need 200,000 security personnel. That’s more than all the country’s civil servants combined, minus teachers.”

Nepal cannot begin to rebuild its tattered economy until the military standoff is eased, which first means finding a solution on integration.

On a recent morning, a ceremony at the United Nations cantonment that houses the Maoist Fourth Division underscored the uncertainty ahead, even if it was a small sign of progress.

Sitting in rows of plastic chairs, 361 male and female soldiers were being discharged from the Maoist army and returned to civilian life. The United Nations had listed them among the 4,008 Maoist rebels deemed ineligible to enter the Nepalese security forces, either because they were minors at the time of the May 2006 cease-fire or had joined the Maoist army after that date.

Pernille Ironside, a child protection specialist with Unicef, said the majority of these “disqualified” soldiers had joined the Maoists as minors, a violation of international law, and had grown into adulthood as guerrilla fighters. Yet unlike many child soldiers in Africa, who are often abducted or coerced into fighting, many of those who joined the Maoists did so voluntarily, making the job of integrating them into Nepalese society a different challenge.

“In some ways, this is more challenging because these children don’t want to leave,” Ms. Ironside said. “They’ve found a kind of family and something to believe in.”

Even though the Maoist soldiers have remained in the cantonments for three years, the terms of the peace deal have tightly restricted access to them by United Nations caseworkers, allowing almost no opportunities to interview or counsel them. Instead, the soldiers have been subjected to regular political education sessions on Maoist dogma, something that may make their re-entry into society even harder.

Under the peace agreement, the Maoists turned over most of their weapons for storage in United Nations-monitored containers, but kept enough to continue training. “During the war, we couldn’t have organized training,” Commander Pratik said. “But since we came here, we’ve been able to train. Now, we are more professional.”

The mistrust surrounding the integration is pervasive on all sides. Many analysts say the Maoists have maneuvered to keep their army intact as a bargaining chip to influence the constitutional negotiations.

At the same time, the Nepalese Army, which before 2006 answered to the king, now deposed, has grudgingly succumbed to civilian control. In January, the defense minister announced that the army was not obligated to accept Maoist soldiers and should be included in civilian negotiations over integration — comments rejected by the prime minister and seized upon by Maoists as evidence of bad faith by the government.

The discharge of disqualified soldiers was supposed to have been a relatively easy first step to begin the integration process. The soldiers being discharged at the Fourth Division ceremony were eligible to leave two years ago, but Maoist leaders rejected the rehabilitation package and demanded large cash payments for every departing soldier.

Those demands were rejected, and Maoists agreed to proceed with the discharges only in late 2009, with caveats. Now departing soldiers must call a United Nations hot line after they leave to personally request a rehabilitation package that includes educational support, business and vocational training, and financial help to start a business.

But many of the departing soldiers derided the package, some saying they were too old to return to school, others saying they were already soldiers and did not need any other training.

Indeed, as the Maoists continue to argue with the government over the terms of integrating the armies, Maoist leaders are trying to keep the allegiance of the 4,008 soldiers now being discharged to civilian life.

“We are connected in our hearts,” Commander Pratik declared in his farewell speech to the discharged soldiers. “Until there is a complete social and economic reconstruction of Nepal, and a complete restructuring of Nepal, I hope you will continue to help in the revolution from outside.”

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February 4, 2010

“There is no Constitution in Chhattisgarh anymore”

Filed under: Politics — movementofthought @ 10:33 am

Do you know that one part of our ‘great democratic country’ is totally under arrest? Yes, chattisgarh has become a police state. Thanks to green hunt, people, specially tribal people are most valnerable to the police and paramilitary brutalities. And because of embeded media, relevent news are totally blacked out. Thanks to some courageous journalist , some lighting is there. Read this news and think in which condition our fellow-citizen are forced to live…..

It was first published in ‘Hard News’……..Editor

 

Anybody can be picked up, branded as Maoist and jailed, beaten up, smashed, charged with dubious cases, ordinary people are killed, tribal women get raped and assaulted, no peaceful protests are allowed, journalists, academics and filmmakers are followed, terrorised and not allowed to go inside villages, a general reign of fear stalks this poverty-stricken landscape
Harsh Dobhal Dantewada/Delhi

Nobody knows the whereabouts of Sodi Sambho, a 28-year-old tribal lady who was brutally attacked by CRPF jawans of the Cobra Battalion, SPOs (special police officers) and members of Salwa Judum (State-sponsored militia against the Maoists in Chhattisgarh) when they descended on her village Gompad in tehsil Konta of Dantewada district on October 1, 2009. “An 80-year-old visually handicapped man was stabbed on his back, a 70-year-old woman, unable to walk, was killed, along with a 25-year-old youngster and two girls of 8 and 12. Four people who were passing by were shot dead. Nine people were killed that day,” said Himanshu Kumar, a Gandhian activist involved in social work in Dantewada, currently hounded by the police, his life in constant danger.

