|HOME | NEWS | INTERVIEW|
|May 8, 2002||
The Rediff Interview/Devendra Raj Kandel
Locked in an attack and counterattack duel with the security forces, the Maoists announced a five-day strike in late April. Though most educational institutions remained shut, their battle against an increasingly aggressive Nepal government failed to evoke a complete response.
In an interview with Surendra Phuyal, Nepal's state minister for home, Devendra Raj Kandel, spoke about the trouble in the Himalayan country. Excerpts:
How did the government handle the five-day nationwide bandh called by the underground Communist Party of Nepal, Maoist?
People were a little bit confused on the first day [Tuesday, April 23]. But then they started to defy (the bandh). Shops were being opened, people came out on the streets with their vehicles and that helped us a lot. The strike has been a total failure. We have beefed up security around the country and the Maoists are being arrested. They did attack a microbus on the outskirts of the capital in the second day, but we compensated the owner. So far, there has not been any major accident. Security forces maintained a 24-hour vigil. Besides, we rectified the weaknesses on our side to prevent untoward incidents in future.
Now that the government has put price tags on the heads of top Maoist leaders and for arms recovered, do you think the people in Nepal and in India will co-operate?
Yes, we have put price tags on their heads, as well as rewards to informants giving clues leading to the arrest of Maoist leaders or the weapons looted by them. Now we are printing bigger, better posters and pictures of Maoist leaders and plan to distribute them far and wide. We will disseminate them in the same way Osama bin Laden's pictures were re-printed after September 11. The posters will be put up all across the Nepal-India border, so that people easily identify them. We are also giving the pictures to the Indian media.
Because the price tag is big enough, everyone should be tempted to co-operate. [Nepali Rs 5 million each for Maoist chairman Prachanda aka Puspa Kamal Dahal, commander Babu Ram Bhattarai and leader Kiran aka Mohan Baidya, rewards of up to Rs 3 million for the party's central leaders, Rs 2.5 million on other top commanders, and up to Rs 400,000 on arms like rocket launchers, mortars and machine-guns.]
Does this price tag on Maoist heads indicate that the government is backing out from peace talks?
The government is simply not in a position to hold peace talks or re-open dialogue with the Maoists. There is no such possibility. We are intent on disarming them. Unless the Maoists start surrendering arms and other goods looted from the security forces and government installations around the country, we will not resume talks with them.
[The Maoists unilaterally broke a four-and-a-half-month ceasefire on November 24, 2001, by attacking an army armoury in Dang, dragging the largely ceremonial Royal Nepal Army to the battleground for the first time after the start of the Maoist insurgency in February 1996.]
How is the government intensifying its fight on terror after the declaration of emergency on November 26, 2001?
We are fighting it with our military might now and also seeking assistance from friendly countries like the United States of America, Great Britain and neighbouring India. They have pledged assistance, which will help us a lot. The United States is already keen on providing $20 million, military hardware and development assistance. India has provided us with two Cheetah helicopters. We are expecting help and support from all. Besides, bulletproof materials are being fixed on our existing helicopters, and our army is learning to fly them at night. And we are buying three more for the police forces.
And what about the integrated security and development package announced by the government for some Maoist-affected districts a few months ago?
The programme has been very popular and successful in the Western Gorkha district. But elsewhere, they could not be very effective. We are putting such programmes on hold for now, and concentrating on disarming them. The rebels are attacking development and physical infrastructures, which is very bad for our economy. We will defeat them first, and work on development packages later.
The government security forces have faced losses in a few battles even after emergency was declared. Do you think the government is winning the war? How long will it take to quell the six-year-old insurgency?
Yes, the security forces did face losses in one or two battles after emergency. But we are learning from our mistakes and have begun to rout them. More than 1500 people have been killed after emergency and most of them are rebels.
On an average, the security forces have been killing ten terrorists a day. This means a big setback to the rebels; they have not been able to attract youth into their military force post-emergency. They are becoming unpopular day by day. That way, it might take us some years to quell the insurgency. They will not be eliminated overnight; it will take time since the insurgency has already got its roots here.
Design: Uttam Ghosh
|Tell us what you think of this interview|
HOME |NEWS |
ASTROLOGY | NEWSLINKS | BOOK SHOP | MUSIC SHOP | GIFT SHOP | HOTEL BOOKINGS
AIR/RAIL | WEDDING | ROMANCE | WEATHER | WOMEN | E-CARDS | SEARCH
HOMEPAGES | FREE MESSENGER | FREE EMAIL | CONTESTS | FEEDBACK