November 30, 2008 at 1:04 am
A hundred people have been killed in the Tarai in the past six months
The Hetauda office of the human rights organisation HimRights has released a report revealing that a hundred people have been murdered by armed groups operating in the eastern and central Tarai since May. During the same period 126 people have been abducted and 77 cases of bomb explosions have been reported.This is disturbing news. And it is surprising that more people were killed in the six month period after the election than in the six months before. 73 people were murdered by armed groups between Nov. 2007 and April 2008. This was a period where a massive uprising by the Madheshi community took place. Armed groups appeared to be extremely active at the time. There were news reports almost every day about the abduction of a VDC secretary or death threats to an election official. It was commonly believed that it would be impossible to hold elections in eight districts in the eastern and central Tarai due to disruption by armed groups. In the best case scenario, it was believed, the turnout for the elections would be very low. But a last minute compromise took place between the government and the protesting Madhesi groups in February; large numbers of security personnel were deployed; on election day over 60% of the voters showed up, and there were no major incidents of disruption by armed groups.
After the elections, Kathmandu thought that the state security forces had effectively neutralised the armed outfits. This may have been true then, but now it appears to be false. Security forces were withdrawn from the Tarai after the election and the groups that had been dormant for some time started to become active again. They continued to carry out murders, extortion and abduction over the following months. Unlike during the pre-election period, however, they are now more focused on raising revenue and consolidating their organisation and less interested in raising political demands. The preconditions they have put before the government for holding talks is only to buy time.
If the numbers on murders provided by HimRights are any indication, there has been an escalation rather than a decrease in activity by armed groups in the post-election period, a fact that Kathmandu seems to have missed. The government is narrowly focused on peace talks. The media is no longer as interested in reporting on the activities of armed groups, let alone on broader political and social changes in the Madhesh. By ignoring them, Kathmandu has actually aided the armed groups; it is easier for them to function when the centre doesn’t notice what they do.
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