by Chiranjibi Paudyal
American Reporter Correspondent
September 21, 2002
U.S. PRAISES NEPAL, WHERE DEMOCRACY AND PRESS ARE ENDANGERED
KATHMANDU, Sept. 17 -- President George W. Bush has told Nepal's government that with perseverance and courage terrorism will be defeated completely, and the world will be freed of the menace.
In a letter sent to Nepali Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, President Bush thanked the government and people of Nepal for their valuable contribution to the campaign to free the world from the menace of terrorism.
In the letter made public here on Wednesday, Bush said, "The United States of America was directly attacked last September 11, but terrorism threatens the entire international community and undermine the prospect of peace, freedom and prosperity."
"With perseverance and courage, we will defeat terrorism, " Bush said in the letter.
The president added, "Nepal has chosen the path of peace and we will work together to build a world that values its people and gives them a future of freedom and hope."
The American government has strongly condemned the Maoists terrorism and supported Nepal's fight against terrorism.
The United States has agreed to provide $20 million in military aid to Nepal to fight a Maoist insurgency that has claimed over 5,000 lives since it began in 1996.
Six years of fighting and a split in the ruling Nepali Congress has also badly affected press freedom and democracy, which was restored in 1990 through a popular movement, political party leaders and analysts have told The American Reporter.
The Himalayan kingdom has been facing the problem of the leftist Maoists insurgency like the Shining Path guerrillas of the republic of Peru since 1996 that has claimed over 5,000 lives.
The Maoists - inspired by the Chinese communist leader Mao Tse Tung, who established communist rule in China in 1949 - want to establish North Korean or Cuban style communist rule in the Himalayan kingdom by replacing the democratic parliamentary system now in place.
The rebels attacked two police posts in Sindhuli district in eastern Nepal and Sandhikharka - the district headquarters of Arghakhanchi district in western Nepal - last week and killed over 100 policemen. More than 200 rebels were also killed in the fighting.
"The fierce fighting since the last six years is seen as to pressurize the government for the peace talks," says a human rights activist here.
The democratic government should not say that we would not sit for negotiation, and the talks should be initiated at least to end the blood bath in the peaceful land of the birth place of lord Buddha, the propounder of Buddhism, he added.
The government has repeatedly said that the talks were not possible until the rebels surrender arms. Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and home minister Khum Bahadur Khadka have repeatedly said, "the talks cannot be held until the Maoist terrorists surrender weapons."
But the political parties and human rights activists do not agree with the government. The rebels must declare a cease-fire and the government should hold talks with them, is the message from political parties and most civilians.
The meeting of the ten major political parties held in the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu this week urged the Maoist rebels to immediately declare a cease-fire and stop murder and violence, and hold talks with the government to find a peaceful solution to their problems.
The leaders, including the Nepali Congress president - and archrival of prime minister Deuba Girija Prasad Koirala - and main opposition party leader Madhav Kumar Nepal said, "We urge the Maoists to stop violence and murder, and the government should also create a conducive environment for dialogue to resolve the problem."
The rebel leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal, alias Prachand, which means "fierce," has also released a press statement from his hideout calling for dialogue to resolve the problem.
"We are ready for dialogue for the positive political resolution of the problem if the government wishes so," the rebel leader said in an email statement sent to almost all news media outlets in Kathmandu including the American Reporter. The whereabouts of the rebel leader and other senior Maoists is unknown.
The government said that the rebels could not be trusted as they had deceived the nation and resorted to violence after holding three rounds of talks with the government last year.
"This is their strategy for the preparation of bigger attacks. We were sincere for the talks but they left the table and made series of attacks last year therefore we can not trust them until they surrender weapons," a senior minister told the American Reporter.
It is not possible to get comments from the Maoists, as they are hiding and the government has declared them terrorists. Their heads have been tagged with a price: from $15,000 to $65,000 in U.S. currency.
The rebels have started to murder political activists, teachers and the general public in the remote villages of the country. A political worker for the main opposition party was killed in the neighboring Kavre district, 70 kilometers east of Kathmandu, on Thursday.
According to the government, he was abducted, handcuffed and taken around to local villages to terrorize other people. Later, he was tortured and killed in a barbaric way. The Maoists cut off parts of bodies and torture and kill people.
