11 east terai situaition assessment


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11 east terai situaition assessment

  1. 1. DEVELOPMENT UNDER THE SHADOW OF THE ARMED CONFLICT IN TERAI AN INCEPTION SITUATION ASSESSMENT REPORT (Dhanusha and Mahotari Districts: Field Report) Prepared by: Raj K Pandey, MBS, MA (Rural Development) Jawalakhel, Lalitpur, GPO BOX: 19862 Kahtmandu, Nepal Mobile: 977-01-98510 86884
  2. 2. rajkpandey2000@yahoo.com, rajkpandey2000@gmail.com, rajkpandey2000@hotmail.com Preamble  Janakpur Dham is the administrative headquarters of Dhanusa, under Janakpur Zone, Central Region, plane belt where elevation starts from 61-610 meters, with tropical and sub-tropical climate, which is commercial, socio-cultural and religious town of the region. Furthermore, Mahottari, the neighboring district, with Jaleswor Municipality as headquarters, lies in exactly the paralleled locality, climate with a common socio-cultural, socio-economic, geo-political system of the mainland.  JICA/Nepal Office is on the process of initiating some educational initiatives in a partnership with the Save the Children Fund Japan (SCF/J) in these areas, which will be implemented by ASMA/Nepal, a local NGO, in both the districts. For this purpose, a team of JICA visited these areas on 17-19 January in comprehending the overall situation in general and possibility of further developmental activities with reference to on going conflict in particular. The proceeding paper especially deals about the developmental security matter as well as human security and overall situation in both the districts with reference to the present armed conflict. General Situation Assessment  According to the Chief District Office (CDO) and District Police Office (DPO) of Dhanusha, Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha (JTMM-J) and Madhesi Tigers (MT) are mainly active across the district including other unidentified armed groups in the different names with reference to the ongoing conflict. Moreover, the none- armed groups namely FORUM, Sadvawana, TMDP, etc. Terai based parties are also actively involving in the belt, where Madhesi communities are sympathizers to them. However, Southern part of Dhanusha is primarily influenced by these aggressive agitating groups. And, Eastern-Southern areas viz. Lakkad, Saghora, Dubodkot, Singhai-Maran VDCs, etc. are under strong influence of the different rebellions, where low and order situation has been completely deteriorated.  On the other hand, he also pinpointed some of the most vulnerable localities with reference to the present insurgency: Harini, Dubadkot, etc. are considered as the most sensitive red zone as compared to other areas. However, in connection with the Constituent Assembly (CA) poll, Special Task Force (STF) has been deployed, which are widely mobilized for the retention of the law and order. After mobilization of the United Security Forces as STF, certainly social crimes have also dramatically decreased as analyzed and briefed by the DPO.  The main targets of these groups are hill origin communities where 10-5 armed members venture for hitting and running purpose. Moreover, they also targeting the governmental employees as well as Madeshi communities. However, the CDO Office, being the government representative, claimed that the security situation has not been absolutely out of control in such a high degree as pointed out by the externals. He also admitted that rumors are more powerful than truth. Albeit, on the fast altering political context, the CDO Office acknowledged that nothing can be predicted with connection with the reversed circumstances.
