Nepali Times
From The Nepali Press
Black Friday

Since it was a Friday, the rulers and administrators of the country were in a holiday mood. Prachanda, supreme commander of the Maoists, had broken the talks (two days ago), saying there was no point in talking anymore. Still, he had not ordered his forces to attack. The government was trying to revive the dialogue and impress its importance upon the intermediaries, facilitators and other people in contact with the Maoists.

At Baluwatar Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba's aides had left for the day. The telephone rang around 9PM. It was the first sign of trouble and no matter how hard he tried, he could not avert the consequences. The phone kept ringing throughout the night. By Saturday morning, most citizens knew that peace had been shattered.

The 9PM call from Surkhet not only informed the prime minister about the attack on the helicopter, but about the possibility of an attack in Dang. As soon as he heard this, he realised it was not enough to mobilise the army in those affected areas only. He asked the concerned army officers to start preparing for suitable action, and the army replied that everyone had been put on "alert."

The prime minister and defence minister was unaware that the army high command had four days earlier ordered its forces not to engage with the Maoists-they were not to shoot at them or follow them. He was satisfied having informed the army, but that was shattered after the call from Dang came through.

At 10PM there was news that the Maoists were organising a torch procession. A few minutes later another call came-they were attacking the offices of the Chief District Officer (CDO) and the Superintendent of Police (SP). The prime minister asked his aides to remain in constant contact with the army, and called senior ministers over to his place. All that acting Chief of Army Durga Prasad Aryal had been saying until now was that the orders had already been given and the army was on alert. Communication with Dang was cut off around 11.30PM. By that time, the massacre had taken place.

At the same time, information came through that the Maoists had kidnapped the Syangja CDO and District Development Committee (DDC) president. Police were being massacred, property was being set on fire and widespread looting was taking place. The prime minister's aides were busy contacting people in other districts. This continued till 3AM. By daybreak there were reports of Maoist attacks in 32 districts.

At 6AM, the prime minister ordered the army to start searching the jungles in Dang and Syangja. The army said it would only accept those orders following all due procedures. The prime minister called a meeting of the Security Council early in the morning. Both police chiefs, Pradeep Sumsher Rana and Krishna Mohan Shrestha were present, the army was represented by its acting chief, and there were two other army personnel there too. The meeting lasted until noon and decided the army would act as a back-up force for the police and the armed police. Just before this meeting, the prime minister had called all the cabinet ministers to his residence. They discussed mobilising the army and declaring a state of emergency. The prime minister met UML leaders, Krishna Prasad Oli, Amrit Bohara, Jhal Nath Khanal and Bharat Mohan Adhikary and got their approval to declare the Maoists "terrorists" and send the army after them.

After the Security Council meeting, the prime minister went to report to the king. He informed the king about all the events and also told him why the army needed to be deployed. He informed him that the UML had also agreed to these directives. The prime minister then went to the residence of former prime minister Krishna Prasad Bhattarai, ascertained that he agreed to the plan, and then went to meet former prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala. This meeting decided an all-party meeting had to be called for.

The cabinet again met at 4PM at the prime minister's residence. It had already been decided that the army would be deployed and the Maoists would be termed terrorists, but since the all-party meeting had not taken place yet, and the Nepali Congress had not passed any directives either, no decisions could be taken.

At 5PM an all-party meeting was held in Baluwatar. The events were thoroughly discussed and it was made clear that there was no option but to deploy the army. KP Oli made it very clear that since they had attacked the army, the question of whether or not to deploy the army was no longer relevant. He said this was a question the Maoists had to answer. Interestingly, the Samyukta Jana Morcha, the Rastriya Jana Morcha and the Nepal Majdoor Kisan Party did not attend this meeting, though they have always sent representatives to all all-party meetings. Other left leaders present were Jhalanath Khanal, Bharat Mohan Adhikary, Sahana Pradhan, Bam Dev Gautam, Radha Krishna Mainali and CP Mainali. Ruling party members KP Bhattarai, Ram Chandra Poudel, Sushil Koirala, Chakra Bastola, Narahari Acharya and Arjun Narsingh KC were also there. The RPP was represented by Surya Bahadur Thapa, Prakash Chandra Lohani, Rabindra Nath Sharma and Kamal Thapa. The Nepal Sadbhavana Party sent Gajendra Narayan Singh, Rajendra Mahato and Badri Narayan Mandal.

The Nepali Congress Central Working Committee held its meeting Sunday morning and decided that the government should take appropriate legal action against the Maoists, mobilising all security forces. The CWC also asked the government to take appropriate action against anyone threatening peace and security. Home Minister Khum Bahadur Khadka said since the party had already declared the Maoists terrorists, action should be taken against them.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)