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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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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.

 

Debunking Dr. Karan Singh’s Misinformed Comments on #Nepal at Indian Rajya Sabha

– by Nepalforeignaffairs Team

Dr Karan Singh, speaking about Nepal in Indian parliament
Picture: @subhash580‘s twitter feed

Dr. Karan Singh’s statement (click here to watch his full statement) in Indian parliament yesterday is full of factual errors and lies. Perceived as a person who’s knowledgeable about Nepal, Singh’s understanding of Nepal’s complexities and nuances appear to be very insufficient and based on a distorted view on Nepal’s situation, probably fed by a few sources who do not understand Nepal very well. Here is a point-by-point evaluation of his claims versus the facts.

[Related: Pictures show how Nepal is coping with the inhumane blockade by India]

1. The constitution alienates a large section of the population

Fact: The constitution was voted for by almost 90% of all members of Nepal’s Constituent Assembly, the elected body that was drafting the constitution. It has been approved by a large section of the population, including many Madhesis. A large majority of Madhesi elected representatives voted for the constitution.

2. Madhesis are 51% of Nepal’s population

Fact: Madhesis constitute less than 20% of Nepal’s population (see this factcheck article on the widely misreported Madhesi population statistics). Nepal is a diverse country and Nepal’s plain area, called the Terai/Madhes is home to various groups. The total number of people living in the Terai is about 50% of the country’s population, but it includes a large number of non-Madhesi people.

[Related: #Nepal: Madhesi groups have the highest representation in government jobs]

3. If the present constitution is continued, identity of Madhes is going to be destroyed

Fact: The constitution ensures a separate province for Madhesis, thus protecting their identity (although majority of Nepalese expressed in last elections that there are better ways to protect identity than through such ethnicity-based provinces). The constitution has provisions for multiple languages to be used in local bodies. No province has been created for other ethnic groups including Gurung, Magar, Tamang, etc. Madhesis are treated specially by the constitution, which many argue, is against the spirit of equality in democracy.

[Related: Did India deceive or did Madhesi Morcha misunderstand?]

4. The eight-point agreement in 2007 with the government headed by GP Koirala has been jettisoned

Fact: Previous governments have made such agreements with many ethnic groups including Tharus, Limbus, Chure-Bhawar society and so on. Like explained in point 5 below, multiple groups live together and have competing claims. It has been a subject of long political debate in Nepal and so far there has been no consensus. The arrangement proposed in the current constitution is the only one that has received least opposition and was accepted by about 90% members of the Constituent Assembly. The constitution ensures a separate province for Madhesis, while other groups’ demands for similar provinces have not been respected. There are voices within Nepal who think this special treatment to a small section of Madhesi politicians is unfair for the rest of the groups who share these regions.

[Related: A controlled Indian blockade on Nepal (BBC report)]

5. Madhesh has been sliced up in such a way that they are marginalised in all but one province

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Geographical distribution of some major ethnic groups in Nepal, from among more than 100 different groups (based on 2001 census data)

Fact: Nepal is a diverse country with more than 100 ethnic groups and languages (see this post for a statistics on some of these groups). The settlements in Nepal are mixed (many ethnic groups live close together) and it is extremely difficult to carve out provinces that is exclusive to each group, while still being fair to others. There are competing claims by different ethnic groups for provinces in the same areas. For example, in the Eastern Terai, Madhesis constitute less than 20% of the population but some Madhesi politicians (most of who have lost elections there) want it to be named as an exclusive Madhesi province. Other ethnic groups like Tharus, Limbus, Rajbamshis, Chure-Bhawar society also demand similar provisions in the same region. For over 8 years, this discussion has been going on in Nepal, including during two elections for the Constituent Assembly, that were dominated by this very debate. Finally, various parties agreed on the current federal solution that has the least amount of opposition. During the election of the Constituent Assembly, the agenda of ethnic-based provinces was defeated by huge margin. Similarly, the previous constituent assembly failed to draft a constitution because the ruling parties of that time wanted ethnicity based provinces while the opposition disagreed.

[Related: India puts Nepal on Ventilator Support by blockading the country’s imports (BBC Report)]]

6. Proportional representation theory has not been accepted

Fact: This is wrong. Please see Article 50 of the current constitution. More details on this can be read in this article about the many factual errors in Indian External Affairs Minister’s speech.