  3. 3.  Last year, there was a clash between Madhesi and hilly communities particularly in Janakaput Municiplaity. Consequently, the hilly societies psychologically and mentally feel insecure to stay in the Terai but they have no other place to go.  With reference to ongoing insurgency, nearly 700 household of hilly communities have migrated as Internally Displaced People (IDPs) to the different places of the countryside. The independent local civil societies informed that these IDPs have permanently sold their inherent properties and sifted towards their origin including Bardibas, Hetaunda and Kathmandu for their individual safety purpose.  However, according to the CDO Office, number of IDPs might be roughly merely 150-250 households. These IDPs were especially the new comers who spent few years but those who have spent several generations have not moved so far. But, the Madheshi communities defended that those hilly, who migrated to another place are due to their own personal reasons and vested interests not by any threats and nuisance from any armed groups.  Similarly, CDO Office also added that none of the agitating groups have directly targeted any development related programs and I/NGOs so far. They are simply disturbing the hilly people and governmental developmental infrastructures.  However, crimes related with cross-boarder criminal activities are mainly custom defaulting and smuggling across the borders. On top of this, after deployment of STF, criminal groups have been, in a large extend, displaced from Nepal side. But, the CDO Office recently has received a couple of complaints about the forced donations from both individuals and organizations, but they could not submit the written documents as evidence against any forces.  On the other hand, District Police Office (DPO) informed that Santipur, Batteswor, Uma-Prempur VDCs are the most vulnerable areas where activities of the armed groups are high. Similalry, it is also informed that JTMM (J) is mainly active in the Northern-Eastern belt viz. Amunda, Chaurakohalpur, Dumariya, Raghunathpur.  The DPO further informed that in the name of politics, it is common phenomenon of lootings and abduction by forming a gang of 5-7 persons and using couple of weapons to collect the donations, which are in reality the criminal groups. On top of this, the FORUM, JTMM (J) and MT are mainly active to call on Bandha. At the same time, newly immerged faction of the mainstream party such as Sadvawana and TMDP are also active in organizing the protest and demonstration activities.  He further stressed that dacoits, kidnappings, political clashes, etc. are mainly executed by the traditional criminal groups in rustic settlements who are indirectly associated with the local armed groups. The DPO revealed that the mainstream political parties and their local leaders have some difficulties to access the rural settlements. And, they accepted that there is time to time clashes between hilly and Madheshi communities not only in urban locality but also in remote parts of the district, which has certainly destabilized the socio-cultural harmony.
  4. 4.  Some cases of inter-party political clashes between cadres of the Maoist/YCL vs Terai groups particularly FORUM and UML vs armed groups have been reported. The present armed groups mainly JTMM and its factions are the new form of previous Maoist who used same strategy during so called people’s movement.  The DPO further suggested that Janakpur is the best place for the night staying purpose in these entire belts in connection with the security reason.  However, due to present unstable political situation and ideological differences, it has reversely affected the synchronization among hilly and Madehsi communities even in the urban areas. The DPO also added that the hilly general folks are psychologically tortured due to the uncertain future and possibility of attacks.  At the same time, the researcher also informally discussed with an Inspector at the DPO complex, who is based in the rural police station at Jadakuwa. He informed that it is better for hilly not to visit remote parts of the district lonely at present since majority of the population there are Madhesh origin, who have bios feelings caused by Terai movement towards the entire hilly bureaucrats.  On the other hand, local level United Marxist Leninist (UML) Leader informed that the holding of the major political parties are slightly decreasing and other regional and local forces are coming up as possibility for the future. He further informed that the present armed groups are exactly imitating the previous strategy of the Maoist since most of the cadres were originally trained in the then Maoist camps.  At the same time, the researcher also discussed with the hilly communities in Janakpur Municipality in comprehending the real psycho-socio prospective of the general people. The hilly expressed that they feel insecure in these days since any thing may happen at any time as they are minority in these belts.  Similarly, a village based teacher, whom the researcher unexpectedly met in the District Education Office Complex, informed that certainly teachers are stationed in their respective schools in the rural settlements but they unofficially pay the donations to the armed groups who approach to them in different names. First of all, they asked for thousands of rupees but after a negotiation, they also accept NRs. 100-200. But, none of them provide receipt of the donation and the teachers also do not like to receive it due to possible harassment by the security forces. The rustic based teacher also informed that the donation drive is irregular but in the name of donation, unemployed youths are also approached to them.  Due to insecurity, all most all the VDC Secretaries are concentrated in the Local Development Office (LDOs) Secretariat at the respective district headquarters. However, the Health Workers and Teachers are based in the rural settlements as the present Terai groups have not directly targeted them so far.  On the other hand, the LDO acknowledged that due to present conflict, it is even difficult to fully exploit and mobilize the existing monetary resources of the GoN and he further suspected that the donor funded projects might also be difficult to implement. He eventually suggested that it will be better not to implement any development related initiatives before the most awaited CA poll. He stressed that all most all the VDC Secretaries are concentrated in the LDO Office complex and