The main opposition party has strongly condemned the killing and said, "the murder and torture must be stopped. Otherwise they will have to face the consequences." The Maoists have not responded to such warnings.
There has been a state of emergency in the country for the last nine months, and political parties have not been able to carry on their activities in the villages; the parliament is dissolved, local bodies including the district development committees, village development committees, and municipalities have been dissolved, creating fertile ground for the rebels.
"There are government soldiers and rebels in the villages due to emergency - which ended on August 28 after nine months, " a senior leader of the UML told the American Reporter.
The government soldiers control the area in the daytime and the patrolling of the Maoists begins in the night, he said sarcastically.
The Maoists grew in such a way that no one believes they could create such menacing terrorism and violence in such a short span of time.
"The problem is so serious, but the political parties do not care about this," said political science Prof. Krishna Hathechhu of Tribhuvan University here.
Most of the political parties and the civil society think that the Maoists are a conspiracy to end the democratic system, human rights activist Ram K. Budhathoki told the American Reporter.
Whatever the reason and motive is behind the Maoist rebels' movement, it has damaged the prestige of the landlocked kingdom.
The number of tourist arrivals has declined, the economy has slowed and the economic growth rate is expected to grow only by 0.8 percent in the current fiscal year. Meanwhile, people's liveshave become more complicated by the day in a country where per capita income is less than 240 dollars a year and the literacy rate is under 60 percent.
The State Dept. has issued a warning to Americans about traveling and living in Nepal. American citizens here were warned to exercise maximum restraint and care while in the rebel's stronghold, a huge, hilly area of western Nepal.
The rebels have called a general strike last Monday and almost all markets and educational institutions were closed due to fears of murder and violence.
"I closed the shop because of fear of the Maoists and that the government could not provide security as the bombs went off in Kathmandu," Shekhar Shrestha, who runs a curio shop in Patan, told the American Reporter. There were series of bomb explosions in Kathmandu after the relaxing of the state of emergency. At least one soldier was killed and four injured in the blasts.
"I do not support them but I paid them to continue my business," said another shopkeeper. "We need security; we need security, then democracy. Leaders talk of democracy but we demand, 'Give us security,'" he added.
More than 3,000 rebels have been killed during the last nine months of emergency. but the actual number of deaths on the rebel side is not known as they take away the dead bodies of their dead comrades or cut off their heads so that the security personnel will not identify them.
Security forces said that they have made remarkable progress in the fight against the rebels during the emergency period, which is opposed by most of the political parties, who say that the emergency has curtailed civil rights. The security forces have also found it difficult to continue operations against the rebels in the daunting geographical challenges of Nepal with the limited resources provided by friendly countries, including the United States.
After the declaration of the state of emergency in the country last November - which lasted for nine months and was only relaxed on August 28 - the rebels turned to murder, kidnapping, and torture, officals say.
In response to a public outcry, the rebels have presented 40 demands including the formation of an interim government including the rebels, election of a constituent assembly to write a new communist-style constitution, and the creation of a republic state in the world's only Hindu kingdom.
But political parties here are not ready to compromise the democratic system established in 1990 through a popular movement after decades of struggle.
Political parties accuse the rebels of siding with the anti-democratic forces to end the system established after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the communist form of government in eastern European countries.
Freedom of the press was also curtailed during the emergency, and the rebel movement has created difficulties for journalists, too.
"We will continue to struggle for the freedom of the press," said Tara Nath Dahal, president of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists. The federation has struggled for freedom of the press, using the slogan, "Give us freedom to write."
American support is very vital for consolidation of democracy and freedom of the press in the Himalayan Kingdom and the U.S. government has often promised cooperation to continue the fight against terrorism and a diminished form of democracy in the kingdom.
During a meeting with Nepal's minister of state for foreign affairs at UN Headquarters in New York on Tuesday, U.S. Undersecretary of State Marc Grossmann said, "We reiterated our support for Nepal's campaign against terrorism and the need to consolidate democratic polity in the country."
"This very clearly reflects the western countries' policy towards Nepal and we will continue to support Nepal in its efforts to consolidate democracy and fight against Maoist terrorism," a diplomat from a major donor country told The American Reporter.