Before he was assaulted, UCPN(M) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal was greeting guests enthusiastically at the party's tea reception at Bhrikuti Mandap on Friday. Party cadres, well-wishers, and ordinary Nepalis had all arrived to get a glimpse of their leaders. Dozens of hands were seeking Dahal's attention, and he had to attend to each person if only out of formality.
From a security point of view, this was incredibly unsafe. Dahal did not even keep a foot's distance between himself and the guests, and anybody could have easily attacked him. Having awaited his turn, Uttam Kunwar of Kutneta, Baglung eventually slapped Dahal. Last Friday's blow completed the slapgate circle: top leaders of all three parties have now been attacked by their own cadres.
But on a more serious note, this episode got the home administration worried about VIP security. On Sunday the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA) announced that it will unveil a new VIP-security procedure within three weeks. Shankar Koirala, chief assistant secretary of the Law and Order Division, will be heading the taskforce.
"Our goal is to find out how to improve and strengthen the security provided to VIPs and VVIPs," said Koirala, who did not want to reveal the ministry's official line on these matters.
The new security program comes at a time when the ministry was already planning to brief all Personal Security Officers (PSO). Currently, personnel from Nepal Police, Armed Police Force, National Investigation Department, and the Nepal Army are deployed in various capacity.
The Koirala-led taskforce will investigate ways to upgrade security arrangements for the residence, offices, roads taken, and the destinations travelled to by VIPs. The taskforce will also focus on improving the command and control of the personnel. A security code of conduct for VIPs will be made, which will require them to undergo self-defence training. It is international practice for government officials to be familiar with security procedures and even the president of the United States takes self-defence classes.
However, MoHA officials admit that as long as VIPs do not cooperate, no amount of security preparation will help. "The leaders need to follow instructions because security forces alone can't stop such premeditated attacks," said an official.
At the UCPN(M)'s tea reception on Friday, there were hundreds of police personnel under the command of SSP Jaya Bahadur Chand, and the event was notable for its heavy security. But ultimately Kunwar's hands reached Dahal because he strayed beyond the protection line. "The PSOs weren't vigilant, and VIPs were equally unaware," said an officer investigating the incident.