  5. 5. the newly recruited developmental workers may not have easy access to rural settlements since all new faces in remot area are considered as suspected one.  The researchers, in connection with his opinion, organized an unplanned focused group discussion with nearly 10 VDC Secretaries who were venturing around the LDO Office complex. These VDC Secretaries suggested that it is not so difficult to work in the social sector particularly the education and health since the armed groups are mainly targeting the GoN’s administrative sector at the grassroots.  On the same focused group discussion, the VDC Secretaries further informed that Sadvawana has unit offices in the rural VDCs but the newly formed FORUM are unorganized at the grassroots level. However, they accepted that the layman communities will cast vote for those parties who can sincerely address a greater interests of the pair groups.  At the same time, the researcher also consulted with a local NC leader whom he found at the LDO Office complex. He briefed that NC has glorious and victorious history in the past but due to separation of Mahanta Takur, the NC may loose its credibility as Thakur is considered as one of the respected and influential leaders in the entire region. At the same time, another opposition party’s leader debated that it may be inner political conspiracy of the NC to defuse the Terai movement.  He further concealed that total 101 VDCs and Janakpur Municipality, where approximately 800,000 people have been living, voted for the NC and UML in the previous election but next time scenario may dramatically change and none can predict the political landscape of the homeland. The leaders also added that they have moral sympathy for the present movement, does not matter, how and who have launch it, but it is for the sake of common agenda, which was ignored for several years from the state machineries in the history of Nepal.  ASMA/Nepal, a local NGO, working in a partnership with the Save the Children Fund Japna (SCF/J) has been launching its developmental activities in the rural areas of both the districts. And, no any political pressures and forced donations have been faced so far. However, last year, ASMA/Nepal voluntarily donated NRs. 5,000 to the FORUM by collecting from its staff to support for the treatment of the injured people caused by clashes between Maoists vs. Forum. At the same time, currently, two hilly origin are also employed in Janakpur based Secretariate. Mahotari (Jaleswor Municipality)  The CDO informed that the present security situation in the district is normal but future can not be easily predicted. None of the groups have directly targeted any developmental projects and I/NGOs so far but suggested that it would be better to negotiate with those groups prior to operation and implementation of programs.  He further informed that some of the areas are considered as most sensitive zone with reference to ongoing conflict. According to CDO: Samshi, Bathanawa, Innerawakatti, Sundarpur, Magarthana, Matiyani, Ghirapur, Balawa, Sarpallo, Saramchi, Sitapur Bhanga, etc. are mostly affected by dint of the armed conflict. These localities are under influence of JTMM (J) and Madhesi Tiger. He further
  6. 6. informed that surrounding settlements of the District Headquarters (Jaleswor Municipality) is comparatively safer zone, albeit irregular incidents take place.  He also added that telephonic threats are common from the outside to the government employees and VDC Secretaries. He further said that Kisannagar, Pasupatinagar, Bagaha, Pakada, Hariharpur, Bharatpur, Saxminiya, Sunderpur, Magarthana, Phulgaha,Raghunathpur, Samsi, etc. are red zone with reference to the present conflict, where rebellion even challenge the state security forces.  Furthermore, 42 kilometer area, covering Jaleswor-Bardibas sector, is also under influence of the different armed groups. At the same time, Bhamarpur, Ratauli, Bispitti, Majaura, Hirapur, Khutta-Piparahi is also considered as vulnerable zone.  On the other hand, according to LDO, all most all the VDC Secretaries are based in the district headquarters. However, schools and health posts are considered to be safe so far. Although, some cases of abductions and forced donations for the teachers have also been reported.  As far as developmental projects and I/NGOs are concern, World Bank funded project and ADB funded suspension bridge related programs are suspended due to security reason for the time being as per LDO Official. However, the UNFPA is on operation in the district headquarters with a partnership with the LDO. The UNDP funded Quick Impact for Peace Program under the DLGSP, is also on the pipeline of operation including other local NGOs.  On the other hand, the CARE/Nepal is also working with the District Health Office (DHO) for the health sector. At the same time, the LDO Official also informed that everybody has been requested for the donations from different groups and it is accepted normal phenomenon due to present context.  The LDO Officials further informed that generally the VDC Secretaries receive phone calls as soon as the GoN’s fiscal year budget is released to the respective VDCs. The LDO Officials pointed out that the JTMM (J) and Madhesi Tigers are active across the district but JTMM (G) faction has minimal level of influence at the grassroots level. Whereas, the newly formed TLDP is emerging as a regional force to replace the NC in the entire region, who may lead the local politics.  On the other hand, the LDO Official also informed that Madheshi Rakchhya Bahini and Terai Defense Army are also partially existing in some of the parts. But, at present, the CPN/Maoist is considered rare throughout the district. The traditional voters of NC are converting themselves into FORUM or TLDP cadres.  In order to verify the reality of the given information by the government authorities, the researcher also discussed with a representative of Nepal Bar Association. He informed that even lawyers have compulsion to pay the tax. He, himself, has paid tax to different groups four time so far and some of his lawyer friends’ motorbikes were snatched. But, after paying certain money, two wheelers were released.
