Bomb Effects: Palpa, Bhairahawa

Children of Bhutuke village of Jyameere VDC, Palpa district, playing with abandoned bullets and parts of bombs.

Look ma, they got new toys: In this photo, children of Bhutuke village of Jyameere VDC, Palpa district, are seen playing with abandoned bullets and parts of bombs. A heavy fighting between Maoists and security force took place in the village in the second week of Magh. Pic by Madhav Aryal

The Bal Mandir (Orphanage) building in Tansen, district headquarter of Palpa, that was destroyed in the Magh 18 Maoist attack.

The Bal Mandir (Orphanage) building in Tansen, district headquarter of Palpa, that was destroyed in the Magh 18 Maoist attack. About one hundred and fifty children live and study here. Classrooms along with all cooking equipments were destroyed and now two classes are merged into one to teach the students. No reconstruction has been started because of budget problem. Pic by Madhav Aryal

This building of District Land Preserve Office was destroyed in a Maoist bomb blast Friday (Mar 3) afternoon.

This building of District Land Preserve Office was destroyed in a Maoist bomb blast Friday (Mar 3) afternoon. Staffs of the office are seen collecting “important” documents and papers. Pic by Madhav Dhungana

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Pioneering blog from Nepal...since 2004.

7 thoughts on “Bomb Effects: Palpa, Bhairahawa

  1. Book Review of “The Royal Nepal Army-Meeting The Maoist Challenge” written by Mr. Ashok Mehta

    ‘The Royal Nepal Army, Meeting the Maoist Challenge’, is probably the first book written on the topic by a non-Nepali writer. Therefore, it becomes very necessary for a reader to understand in what perspective, affiliations and under what sentiment is the book written; more so because despite claims of the writer of trudging more than 30,000 Kms of Nepali land; it appears to be more normative and less empirical in nature. Since this will be the book through which our army will be looked at (at least until other better ones don’t come out), it should be clarified beforehand that some part and issues raised here are erroneous.

    This 109 page book attempts to give a brief overview of the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA), especially in the context of present insurgency crisis. The author, Mr. Ashok K. Mehta, a retired (Indian) army officer, seem to be following up the events in Nepal with close curiosity. And his meetings with the Nepalese Army officers (Both serving and retd.) has added seemingly first hand taste to his treatise.

    Although the overall objective of the book is not stated, it generally appears to be a critique of the RNA, suggesting guidelines and recommendations towards the end of the book. It is divided under three headings viz. India’s security concern, the Maoist movement in Nepal and The RNA. Under the first heading, the author seems to be beating around the bush to come to conclusion that Chinese influence in Nepal is the main security concern of India. On the following chapter, he has tried to summarize the Maoist movement in Nepal, describing their organization, morale, training and their method of attack. Some of the facts and figures presented in it are quite unique, since he had the privilege of access to military papers and attended some high level seminars during his incumbency.

    However, there are some very obvious factual errors in the book which has undermined the credibility of the whole book. For instance, it is not Singhanath Battalion of the RNA that was turned into Ranger Battalion by the US; and Bhairav Nath Battalion is not the special Force Battalion that is deployed in Achaam (Page 33) (it is a parachute battalion that is based in Kathmandu). Similarly, the US have not supplied RNA with Huey Cobra helicopters (P. 67).

    “The suspension of the UN Peacekeeping” argument which the Indians had been pressing earlier on (Page36), has been highlighted as one of the key issues. The author argues that the UNPKO duties and national park duties by the RNA is seriously impairing the counterinsurgency effort and that recalling these will render additional number of soldiers fighting the insurgents. This remark of the author is highly debatable because a thorough study on this matter reveals quite the opposite.
    Firstly, the national park duty by our army is meant to deny the dense Terai jungles which can house insurgents if abandoned. Hence, such duty is highly beneficial to counterinsurgency effort by default. Secondly the UNPKO, which has eaten up not more than 2 percent of the RNA troops, has the following points as direct output:

    ? The RNA soldiers benefit largely from the peacekeeping training which is extremely relevant and productive in the counter insurgency scenario.

    ? This international exposure to a soldier can be enlightening tour, which means his knowledge of democracy, rule of law; International organization etc is bound to remain carved in him.

    ? The financial incentive for a Nepali soldier by the UN trip is a very motivating factor. Not only does this mean that he has to fight better to get this opportunity, but he also has to be untainted in terms of human rights record. Thus motivating him to abide or respect human rights.

