Political Violence in Nepal’s Plains As Election Nears
As the Second Phase of Nepal’s first local election in two decades nears, political violence in Nepal’s southern plains is intensifying again. The region has seen continuous unrest for nearly a decade since the Madhes Andolan of 2007. And in the last few days, there have been political clashes between multiple parties with the Police exerting force, sometimes excessively.
At least one person died and two dozens were injured in violent clashes between cadres of major political parties on Sunday- the day of nomination filing for candidates for the second phase of local elections.
Fifty-year-old Hansa Raut, a resident of Jogedi in Chhededaha Rural Municipality, Bajura district, was killed in a clash between members of the Nepali Congress (NC) and Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist Lenninist (UML). Police said that Raut, a UML cadre, was injured during a violent encounter involving rock-throwing. At least a dozen others were injured in the same clash.
Despite heightened security, a bomb went off in Gajeda of Badganga Municipality-4 of Kapilvastu district injuring at least 10 persons on Saturday. The bomb exploded some 500 metres away from a polling station in Gajeda. No one has claimed responsibility so far. CPN (Maoist), a splinter of the former rebel party CPN (Maoist Centre) led by Netra Bikram Chand ‘Biplab’ is suspected to be behind the explosion.
CPN (Maoist) has boycotted the election, as it does not believe in the parliamentary system. Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal (RJP-N), a Madhes-based party, has also boycotted the second phase of elections. The RJP-N has been demanding the amendment to the Constitution to accommodate the concerns of the Madhesi community, which ranges from provincial boundaries to creating local units in proportion to the population.
After several rounds of talks yielded no results, the RJP-N announced that it would not participate in the second round of local elections, and vowed to disrupt the election process. However, the general strike called on nomination day by the party did not impact the election process as intended.
RJP-N has claimed over 400 leaders and cadres were detained on the day. “The State has terrorised our cadres. Our district level leaders have been arrested or detained,” says Raj Kishor Yadav, a party leader.
On June 17, a day before the nomination day, five RJP cadres were injured when police fired rubber bullets to disperse protesters in Parasi, the district headquarter of Nawalparasi.
RJP-N leader Mahantha Thakur was addressing a public gathering when police opened fire on protesters. The protesters had reportedly tried to seize CPN-UML t-shirts being distributed as election publicity materials. CPN-UML have been distributing t-shirts with their party logo in different districts despite the Election Commission having issued an order against such distribution of election materials.
Following the incident, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) expressed concern over the excessive use of forces against peaceful demonstrations and rallies in various districts. The Police have used batons on protesters in Nawalparasi, Nepalgunj, Janakpur, Sundari, Biratnagar, Saptari, and other districts. The NHRC has urged agitating parties to not infringe on the public right to vote by disrupting the election process.
But the violent clashes on nomination day occurred between major political parties. UML and CPN (Maoist Centre) cadres clashed in Baijanath Rural Municipality, in which at least three persons were believed to be injured. There are reports of clashes among different party cadres in various districts.
The Election Commission, however, has declared the nomination filing process to have been peaceful and that political parties, barring the RJP-N, registered their candidates enthusiastically.
Election Commission spokesperson Surya Prasad Sharma believes the massive participation of the candidates in nomination filing proves that political parties and candidates alike are enthusiastic about the upcoming polls.
The second round of elections will be held on June 28 in Province 1, 5 and 7. The government has decided to defer elections in Province 2 until September 18 in a bid to convince the RJP-N to participate in the local elections. The RJP-N is boycotting the polls until their demands are met and has called for an indefinite general strike beginning June 24.
There is heavy security presence in all local units. According to Home Ministry’s security plan, a minimum of 500 to 1,000 security personnel have been deployed at each local unit, especially in areas assessed as being highly sensitive. There are also mobile squads which include the Nepal Police Armed Police Force and Nepal Army soldiers.
Protesting Parties Nominate Candidates
Scores of leaders from the RJP-N and Netra Bikram Chanda ‘Biplab’ led CPN (Maoist) have registered their candidacy, defying their party positions of boycotting the local level polls scheduled for June 28. RJP-N leaders have filed their candidacy in Kapilvastu, Nawalparasi and Rupandehi districts, while CPN (Maoist) leaders have filed in Thawang as independent candidates. Thawang is the heartland of Maoist insurgency.
“There is no question of participating in the polls,” insists RJP-N leader Raj Kishor Yadav. “We have not even been given an election symbol. The State has targeted us and mobilised media to give us bad publicity.”
Two central members of RJP-N, Anita Yadav and Rajeshwor Mahaseth, have left the party to join UML, the party that has been vehemently opposing the amendment to the Constitution. They have accused their former party of being radical. There are also reports of more members quitting the party.
“I don’t think it is something we should be worried about. People come and go. That’s what democracy is all about. One is free to choose the path you want to take,” states Yadav.
CPN (Maoist) has also filed Amit Pun and Bhakta Gharti as independent candidates for executive posts, to supposedly counter its mother party CPN (Maoist Centre). The party has also fielded candidates in Baidari district.
Total Local Units
Total No. Of Posts
No. Of Registered Voters