Cock-Eyed and Jaundiced Criticism of Nepal by United Nations

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There has been the predictable flurry of knee-jerk criticism of HMG’s recent decision to enforce a ban on protest rallies and processions, as well as curfew, in specific locations within Kathmandu Valley in the face of a grave national security situation.

Such draconian steps have been necessitated by a disturbing sequence of events and heightened by noisy and persistent public threats by the Maoists and their new-found allies, the Seven-Party Alliance (SPA), to overthrow the state.

Not Business as Usual

Most disquieting has been the barbarous slaying of 10 unarmed policemen of the Traffic Department at the Thankot police post on 14 January by an armed group of Maoists. For most citizens this brutal mass murder of unarmed policemen only buttressed their conviction that the four-month Maoist truce that ended 2 January was purely tactical.

Against the backdrop of the compact between the Maoists and the SPA the cold-blooded slaughter made the SPA, in effect, partners in the heinous Maoist crime. Such a perception was further underlined when to everyone’s amazement, the SPA restrained from public criticism of the Maoist mass murder.

Recall, too, that threats by the SPA of unleashing “a political tsunami” against the Establishment, backed by the Maoists, had increased in frequency and shrillness following the 12-point accord of 22 November 2005.

One common refrain was that, following a protest turnout of over hundreds of thousands in Kathmandu on 20 January 2006 organized by the SPA and their front organizations, their “final battle” against “regression” (read the Monarchy) would be launched and, with the help of the Maoists, succeed.

Persistent appeals by the government to the SPA to listen to reason, to engage in talks, to step back from the brink, not to go ahead with their pact with the devil fell on deaf ears.

Planned Putsch

Most knew that the purpose of the SPA’s dress rehearsals in Butwal, Biratnagar and Janakpur was to fine-tune their planned putsch of 20 January. Such were matched by reports of massive inflow of clandestine funds to pay for the “hundreds of thousands” of party workers, volunteers and, even, outright mercenaries necessary for the “success” of that climactic event.

The chilling significance that the SPA was determined to go ahead irrespective of the 14 January killings could hardly have been ignored by the government. After all, it is its first and foremost duty to protect public lives, ensure public order, not to mention that of safeguarding national security.

It is in such somber circumstances that it decided to enforce night curfews in some cities, including those in Kathmandu Valley, a few days before 20 January; to arrest a number of second rung SPA leaders prior to that planned event and place others under house detention; and, on 20 January itself to begin to enforce a day-long curfew in the Valley.

Cock-eyed criticism of such a course of action is well exemplified by that issued by Ian Martin, the UN’s human rights man-on-the-spot. On 17 January, or three days after the Thankot slaughter, he deemed it appropriate to let it be known that his office is “investigating” whether the Maoist attack “violated international humanitarian law.”

What made Martin’s blatant soft-peddling of the Maoist atrocity all the more galling was that he chose to immediately castigate the government for having done the right thing, at the right time: to protect public lives, ensure public order and safeguard national security. Amazingly, he was far more critical of the government’s prohibitory orders, in the face of a most daunting security situation, than of the Maoists’ brutal, see-through atrocity!

This so-called protector of human rights apparently believes that the protecting of human life, by timely precautionary measures, is less important that the business-as-usual “right” to protest and demonstrate.

He should know, for one thing, that it’s not business-as-usual – not with Maoists’ armed infiltration of the Valley and especially not against the backdrop of the much-advertised joint SPA-Maoist operation aimed at regime change.

The deafening silence by the ‘international community’ over the brutal Thankot slayings was not only eloquent testimony of their double-dealing and double-standards but also revealed that the self-proclaimed champions of democracy saw nothing amiss in lashing out against the Establishment gearing up for the first elections in the country in the past seven years.

Apparently, they also thought nothing of encouraging those who have joined hands with the anti-democratic forces that aspire to foist a one-party dictatorship in which human rights, civil liberties and press freedom simply have no place.

All right-thinking citizens would do well therefore to consign such cock-eyed and jaundiced views to the dustbin where it rightly belongs.

M. R. Josse is a writer on Nepal and the author of Nepal: Politics of Statemate, Confusion and Uncertainty and Nepali Politics 2002-03: Gotterdammerung, The Twilight of the Gods.