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Army Deployment or Not

Issue 06, February 10, 2008

By Siddhi B. Ranjitkar

Some of the Nepali Congress (NC) leaders have been saying that the government needs to deploy the Nepali Army to maintain law and order in Terai during the election for a Constituent assembly (CA) whereas the Chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-Maoist) has been against the deployment of the Nepali Army. Almost all Madheshi (Terai) leaders participating in their people’s struggle for justice have been against the deployment of the Nepali Army, and have even warned the government of unprecedented protests against such a deployment. However, the government has not come up with any decision on this issue so far but has made decision on deploying special election security forces.

On Thursday, January 31, 2008, speaking at a protest rally held in Rajbiraj, Coordinator of Madhesi Janadhikar Forum, Upendra Yadav warned the Government of Nepal of a disastrous consequence if it deploys the Nepali Army during the election for a CA on April 10. Coordinator Yadav said only autonomy to the Madhes before the CA polls not the army deployment would help solve the problems facing the Tarai. [1]

Nepalese political leaders continued to send conflicting signals of the prospects of army deployment to ensure security during the CA election. On Saturday morning, February 02, 2008, speaking to the journalists at a face-to-face program held by the Nepal Press Union in Dhankuta, NC leader and former Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba said that there would be no alternative to deploying the army if the security situation continued to worsen. On Friday, February 01, 2008, talking to the reporters in Lalbandi of Sarlahi district, acting NC president Sushil Koirala said that he did not see the need for deploying the army during the election. NC President Koirala said, "In the present situation, there is no need to mobilize army." He, however, added that the army could be brought in if the incidences of killings and abductions increased. Meanwhile, a senior Maoist leader has said the army can be deployed to control the situation in Terai. "If the situation demands, the army can be mobilized by the seven-party decision," Ram Bahadur Thapa aka Badal told reporters in Ilam, on Friday, February 01, 2008. [2]

On Saturday, February 02, 2008, addressing the first CA election campaign in Hetauda, acting president of NC, Sushil Koirala said the time is not suitable to deploy the Nepali Army in the Terai region and also said most of the demands raised by the Madhesi people have been addressed and the remaining ones would be met after the CA election. The CA election will be held on the scheduled date and the people in the Terai also want the election to happen. He also criticized the Maoists for violating the 23-point agreement reached between the members of the seven-party alliance. [3]

On Sunday, February 03, 2008, talking to the journalists in Dang, Maoist chairman Prachanda has ruled out the possibility of mobilizing the Nepali Army (NA) to ensure security during the CA election; and said that the deployment of the army would affect the peace process adversely, and it would be foolish even to try the move. He said that the problem of Terai should be resolved politically and the army deployment could fuel the fire of revolt there. "Deployment of the NA should be viewed in connection to the entire peace process, earlier agreements and the Interim Constitution; so the demand for NA deployment, which is not necessary at all at the moment, is a ploy to disrupt the CA election. There is no need to drag the NA into dispute," he said. He also stressed on the need for holding the CA election. He said that the Maoists would have to capture the power to hold the election if the current government failed to do so. [4]

On February 04, 2008, talking to the reporters in Butwal NC central leader Dr Shekhar Koirala said that deploying the Nepali Army for maintaining law and order during the CA election would be counter productive to the country. He said that following the Interim Constitution both the Nepali Army and the Maoist People’s Liberation Army should be kept in the camps during the election, so, deploying the army under any pretext would breach the statute in the first place. He further said that the government couldn’t order army deployment without the consent of all the seven parties of the ruling alliance. Dr Koirala’s statement comes at a time when some of the SPA leaders, including his senior colleagues in the party, have been publicly stating that the army could be deployed if the frail security situation in Terai deteriorated during the CA election. [5]

On Monday, February 04, 2008, addressing an event held by the Press Union Taulihawa, acting president of NC Sushil Koirala said that the army could be deployed with the consent of the Seven-Party Alliance (SPA) if the violent activities went unabated in the Terai. He said that the government met the demands of the Madheshi people for citizenship, constituency delineation based on the population and a proportional electoral system; they have to unite for the polls. [6]

For creating an environment conducive to holding the CA election on time, the government has deployed the first phase special election security force for maintaining peace in each election constituency. “Over two hundred additional election base camps will be established by the first week of March," said Modraj Dotel, spokesperson for the Home Ministry on Monday, February 04. The spokesperson said that the ministry was confident in political parties would be able to start election campaign without any difficulty with the deployment of the special election security forces. Spokesman Dotel told ‘The Rising Nepal’ that 50,000 Nepal Police and 22,000 Armed Police Force (APF) personnel would be deployed for maintaining peace and creating a positive environment for holding the CA polls. “Besides, there will be 48,000 temporary police recruited for the election purpose," spokesman Dotel added. Public announcement for the recruitment has already been made. He also said each of the 131 polls in the Terai would have 50 police personnel. The remaining 240 polls in the hills and the Himalayas will have 35 police personnel each. The special election security will be in addition to the 1900 posts of Nepal police and the 94 posts of the APF. The setup of the 240 security bases of the special election security will be completed by the first week of March. The special security forces will be equipped with vehicles and communication gears for quick response to the troubled spots. Spokesperson Dotel informed that 1,400 vehicles, provided by the Indian government, have already been handed over to the Nepal Police and the Armed Police Forces. [7]

The Nepali Army is for defending the Nepalese territories from the foreign invaders and encroachers but not for maintaining law and order as long as the Nepali Police could do the job. In the extreme case when the law and order situation goes beyond the control of the law enforcement people then only the government might think of deploying the army to bring the situation under control.

[1] The Himalayan Times, February 01, 2008, “NA Mobilization in Polls Will Invite Disaster: Yadav”

[2] sd/ia Feb 02 08, “Debate on NA mobilization continues”

[3] The Himalayan Times, February 03, 2008, “No NA Deployment in Tarai: Sushil”

[4] sd Feb 03 08, “Prachanda rules out possibility of army mobilization”; The Himalayan Times. February 04, 2008, “Prachanda Flays Plan to Deploy NA During Polls”

[5], Kantipur Report, February 04, 2008, “Army mobilization would be a blunder, says Shekhar Koirala”

[6] The Rising Nepal, February 05, 2008, “Sushil hints at army mobilization for CA polls”

[7] The Rising Nepal, February 05, 2008, “Govt mobilizes polls security”

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