    ? The cash brought in has definitely put in a lot to prosper our society as a whole.

    ? Contributions to the UNPKO has a symbiotic relation with the International Community body in a way, because by sending troops to International peacekeeping the RNA is doing its part of burden sharing at the world level and on the other hand the UN is helping to alleviate insurgency problem at home by the above mentioned benefits.

    All of the above points strongly favor sending our troops to UNPKO and not as stated otherwise. A real friend of Nepal would rather suggest conducting more of UNPKO sort of training in order to improve this machinery.

    I don’t think our Army can be dubbed as “still a ceremonial army” (P. 41), not anymore. It has been fighting insurgency problems for almost a decade now. His comments like, “…the ceremonial nature of RNA, lack of combat experience and excessive participation in UNPOKO …..” (P. ix) makes it quite clear that either he is totally oblivious of the facts or that he is deliberately undermining the RNA’s image, the only organization that is pillaring the nation amidst the unrelenting adverse pressures.

    To the Maoists side on the other hand, his soft corner seems somewhat more than unique coincidence. Maoists are not ‘…growing faster after the events of February 1′ (P. ix) as the book suggests. In fact all of their attacks (after Feb 1) had failed except for Pili. Therefore, Mr. Mehta’s implication that Maoists are republicans before revolutionaries (P. ix) appears more to be a wishful thinking. He seems to be turning a blind eye to that writing on the wall that says ‘We are a hardcore communist striving to establish a proletarian dictatorship and eventually a New Soviet Federation at the South Asian level’ (see Interview of Prachanda that appeared in Revolutionary International Movement publication “A World to Win, no. 27”). He has totally skipped or misjudged the havoc that the Maoist can create in the whole South Asian Region. We, the people of Nepal are witness of the series of escalation in violence and rise of this totalitarian movement right from the start. In some way, our false surety in the beginning phase, which arose from their propaganda that their vengeance was against the police only (they said because of Operations like Kilo Sera 2 in ‘the red zone’), is very similar to the writer’s underestimation that Maoist will not pose threat to India.

    Similarly the writer’s assertion that ‘…the Maoists have called for a united front with democratic forces for the establishment of what they call a Multiparty Democratic Republic’ is truly Mr. Mehta’s own. Nowhere in the recent 12-point agreement (Maoists and Political Parties) have they mentioned about this Multiparty Democratic Republic. It is precisely this that makes this 12-point agreement exploitable (to attain their communist goal). At some point in the book, the writer has even contradicted himself by saying that ‘the Maoists have achieved striking success without any external support’ and then naming the list of Indian organizations ‘that are known to have provided tactical, training, ideological and logistic support’.

    There are lots of vague and baseless statements like “The writing was on the wall but the RNA failed to notice it even after the insurgency had spread. It was an Indian Army Veteran who predicted in 1989 that a Sri Lanka type conflict would soon break out in Nepal”. Similarly, ‘…people’s support for the Maoists is about seventy per cent in the west, sixty percent in the east and about thirty to forty percent elsewhere’ (P. 20) is as per his own guesstimate rather than anything else. Mr. Mehta is also second in advocating a choice of republican state for the Nepalese to another Indian writer S. D. Muni, who is believed to be an Indian RAW agent himself. Well Mr. Mehta, some here have even said that the Indians are behind the planning of it all in order to lead us to the fate of Sikkim. But conspiracy theories and mere baseless predictions does not become an eternal truth just because it turned out to be so. It is called fluke.

    Mr Mehta is not bit hesitant to say that “….RNA has been given a – Mission Impossible” (P. 72) with “…officers at junior level bereft of guidance” (P. 71). This is just in time when a world-renowned journalist and writer like Robert D. Kaplan, in his article in the Wall Street Journal (20 Dec 2005) wrote very opposite, especially after his visit to some of the units of the RNA.