7. In marriage, discrimination regarding citizens as far as citizens marrying Indians

Fact: This is also wrong. Please see Part 2, Article 10-15 of the current constitution. More details on this can be read in this article about the many factual errors in Indian External Affairs Minister’s speech.

8. Madhesis have been looked down in that country for many centuries

Fact: Madhesis have been treated specially in Nepal’s history. They used to be part of the Royal court in Kathmandu. Today, several Madhesi groups (like Dalits) are among the most backward and disadvantaged in Nepal. At the same time, several other Madhesi groups (like Madhesi Brahmins, Kayasthas, Rajputs) are ahead of all other ethnic groups in Nepal in terms of Human Development Index (HDI), education, wealth, access to government services and opportunities. Madhesi is not a single homogeneous population group.

9. The current constitution goes back on the provisions made in the interim constitution

Fact: The current constitution is drafted by an elected Constituent Assembly that was sovereign. The Assembly was elected to replace the interim constitution based on the popular will expressed through elections. Current constitution ensures more progressive provisions including for language, women and minorities. It includes affirmative action provisions for additional groups like disabled and poor, which the interim constitution lacked. The current constitution ensures federalism, and a separate province for Madhesis. which the interim constitution did not have

Royal Nepal Palace Refutes "Malicious" Reports

King Gyanendra’s Secretariat at the royal palace today issued a statement that said:

“The attention of the Secretariat has been drawn to the malicious reports appearing in sections of the national and international media in recent days against the royal palace. This Secretariat strongly refutes these reports as totally fabricated and unfounded.”

The background: Some Nepali and Indian media are reporting that king Gyanendra is considering going into exile in India. There are some discussions going on about that in some media. The Indian foreign minister yesterday said that no requests to the Indian government were made from the king about possible exile. Maoist leaders have given a four-week ultimatum to the king to move out of the Narayanhitti palace. The first meeting of the Constituent Assembly is expected to take place within a month.

Our view: There is no question that king Gyanendra can stay in the Narayanhitti palace after the first meeting of the Constituent Assembly executes the provision of the interim constitution making Nepal a republican state. Gyanendra should go back to his private Nirmal Niwas in Maharajgunj that is reportedly undergoing renovation. If he wants to stay in Nepal, he shouldn’t be denied of that right because after the abolition of monarchy in Nepal, king Gyanendra will be just Gyanendra, a citizen of Nepal whose rights, just like our, will be defended by the interim constitution.

News from India: BJP Welcomes Change in Nepal

King Gyanendra’s asylum to India a “hypothetical issue”: Amid speculation that Nepal King Gyanendra could seek political asylum in India, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee was evasive on the issue, describing it as hypothetical, reports Press Trust of India. “I do not know whether anybody has sought any asylum. It is a hypothetical question,” Mukherjee said when asked by a reporter about the speculation that the monarch could take shelter in India as Maoists have emerged victorious in Nepal Constituent Assembly polls. Reports have suggested that Gyanendra could come to India using his family connections in India, says The Hindu. Continue reading News from India: BJP Welcomes Change in Nepal

Comrades Are In Problem, Again

A day after two Maoists leaders in Nepal criticized the Chairman and his deputy, the party expels them branding “”deserters of the revolution and servants of the autocratic monarchy and counter-revolution.”

Yes, it is almost certain that the Comrades are in problem again. And this time it seems pretty serious. After their widely publicized fighting, we recently saw two top rivals- Chairman Prachanda and the second man Dr. Baburam Bhattarai- talking to media from the same room. Now, the new fight has erupted within the party and this time it’s not just the personality clash. Two ‘revolutionaries’ comrades were expelled today from the party barely a day after they made public their differences with the party leadership. Prachanda has expelled two central level leaders Rabindra Shrestha and Mani Thapa (Anukul) branding them “deserters of the revolution and servants of the autocratic monarchy and counter-revolution.” Continue reading Comrades Are In Problem, Again

In The Name of Revolution

General people in Nepal are paying the price of the bloody war

Rolpali woman displaced by the Maoists

Many Internally Displaced People in Nepal are going through difficult situation like this woman in the photo. Nimakala Pun, 58, has been performing the same daily routine lively hood for the last eight years in Liwang, the headquarters of Rolpa districts. She is one of the many women and children displaced by the Maoists from villages of Rolpa. Nimkala’s house is in Mijhing village. Many Rolpali women are doing difficult jobs like carrying bricks in several brick factories in Kathmandu valley. Pic by J Pandey Continue reading In The Name of Revolution