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Out-of-control Nepal Maoists attack police post

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS

Kathmandu : While top leaders of Nepal’s Maoist party were busy here trying to curb a brewing revolt among its rank and file, a group of dissidents attacked a police post north of Kathmandu in defiance of the peace pact the party had signed last year, signifying that the central leadership was losing its grip.

Nearly two dozen guerrillas, led by their local leader Raj Kumar Regmi, captured a police post in Phikuri village in Nuwakot district Thursday, and made off with three firearms and several rounds of ammunition.

This is the second instance of revolt by the Maoists in less than 10 days. Recently, a Maoist soldier alleged that over 1,000 personnel of their People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had deserted due to mounting frustration.

The soldier, known by his action name Kusum, also accused the Maoist leadership of misappropriating the money given by the government for the PLA troops and failing to provide medical care to those who had been injured in the course of the 10-year insurgency.

The Nuwakot attack is the second recorded incident of the Maoists attacking security posts in violation of the truce they signed with the government last year that enabled them to shed their terrorist tag and join the ruling coalition.

The attackers told local media that they had raided the police post to protest against the police patronage given to a newly formed political party, the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum.

The forum, a group from the Terai in the south, has become a target of the Maoists due to its growing influence in the plains and has been frequently locked in fierce battles with the rebels.

Left red-faced by the raid, the Maoist leadership began a damage-control exercise, saying they would punish the people involved.

The Maoist leader in charge of the district, Bijay, issued a statement to the media, admitting his men were behind the attack and promising that his party would conduct an investigation and help the government in punishing the guilty.

Earlier, a Maoist MP had denied the involvement of his party. Rebel legislator Hit Bahadur Tamang had told parliament that the attack was carried out by hooligans posing as Maoists.

Though the policemen were not hurt in the Nuwakot attack and only three firearms were stolen, it is still significant as it indicates that some of the guerrillas are not ready to give up violence and are gradually shaking off control.

The recently ended plenum of the Maoists in the capital, where nearly 2,500 representatives took part, saw the majority demanding that the party quit the government and begin a new revolt.

Though Maoist supremo Prachanda succeeded in persuading them to stay in the cabinet and not break the ceasefire, it remains to be seen how long he can control the dissidents.

The guerrillas’ commitment to the peace process has also been tarnished by their opposition to the UN’s endeavour to verify PLA troops so that child soldiers and illegal recruits can be discharged.

The rebels strongly opposed the verification conducted in one camp and brought the process to a standstill.

Though the exercise is expected to resume next week, it remains to be seen if the guerrillas will abide by the UN decision and discharge all their child soldiers.