Did UN official accused of bias by Israel protect Maoist violence in Nepal ? (Book Excerpt)

– by NepalForeignAffairs.com team

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Former senior UN bureaucrat Kul Chandra Gautam’s book is already creating a lot of ripples.

Ian Martin was the head of Amnesty International before serving as UN special envoy to East Timor and Nepal. He acted as the inaugural head of UN Mission In Nepal (UNMIN) from 2006 to 2009. UNMIN was established to assist Nepal’s peace process following the peace agreement between Nepal government and Maoist rebels in 2006. Martin is a Cambridge educated Briton, whose controversial role in Nepal led the Nepal government to reduce UNMIN’s mandate, before finally ending the mission in 2011, on a rather bitter note.

Martin has been heavily criticized by Israel for a report prepared by his team in 2009. He led a UN committee of four to investigate incidents during the Gaza War. Israel was joined by the US in calling the report as biased. Israel’s criticism stated, “in both spirit and language, the report is tendentious, patently biased, and ignores the facts presented to the committee.”

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Ian Martin was the head of United Nations Mission In Nepal (UNMIN) and led a committee to investigate incidents in the Israel-Gaza conflict. (Picture: ictj.org)

For the first time after the time of UNMIN, some of their activities and unreported incidents have been brought to light in a book by a former senior UN bureaucrat. Kul Chandra Gautam, who served as Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF, has been involved with Nepali civil society and in the peace process. His book, “Lost in Transition: Rebuilding Nepal from the Maoist mayhem and mega earthquake” is out tomorrow. It has already created a lot of ripples in Nepal, including very approving reviews for its counter-narrative to the dominant view in Nepal that eulogizes violence and undemocratic means to grab power by destabilizing the state.

What follows is an exclusive excerpt from the book, detailing some role of UNMIN and its high officials in Nepal that very few people other than Gautam have been privy to.


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Kul Chandra Gautam, a former senior UN official details some of the unknowns regarding UNMIN’s role in Nepal. His book is out tomorrow (Picture: ipsnews.net).

… People began to see that UNMIN was unable to restrain the massive pre-election threats and violence by the Maoists against candidates of other political parties. Following the elections, and the installation of the Maoist-led government, people saw many illegal and criminal activities taking place in Maoist cantonments or by Maoist combatants outside the cantonments. UNMIN’s seeming inability to control or even monitor such activities began to erode the public’s faith in UNMIN.

A video-taped speech by Maoist Chairman Prachanda at a party training event in the Shaktikhor cantonment just prior to the 2008 CA election revealed how the Maoists had hoodwinked the UN into accepting much larger number of combatants than was actually the case, and how the party intended to use its cadres, including its ex-combatants, to influence the election. UNMIN’s credibility nosedived, when instead of protesting the Maoists’ cynical remarks disparaging it, UNMIN sought to defend itself and the Maoists by saying that Prachanda’s remarks “needed to be understood in a certain context”.

Some dramatic cases of criminal activities in the Maoist cantonments; the free access and use of the cantonments by Maoist leaders for political training and indoctrination; and the seeming inability of UNMIN to do anything about such actions, led to serious disappointment with its performance, especially given the Nepali public’s very high expectation of UNMIN. Increasingly a growing number of leaders of the non-Maoist political parties, civil society and the media became critical of UNMIN’s performance, many attributing a certain pro-Maoist bias on the part of UNMIN.

Worried about their poor judgment, in early 2010, I wrote a long memo entitled “Quo Vadis UNMIN?” and shared it with Karin Landgren, Ian Martin and Tamrat Samuel. I cautioned them about giving undue benefit of doubt to the Maoists and unfair criticism and pressure on NC/UML to be more flexible and compromising. I have retained copies of my long private exchanges with them – mostly by emails – in my files.

In essence, the UNMIN leadership listened to my views politely, but generally chose to ignore them.

UNMIN became so influenced by the circle of self-proclaimed “progressives” that it ignored and dismissed the views and advice of many Nepalis who had a much deeper understanding of and respect for the United Nations, including those who had served in senior positions in the UN system …

In September 2010, UNMIN had prepared a report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council (S/2010/453) on the status of Nepal’s peace process recommending further extension of UNMIN’s mandate. This report was so unbalanced and objectionable that four former Foreign Ministers of Nepal coming from different political parties – KP Sharma Oli, Chakra Bastola, Ram Sharan Mahat and Prakash Chandra Lohani – wrote a joint letter of protest to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

As former foreign ministers, and strong supporters of the United Nations, they registered their objection to the tone and content of the whole report and pointed out several specific paragraphs which were against the letter and spirit of Nepal’s Comprehensive Peace Accord and related agreements. They objected to the report’s treatment of Nepal’s national army on par with the former rebel force, whose members were in temporary cantonments awaiting integration and rehabilitation. They also objected to the report essentially treating the Government of Nepal on par with the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist).

