Kathmandu : A fresh spat has erupted between the Nepal government and the Maoists, who allege that soldiers from army units trained to combat guerrillas during the insurgency have been deployed as ministerial bodyguards. The army has rejected the charge as untrue.
The new row, that underlines the continuing suspicion among the Maoists about the army and the other parties in the ruling alliance, came out in the open after the Maoist ministers Sunday refused to accept the 11 soldiers sent to each to provide security.
The five Maoist ministers refused to accept the new security contingent on the ground that the soldiers were from two battalions that played an active role in fighting the communist insurgency.
While the elite Rangers' Battalion is a commando force that received special training in jungle warfare, the Bhairavnath Battalion became mired in controversy after disclosures that it had run secret torture camps in the heart of the city and was responsible for the extra judicial killing of over four-dozen Maoists.
The Maoists, who had waged a 10-year war on the state since 1996, signed a peace pact with the government and joined it this year.
The government spokesperson right now is Information and Communications Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara who is a senior leader of the once underground party.
The other four Maoist ministers in Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala's cabinet are Physical Planning And Works Minister Hisila Yami, Soil And Forest Conservation Minister Matrika Yadav, Local Development Minister Dev Gurung and Women, Children And Social Welfare Minister Khadga Bahadur BK.
"We are surprised that the government deemed it necessary to provide the new security only to Maoist ministers," Mahara was quoted as telling tabloid Naya Patrika, regarded as being close to the rebels.
"We are taking this issue seriously."
BK was reported as saying that it was a ploy to demoralise the Maoist ministers.
The Nepal Army Monday rejected the accusations, saying the soldiers, headed by five commanders, were neither from the Rangers nor the Bhairavnath battalions.
"They are from the Singhanath Battalion," Nepal Army spokesperson Brigadier-General Ramindra Chhetri told IANS.
"We recalled all of them Sunday."
While the army spokesperson declined to comment on what had triggered the controversy, the Maoists have shown a tendency to fly off the handle frequently since they joined the government.
Earlier this month, they locked horns with the UN, accusing the world body of trying to disarm them like it had done with the guerrillas in Sudan.
Subsequently, they stopped the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) from verifying their guerrilla soldiers and the work has not resumed yet.
The UNMIN rejected the allegation that it was trying to disarm the guerrillas.
It said the misunderstanding had arisen after a UN agency circulated a report prepared by an independent consultant to give Nepalis exposure to world affairs.
The deep-rooted Maoist suspicion towards the Nepal Army casts a cloud over their agreement with the government that the rebel soldiers, if found eligible, will be absorbed into the army.