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Fringe Communist Party Challenges Peace in Nepal

Published Jun 02, 2019
Updated Apr 15, 2020

Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, was rocked by two powerful blasts on 26th May 2019. The cylinder blasts occurred an hour apart from each other in two separate neighbourhoods, Sukedhara and Ghattekulo,and claimed lives of four people and injured seven others.

While police secured the area and rushed the victims to the hospital,Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa, called an emergency meeting and asked the security agencies to remain on high alert and patrol the capital ahead of the planned strike.No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks however, suspicion has fallen on the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) i.e. CPN(M) which split from the Unified Communist Party of Nepal in 2012.

Police suspect those killed might be associated with the CPN(M) and that the exploded cylinders could have been rigged as explosives, possibly to be planted somewhere in the Capital, ahead of the group’s plans to enforce a nationwide general strike the following day. 

The strike was to be held demanding an investigation into the death of CPN(M)’s cadre Tirtha Raj Ghimire who sustained bullet injuries in police firing in Bhojpur and died while undergoing treatment the week earlier.

These suspicions are consolidated by the fact that the twin blasts of Kathmandu follow on the heels of a pressure cooker bomb blast in Nakkhu and another blast in Basundhara in February and March respectively, both carried out by CPN(M). Following the Basundhara blast, the government banned the outfit’s activities, and labelled the CPN(M) a criminal outfit.

Who is the CPN?

The CPN(M) – not to be confused with the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) – is led by Netra Bikram Chand, an erstwhile comrade of the co-chair of the NCP Pushpa Kamal Dahal as well as the Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa. Itis a breakaway faction of the erstwhile Maoist party that waged a decade-long insurgency which took nearly 17,000 lives and has vowed to launch a new form of movement—“unified revolution”—saying revolution in Nepal is still not complete. In March 2019, CPN(M) was discovered to be in possession of 400-500 weapons some of which may not have been surrendered after the 2006 Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

The emergence of a political party willing to use violence as a part of the strategy has raised concerns particularly after remarks by Mr Dahal at a function in February when he warned that the revolution could be re-launched. Mr Indrajit Rai, the security advisor to the Home Minister stated that the ministry is confused whether to treat CPN(M) as a political party or take action by declaring them a rebel force. CPN(M) meanwhile maintains a clear stand, with its leaders stating that they have formed an army and aim to equip it with sophisticated weapons “as there is no significance of an army-less communist party”. There is an ideological shift in the CPN which appears to be on the path of revolutionary violence for change of state structure a path that was abolished in 2006.

What is likely course ahead

Nepal suffered through a decade-long civil war which ended with a peace treaty in 2006 and the country has enjoyed a relatively peaceful environment since then. While the main group of the former rebels joined the party that runs the government, some former fighters led by Netra Bahadur Chand broke away, accusing their previous leaders of betraying their original revolutionary ideals, and have begun to use violent methods to sustain their movement.

In response, the government outlawed the group and banned their activities, but has also held out a carrot for talks.

The government must realise that it will have to reach out to the CPN using the erstwhile linkages to diffuse this threat. Nepal cannot afford anotherrevolution disrupting the socio-economic stability at a time when the Prime Minister Mr K P Sharma Olicalled on global investors at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2019to invest in Nepal, assuring them that the country was secure and welcoming of foreign direct investment.