In early December, police attacked unauthorised communities in the Dudhejhadi forest in Kailali district, western Nepal, killing five squatters and destroying thousands of homes. One police officer was also killed. Maoists launched strikes and traffic stoppages in response, demanding compensation and permanent homes for all the squatters, who are Dalits (“untouchables”).
Elsewhere, on 11 January, unknown gunmen attacked a government office in Birgunj, in the Terai in southern Nepal, killing a policeman and wounding a senior official.
On 6 January, three Maoist activists, Ram Prakash Yadav, his nephew Dara Yadav, and Ambika Mahato, were shot dead in Bara, also in the south, by the Janatantrik Madhes Terai Mukti Morcha (Terai People’s Liberation Front – TMM).
On 12 January, also in Bara district, Maoist activist Rajesh Mandal was shot dead – again by the TMM (which fights for the independence of the Terai area).
The larger political stalemate largely revolves around civil-military relations. The latest flashpoint concerns a promotion. The non-Maoist government had announced in December it was appointing Toran Jung Bahadur Singh to the rank of lieutenant-general, the second-highest post in the army. Singh was in charge of a military camp where 49 Maoists disappeared in 2003 and 2004, during the civil war. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal (OHCHR) opposed Singh’s promotion.
The Nepali supreme court halted Singh’s promotion on 3 January, after a writ was filed arguing that the move went against the spirit of the 2006 comprehensive peace accord. So far, there have been no human rights prosecutions; neither has there been a truth and reconciliation process.
According to the peace agreement, Maoist ex-guerrillas should be integrated into the Nepali armed forces. The military are highly resistant, as are the other parties.
One small glimmer of hope was the release of 200 young Maoist soldiers on 7 January. By mid-February, 3,000 former Maoist child soldiers – who were under 18 at the time of the comprehensive peace accord – should have been released from UN-monitored camps.
On the food front, the winter drought, following a poor monsoon, has increased food insecurity and malnutrition in the country, according to the UN. Despite this, UN World Food Programme food assistance has been cut by a third due to a funding shortfall.
10:10 information, Oz-Bus is now offering London to Kathmandu bus trips nine times a year, first departure 14 February; cost £2,299 one-way.