Sodi Sambho was in her house, cleaning the courtyard. Two of her four children were at home when she was asked to stand with another woman who was carrying an infant. Sodi fell as they shot at her leg; her children started crying. Left to bleed, Sodi filed an application with the police with the help of activists, but, predictably, there was no response. She was taken to a hospital in Delhi for treatment where she became a petitioner in the Supreme Court along with 11 others on the infamous ‘Gompad killing case’. Later, when she was again coming to Delhi for treatment, she was stopped at Kanker by the police, 300 km from Dantewada, as she was on her way to Raipur to board a train. She was taken into custody without any arrest warrant.

She had been missing, but the Chhattisgarh police later claimed that she was in Jagdalpur hospital and anyone could meet her. When three days later two journalists went to see her, they were manhandled by the police. The Supreme Court then ordered that she should be brought to Delhi for treatment. She arrived in AIIMS but was kept in ‘prison-like’ conditions by the Chhattisgarh armed state police. Arundhati Roy and women academics from JNU, Jamia and Delhi University tried to meet her, but the police bluntly refused. Why? Is she a terrorist? And why can’t she meet people, including her lawyer?

When the SC again ordered that Sodi’s advocate could meet her, they it was shockingly found that she had been “discharged”. In police custody at the hospital, Sodi simply disappeared. At the time of writing, nobody knows where she is, while the Chhattisgarh police and administration refuse to divulge any details. Her legal status remains uncertain as she is in police custody but the same has not been admitted.

If this is not a viciously undemocratic Police State in BJP-ruled Chhattisgarh, then what is it? The armed assault against the Maoists has been corrupted into organised State terrorism anybody can be picked up, branded as Maoist and jailed, beaten up, smashed and charged with dubious cases. Ordinary people are killed, tribal women get raped and assaulted, no peaceful protests are allowed, journalists, academics and filmmakers are followed, terrorised and not allowed to go inside villages, a general reign of fear stalks this poverty-stricken landscape. If the state government and the Union home ministry are targeting Maoist guerrillas, who are anyway inaccessible in deep forests, then whey are they hounding non-violent tribals, Gandhians, activists, lawyers, journalists, students and academics from all over the country? Why are they blocking all constitutional and legally legitimate processes? What are they afraid of? What are they hiding?

Lingaram is a 24-year-old youngster from village Sameli who was picked up and kept in a bathroom for 40 days without any charge. He was pressurised to join as an SPO, and tortured mercilessly upon refusal. The police had to produce him in the Bilaspur High Court after a habeas corpus was filed; the HC ordered his release. “I was told by the police not to speak the truth in front of the judge, or else I would be killed,” he said. Lingaram obliged, and fled for his life. He is in Delhi now and is desperate to go back. The police has since picked up his brother, father and other villagers asking them to produce him.

Activists Medha Patkar, Sandeep Pandey, Kavita Srivastava and others were pelted with eggs, stones and sewage by an organised mob of non-tribals on January 7 when they were on their way to meet the SP of Dantewada. “Maowadi wapas jao, Medha Patkar wapas jao,” they shouted. The police watched with silent delight. Clearly, this was stage-managed  because none of these leaders has even any remote links with the Maoists.

Four victims raped by the SPOs are still awaiting justice. Their complaints were filed after six months and warrants issued against the accused. “But the victims were again picked up by the same accused from their houses and kept in custody for five days,” said Himanshu.

A young lawyer, Alban Toppo, who had accompanied a social activist Kopa Kunjam to the police station, was detained and tortured before he was released next day. Kopa has been falsely charged with murder and is languishing in jail.

“Operation Greenhunt goes on. I have just received the news that six persons were killed in yet another village,” said Himanshu. All his Gandhian associates have been arrested and his ashram demolished. “There is no democracy or Constitution in Chhattisgarh anymore,” he said

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