Indeed, neither the UN nor most Western diplomats insisted with the Maoists that if they wanted their cooperation, they had to unequivocally renounce violence, accept political pluralism (not just “multiparty competition”), and abandon their declared objective of “state capture” through either ballots or bullets.

Martin’s implied assertion that Nepalis … could not think for themselves, reminded me of the former Singapore Ambassador Kishore Mahbubani’s book entitled “Can Asians Think?” Yes, I argued, Nepalis can think for themselves.

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Karin Landgren replaced Martin as UNMIN head in Nepal. UNMIN has been controversial and accused of protecting Maoist violence in Nepal (Picture: frontpageafricaonline.com).
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India puts #Nepal on Ventilator Support by Blockading the Country’s Imports (BBC Report)

(Translation of a report by senior journalist Anil Yadav, first published in BBC Hindi. You can read the original report here. A Nepali translation of the report is available on the BBC Nepali website.)

Translated by nepalforeignaffairs.com team.

bbc hindiThe slogan of Bajaj’s Pulsar motorbike roars, “Fear the Black.”

In these times of blockade on Nepal, Indian villages surrounding the border town of Sunauli just love this motorbike as the biggest means of petrol black-marketing into Nepal simply because its fuel tank holds 15 liters.

Read: A controlled Indian blockade on Nepal (BBC report)

Unemployed and students hire a Pulsar for 300 rupees a day, get the tank filled for 70 rupees per liter and sell it for 125-130 rupees a liter in Nepal right across the border.

Whoever makes more trips makes the evening more colorful. Other motorbikes are also used for petrol smuggling but profits are small because they have smaller tanks.

manojsinghThese boys, driving their motorbikes in high speed, have started wearing masks, not to prevent the dust from the fields but to sneak out of the eyes of extortionate police and berating petrol pumps.

Travel agencies are seen killing time but drivers are making money filling tanks of their taxies.

Blockade on Nepal has produced young investors, whose stories you get to hear at petrol stations. A young man from the village Thuthibari near a small border check-post, 25 kilometers away from Sunauli, had bought a second-hand motorbike for 15000 rupees. Having paid it off, he is now sitting on money.

Nepal’s Madhesi protesters had shot a boy carrying diesel into Nepal from the neighboring village Bargadawa few days ago. The Pulsar-boys refrain from talking about him.

For them, this incident is an exception, which took place not because of smuggling, but of personal fights.

151210160401_nepal_india_border_petrole_crisis_01_624x351_gettyThose unable to manage a motorbike are using bicycles to pass jerry cans filled with diesel. It goes to the extent that the women and girls from poor families have made their day buying 5-7 liters petrol out of borrowed money.

A Chat-boy (Chat is an Indian fast food) has put his cart at the petrol station nearNautanawa bypass, just a little further from the Commandant Office of the Indian Border Security force-SSB.

Until last month, his cart would stand at the gate of a nearby school. The cart-men say, “Where the boys there the cart. Those who never had 10 rupees before are now making 1000-1500 rupees a day.”

Long queue of jerry cans was seen atanother petrol station. The waiting women were asking pump-personnel to fill faster so that they could go into Nepal across the No Man’s Land via paddy fields, do their business and return back before the evening grew dark.

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Villages near the borders are quickly filling 1-2 cylinders of cooking gas at homes. One cylinder costs 720 rupees in the black market. It sells for a whopping 1500 rupees in Nepal’s Belahiya across the border. The prices go up to 2500-3000 rupees after they reach Bhairahawa and Kathmandu.

Flourishing black market has given hard time to the businesses in Sunauli. Their support boys have left jobs to join the new opportunity.

There is no sight of rickshaw-pullers in the villages near the border; labors are in scarcity in this season of wheat-sowing. The blockade on Nepal has bestowed them with an unprecedented money-making opportunity.

151210080205_nepal_sunauli_gorakhpur_624x351_manojkumarsingh_nocreditThey want this situation to continue long. They often cite a famous, old saying which means: when you live in border, you make easy money and you need not worry for having no studies.

