House committee to question home ministry over killing of Chand party leader

- TIKA R PRADHAN, Kathmandu

Jun 24, 2019-

The State Affairs and Good Governance Committee of the federal parliament will question home ministry officials on Monday regarding the recent killing of a member of the Communist Party of Nepal led by Netra Bikram Chand.

The House committee decided to take up the issue after Janardan Sharma, a lawmaker from the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP), raised questions over the killing of Kumar Paudel in Lalbandi, Sarlahi on Thursday.

According to police, four persons on two motorcycles opened fire on security personnel when they were stopped at a checkpoint. Security forces fired in retaliation and Paudel was killed, police said.

However, at Sunday’s House committee meeting, Sharma, also a former home minister, said that Paudel was killed after arrest.

“According to my information, Poudel was shot with his hands tied after he was arrested,” said Sharma. “I want to know from the home minister what exactly happened.”

Paudel is the second Chand party member to die at the hands of security forces. Last month, Tirtha Raj Ghimire was shot in Dhodlekhani Khola forest in Tyamkemaiyum of Bhojpur district. Ghimire was pronounced dead at the BP Koirala Institute of Health Sciences.

Surya Subedi, advisor to Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa, said the minister would present his views during Monday’s parliamentary committee meeting at Singha Durbar.

Police have intensified their crackdown on the Chand party ever since the government declared it a criminal outfit and banned its activities in March, following two explosions in the Capital which killed one person and injured two others. Security forces have arrested hundreds of Chand party members since then with the party enforcing retaliatory strikes--particularly against educational institutions--to build pressure on the government.

Party spokesperson Narayan Kaji Shrestha said he had not gone through the issue in detail but that many were countering government’s claims that Poudel died in an encounter.

“If this is so, it is a matter of serious concern. The case must be looked into,” said Shrestha.

Sharma, a deputy commander of the Maoist army during the decade-long ‘people’s war’, is not the only lawmaker from the ruling party to question Thursday’s incident. A number of other lawmakers, mostly former Maoists, have expressed dissatisfaction at the government’s approach to dealing with the Chand outfit.

“It looks like the police administration is not under the home minister’s control,” Mani Thapa, a Standing Committee member and former Maoist, told the Post.

Many leaders wondered if Home Minister Thapa, a former Maoist leader himself, had deliberately refused to take cognizance of what could be an extrajudicial killing.

Ramdip Acharya, a central committee member of the ruling party, said that he too believed Paudel was killed after police took him into custody.

“It’s not acceptable for the state to kill a political leader after arresting them,” Acharya told the Post. “The state has no right to kill anyone.”

The leaders said Thapa needs to instruct security forces to exercise restraint.

“If what I have heard is true, this government is no different from the one we had during the Panchayat system,” Sharma said. “This incident reminds me of the extrajudicial killings of Dhanmaya and Lali Roka during the People’s War.”

Both Dhanmaya and Lali Roka were brutally killed in separate incidents during the early days of the Maoist conflict in Rukum and Rolpa, respectively. The government had claimed that they were killed in an ‘encounter’.

The decade-long conflict claimed more than 13,000 lives with more civilians dying at the hands of state security forces than the Maoists.

Home Minister Thapa has taken a hard stance against the Chand party, even though the two were said to have a good rapport during the ‘people’s war’. In 2012, they had both deserted Pushpa Kamal Dahal, saying that their leader had lost his way. While Chand went on to form his own party in 2014, Thapa returned to Dahal’s fold in 2016.

Now, as home minister, Thapa is pitted against Chand.

When four members of the Chand party recently died in accidental explosions in the Capital, Thapa, speaking in Parliament, said that those who had died “were not citizens”, inviting sharp criticism from the opposition. Thapa went on to say that Chand had created “four military companies”.

Though the government has said it is open to talks with the Chand party, no dialogue has taken place. Security analysts have urged the KP Sharma Oli administration to sit for talks with Chand instead of intensifying “counterproductive” crackdowns.

“Such extra-judicial killings could plunge the country into another conflict,” said Ram Karki, a former minister. “An independent probe must be launched at the earliest.”

The Oli government must tread carefully, said Mani Thapa. “If such incidents are not controlled, they will tarnish the government’s image,” he added

Published: 24-06-2019 07:45

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