PICS: MIN RATNA BAJRACHARYA
Just as Pushpa Kamal Dahal returned to Kathmandu from Chatara Sundari, having worshipped a buffalo and performed rituals for good luck, an armed group in Rautahat killed Shambu Ram Yadav, a member of the Bhojpura Sub-State Council. The following day, Rautahat district-in-charge Ashok Jaisawal approached the local administration, seeking security.
Jaisawal goes to the police office every day. "They say we need not worry as there is no threat to our lives. Security should be given before an incident takes place. What is the use after someone gets killed?"†
His case is representative of the Maoists across the Tarai, where armed groups have been targeting their leaders and cadres. Rautahat's co-in-charge Upendra Shah says they don't feel secure. "It's natural to be terrified when the leaders are being killed one after another. Who wants to die for nothing?"†
In the last one and a half months, 5 Maoist cadres have been killed in Rautahat, Bara and Parsa. But 36 Maoists have been killed since the peace process began; this figure excludes those killed in clashes with political parties and security forces in Rautahat and Dang. According to the Informal Sector Service Centre, 6 of these 36 were killed by the public and Tarai armed groups took responsibility for 14 killings.
While the killing of Maoist cadres is on the rise nationwide, they are particularly vulnerable in the Tarai. District level leaders have been asking local administration for personal security officers (PSOs). Chief District Officer of Bara district Tara Nath Gautam says leaders are provided with PSOs according to the degree of their vulnerability. Maoist CA members Shiva Chandra Kushwaha and Jayaram Dahal are among those assigned PSOs in Bara.
†Despite these arrangements, the Maoists remain uncertain about their security and say the state is merely fulfilling formalities. But Rautahat CDO Kamalesh Kumar Sinha says he cannot provide a PSO to everyone. "The district security committee decides whom to give a security officer," he says. Maoist CA members Prabhu Sah Teli and Debendra Patel have been given PSOs.
Why are the Maoists being targeted in this way? Sunil Jaisawal, commander of the Tarai Liberation Front, has claimed that three Maoist cadres were killed in Ganjabhawanipur, Bara and Rautahat as acts of revenge. For many, joining or recruiting the services of armed groups is a way of getting back at the Maoists for their actions during the decade-long insurgency. For the armed groups in the Tarai, claiming responsibility for any violent incidents is a way to generate publicity.
The state seems to be absent in the Tarai. Despite the Special Security Plan, there is no decline in the number of murders, kidnapping cases, bomb explosions, threats and extortion. The easy availability of weapons from across the border is a key cause, and cannot be controlled without support from Indian security. But the political parties, the Maoists in particular, need to take the initiative. As important as controlling arms is the need to push for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the Maoists have no other choice but to support it if they are to improve security for their own.
Crumbling state - FROM ISSUE #494 (19 MARCH 2010 - 25 MARCH 2010)