A villager standing near a private hospital in the town of Farenda said, “India has put Nepal on ventilator-support. The family members of such patients pay any amount of money to the doctors. Nepal is also paying to these villagers.”

Biased Narrative of HRW Report on #Nepal

Prem Dhakal

Does Human Rights Watch (HRW) believe that people migrating within Nepal have no say about provincial delineation of the place where they live now, while those coming from India like Rajendra Mahato should have a greater say over delineation of the whole stretch of Terai?

Why is the narrative of Human Rights Watch (HRW) report biased for me? 

First of all, I must accept that I have not read the whole report. But from whatever I have read, I strongly feel the narrative was biased. I can make no claims about the incidents, anyway, as I am not witness to any of the incidents. So, my issue is only about the narrative which does not look neutral.

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Human Rights Watch (HRW) Report on Nepal that serves a side in the political narrative war of Nepal. It is also conspicuously silent on the economic blockade that’s resulted in grave humanitarian crisis in Nepal.

1.

The title is ‘Like We are not Nepali’ Protest and Police Crackdown in tarai of Nepal, with ‘Like We are not Nepali’ displayed prominently.
I find the title biased and provocative. I believe it’s a report prepared by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and not agitating Madhesis. Has HRW concluded that Madhesis are not treated like Nepalis? Has the state said so? Does the constitution say so? I believe one can’t give such a strong headline to a report investigating killing of civilians and security persons during violent protests.

I have always strongly condemned violence by both the state and protestors anywhere. But the Madhesis have been killed in places burning in protest, and the security persons have turned atrocious after the Kailali incident where security persons were brutally killed, as the HRW report also accepts. Madhesis have not been chased and killed, say in Kathmandu for example.

[Related: Like we are not human enough to deserve rights; was the HRW’s Nepal report meant to serve one side of a polarized political-narrative war?]

I’ve not seen HRW or any other HR organization, bringing a report titled ‘Like we are not American’ when black Americans have been killed, at peaceful times, by police on as trivial an issue as a routine traffic stop as in the case of Samuel DuBose on July 19 in Cincinnati. So, why such strong and provocative headline on death of Nepali citizens during the course of violent protests?

2.

I don’t like to be personal. But I still find citing Prashant Jha’s work thrice to construct the context of violence and history of discrimination a little surprising knowing where he stands. But, HRW deems him to be neutral and I trust the HRW judgement.

“Some parts of Nepali society regard Madhesis as “Indian” due to their community’s close cultural and linguistic ties with India and their frequent intermarriage with communities in neighboring regions across the border, and some have questioned Madhesis’ loyalty to the Nepali state.”

I don’t regard Madhesis as Indians and am not here to refute Jha’s claims in the book. But the HRW uses this extract to build the narrative and then decides to not use the claim of Indian Union Home Minister Raj Nath Singh, who is a former BJP president, that there are one crore (10 million) Indians in Nepal. Singh also promises that Indians will be protected in Nepal. Here is the link

His claim has yet to be retracted. Indian Embassy in Kathmandu, though, has issued a statement saying the comments attributed to him do not represent the government position.

Singh’s comment was widely covered in Nepali media and social media. I can’t believe HRW missed that. My question is why did HRW decide to cite Jha to build a narrative to prove that Madhesis are not treated like Nepalis (rather like Indians) while ignoring claims of Indian Union Home Minister that seem to claim they are indeed Indians. It could at least have mentioned it to inform the readers, especially the uninitiated international ones, and let the readers decide themselves.

[Related: Debunking Dr. Karan Singh’s misinformed comment about Nepal in Indian Parliament]

3.

“The Madhesi movements of 2007 and 2008 were largely peaceful but also involved some acts of arson and other violence, while numerous protesters were shot dead by the security forces.”

The report says Madhesi protesters were shot but does not mention 28 Maoists killed by Madhesis in Gaur at the start of the movement. The movement was also directed against people of Hill-origin living in the Terai region- a large number of uninvolved Hill-origin people were forced to flee, if they could escape the violence and arson.

“These movements also gave rise to new Madhes-based political parties, which prospered in the 2008 Constituent Assembly election. However, these parties suffered multiple splits, resulting in their winning far fewer seats in the 2013 Constituent Assembly election.”