    Insurgency is not an easy war. Despite such a long carrier of the author in the military, his knowledge of counter insurgency seems yet to be honed. This is a very dirty and complex war, as must have been realized by our Indian counter parts (Taking part in similar problems in India). Moreover, taking the terrain part into consideration, even the Americans Special Forces (Who were here) confessed that Nepal is ‘ten times Afghanistan’, where they are facing tough time themselves. And mind you, its not just trans-border incursion that we have to resist. RNA officers who come back from India (during their military interaction and trainings regarding counterinsurgency) say that that their Indian counter parts are insistent that it is best to leave the problem here to be solved by RNA itself lest this colossal problem befall upon them. It is very difficult for a country so poor like ours to battle against such problems, but a thorough comparative study suggests that whatever achieved so far is not as bad as is portrayed in the book altogether. Its not a secret that the Indian Army’s boisterous deployment (1,25,000 Indian troops) in Sri Lanka to aid the Government there against LTTE turned out to be so grave a mistake that it was forced to withdraw within three years (1987-1990). Similar insurgency cases in Kashmiri and Mizoram region, which are far from being resolved any time soon, started long time before ours. Hence it would be lot wiser for Mr. Mehta to study counter insurgency in his own backyard where he will have more access to ground realities easily, rather than deriving superficial and wrong conclusions from his sub-surface analysis about RNA from a distant armchair.

    Indian Army has definitely contributed a lot to the Nepalese but the book strives to form a false frame of mind of the reader that the RNA is all because of the Indian army, “…but for India’s massive training and assistance programs and the establishment of the India Nepal Bilateral Group on security, Maoists would have by now captured key locations of Nepal”(P.73). This is much in contrary since every interview of top political Maoist leaders are being done on Indian soil (Interviews in Newspaper and TV channels like BBC and the Indian ‘Aaj Tak’). The question that arises is, ‘Do the Indian authorities have so feeble accountability of people residing its own home ground?’ It becomes more quizzical as the political leaders of Nepal have gone to India time and again to talk with the Maoist leaders (despite of the Indian Government declaring the Maoists as terrorists quite some time back on Nov 2001). The much debated INSAS Rifle was proven to be a defective rifle at the RNA press conference after Pili attack, not as per description in the book, “…in private, some even denigrate the quality of Indian rifles, which are being provided in almost gratis” (P.83). He seems to have forgotten the claim of his own soldiers about its uselessness in Kargil. And for your kind information, it did not come to us for free. This rifle was sold at 70 % discount but the basic price was equivalent to that of the US made (far better) M16 rifles, which makes its cost far more than it deserves (Even at 70/30 deal). Similar was the case of Dhruv (ALH) helicopters. It carries not even half the load that of MI 17 helicopters and is not yet certified by US Aviation (Probably never will be). It was also 70/30 deal meaning we paid only 30 %, but the principle value was so high that we have paid almost the cost of MI-17 Helicopters. These are not “almost gratis” that the writer so derisively claims it to be and both of these have become non operational beyond repair within one year. And India has not given us MI 17 or Ranjit Helicopters like the writer claims (P. 66).

    His pointing of fingers against human rights violations by the RNA is widely over exaggerated, while completely omitting its recent improvements in the subject. The initial few individual violators are either punished or are in the process of getting punished. But there are no policy based violations as the book implies (P 62). It is the freedom of speech and press that RNA respects and cultivates, which brings forth each and every such cases to the fore which some people tend to exploit negatively. It is not muted as in the sombre valleys of Kashmiri region where there are 91 divisions (around 6,00,000 troops), six soldiers for every civilian. An airtight militarization of the area with ban on most but few selective media, widespread extra judicial killings and where the fear of UN scrutiny is so great that the voice of the locals on the necessity of UNPKO presence is widely shunned and suppressed. Similarly, your using of 11 fire units and aerial bombardments to trample one platoon of insurgents in Mizoram is what you should be fretting about in the first place; not exaggerate the use of Tora Bora (81 mm bombs thrown from helicopters) to neutralize Maoist attack against isolated posts, as “…..the indiscriminate use of fire power ……… in over-kill mode”. No Sir!

    The RNA was, is and will remain to be the savior of this nation. History bears the testimony of the fact that we had fought bravely against eternal aggressors and resisted them. Our army will not be shaken now, for one thing we know for sure is that weakness and discord in the RNA now will endanger the liberty of all the Nepalese and the mere existence of our beloved Nepal itself, in times to come. This shall not happen!

    P.S. The unification of Sikkim (P. ) is a wrong terminology it was annexation.

  2. The real situation created by bombs in Nepali grounds are critical situation for all of us. It might harm all of us and no one get rescued and jumped out. Although royal army and maoist violence are confronting and the final effect goes to civilians. All of us can be reunited for further peace unless like Ashok Mehata would write anything about us. No matter the reall situation is changing.

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