The HRW, after taking trouble to trace centuries of discrimination, seems to be economical with the CA Election 2013. It does not want to add why the Madhes-based parties split. It also ignores a crucial fact that the Prime Minister of that time, Baburam Bhattarai described the second CA Election (he announced elections for the second CA while dissolving the first) as a sort of referendum between those supporting ethnicity based federalism and those against it. The first CA was dissolved primarily due to the issue of ethnicity-based federalism after the parties were unable to garner enough support on either side to draft a constitution. The ruling coalition support ethnicity-based federalism, but did not have enough places in the Assembly. They wanted to increase their strength through the second elections. HRW, for some reasons, seem to not accept that the result of the second CA was not only because of the split in Madhes-based parties and the Maoists. The mandate was a resounding rejection of the ethnicity-based federalism and other issues that the Maoists and Madhes-based parties were supporting before the election.

4.

“The Tharus were opposed by the Akhanda Sudur Paschim (United Far West) movement, largely composed of people who live in Kailali and neighboring Kanchanpur district but whose origins lie in the hills to the north.”

The HRW, citing it, seems to make a point that those who have migrated from hills to the plains are prevailing over the indigenous people. But then, the report does not mention that Rajendra Mahato, one of the top leaders of the current Madhes movement, was an Indian before becoming a naturalized Nepali. Mahato now is demanding that not just the district where he currently resides, but even Jhapa, Morang and Sunsari should be included in the Madhesh province. The right of naturalized citizens, particularly those coming from India, is one of the major agendas of the movement.

Does HRW believe that people migrating within Nepal have no say about provincial delineation of the place where they live now, while those coming from India like Mahato should have a greater say over delineation of the whole stretch of Terai?

5.

“On that day, three Madhesi political leaders from the eastern plains—Upendra Yadav, Rajendra Mahato, and Amresh Singh—made speeches at a rally in Tikapur, Kailali’s second largest town, which were widely said to have included inflammatory language, angering Akhanda supporters.” (to watch these videos with English subtitles, click here)

Why is HRW using the expression “said to have”? Does HRW not find such language inflammatory? I find it hard to believe that HRW cannot find footage of the videos that the media has played widely, and verify authenticity.

I’ve not read the whole report but I didn’t find any mention about the announcement of incentive of Rs 5 million to the family of anyone who is killed in what I have read. I even searched the whole report using the key words million, 5 and 50, but found no mention of that incentive.

6.

The HRW says security forces have used racial slurs against protesters. This no doubt is condemnable. The police personnel attacked, injured and lynched by the protestors include many of Madhesi origin too. But I find it surprising that the report does not mention Madhesi protesters using racial slurs. Did HRW try to learn from the security persons if they also have been racially insulted by protesters? Do the HRW want us to believe that Madhesi protesters protest with their mouths sealed or they are so controlled that they don’t retaliate even when security forces hurl racial slurs against them?

7.

It is also surprising that the HRW does not talk about Indian blockade in the report. One of the editors of the HRW report, Tejshree Thapa tweeted that blockade is a political issue, therefore out of scope for HRW. So, if HRW does not acknowledge political issues, why build the narrative by citing centuries of discrimination by hill elites and so on? Are the violent protests in Nepal of apolitical nature? Isn’t the blockade on Nepali population a grave humanitarian crime? If political history has to be connected while investigating killings by police and protesters following differences over political document like constitution, why ignore an issue that can have (currently having) serious humanitarian repercussions?

The most surprising thing is HRW mentions

“The Nepali government has blamed India for the shortages, claiming that India is imposing an unofficial blockade in order to force the government to amend the constitution in line with the Madhesi demands. India has denied this charge, claiming that the shortages are due to protester blockades and a general lack of security for the trucks ferrying the goods.”

[Related: A controlled Indian Blockade on Nepal, a BBC Report from a border town]

But does not send its men to visit all the border points to see if all of them have been obstructed by protesters or not. I would like to remind that goods were coming unhindered from Bhairahawa to Kathmandu before India started the blockade even as the border point in Birgunj was closed due to protests.

I believe HRW cannot be stretched for resources to send its men to see why the border points are obstructed, and adding one line to the above lines would not have completely transformed the report into a political one from that about human rights. I also find it surprising that the report, again in the parts which I have read, does not mention about protestors hurling stones from no man’s land.


Originally posted on Twitter by Prem Dhakal, directed to Human Rights Watch (HRW) and an editor of the Nepal report, Tejshree Thapa. The tweet can be viewed at this link. This UWB post has been published with Mr. Dhakal’s permission.