  7. 7.  He further informed that no armed groups have intervened the judicial sector so far although the lawyers have to donate them without debate time and again. He added that as compared to Janakpur, few number of hilly have migrated from the Mahotari as the area itself has small number of hilly and the property transaction is comparatively lower than Jankapur. Finally, the hilly lawyer concluded that the region, being the conflict prone area, is certainly in vulnerable and none can feel completely secured, but peace may reestablish immediately after the CA poll.  At the same time, the researcher also discussed with the Armed Police Force Office. The DSP briefed the overall general security situation and informed that the district has been divided into six security camps with reference to the CA poll.  Each camp covers nearly 12-14 VDCs as the district has 76 VDCs and Jaleswor Municipality (District Headquarters). The DSP added that Bhangana, Banauta, Jaleswor, Sumsi, Gausala, Maisthan, etc. has the STF camps and they carry on the patrolling activities mainly during night time, which the general people feel uncomfortable. On top of this, Nepal Army’s two battalions are also deployed in the same district. The APF/DSP also added that every STF has approximately 50 Security Personnel who are mobilized for picketing and patrolling purpose as per need, who was able to capture JTMM (G) district in-charge. At the same time, the APF was also able to control the planned national flag burning program.  On the other hand, the researcher also discussed with the District Police Office, about the contemporary burning issues in general and security mater in specifice.  They outlined that they will provide security to the JICA Personnel in case of need as well as other countries’ expectorates, if they inform ahead, about their visits. They further suggested that it will be better not to visit rural areas without informing to the Security Forces. The DPO added that JTMM (J) faction is more active then the Goit faction including known and unknown small armed groups. The DPO pinpointed in a specific that: Pashupatinagar, Bhagaha, Kisannagar, etc. are sensitive zone from their own regular assessment. On the other hand, Bathanawa is most vulnerable area in terms of anti-social and criminal activities and donations and kidnapping cases are in high rate across the district.  The DPO also informed that nearly 600 civilian police have been deployed in the district and they can freely move across the rural areas since the armed groups are not permanently based in any specific belts. As their strategy is hit and run and whenever police visit the rural settlements, the armed cadres vacate the localities. The DPO concluded that even the royal palace is not secured so that they can not say any places as the most secured land. They also suspected that there is possibility of inter-party and/or Hilly-Madheshi clashes particularly during the CA election, if situation remain the status-qua, even in the near future. Major Findings and Conclusion  The Terai communities including other agitating forces have the common political agenda particularly to receive additional autonomy, authority and participation in the governance as well as an opportunity and equity in all the state machineries. For this purpose, some of these groups are acting in a more aggressive and violent manner to terrorize the hilly and local administration. At the same time,
  8. 8. the central government has been totally proved failure in terms of bringing them into a negotiation and dialogue and restating the peace situation in the country.  Consequently, all strata of the societies are putting forward their rational as well as irrational demands, which have further divided Nepalese into different classes. And, the lengthy transition phased politics is mainly responsible for the present conflict since the ad-hoc government can not find a durable solution. As a result, the social harmony and national unity feeling has been weakening, which is a serious indication for the instability. And, until the most awaited CA polls are held, the overall general situation of the county, particularly the plain belt, will not be dramatically improved. But, despite such reversed circumstances, some primary relief programs can also be simultaneously carried on for the general people. APPENDIX-A: Remarkable Events (November 2007- January 2008) 1. 6 November, Dhanusha, JTMM-J cadres burnt to death a youth at Janakpur-14. His body was charred beyond recognisation, was recovered at the paddy field. He was kidnapped from his house four days ago. 2. 9 November, Mahotari, Police constable was killed and another person seriously injured in an encounter with the armed dacoits at Surahiya Tole of Nainhi VDC in Mahotari District. The gang of 20 armed dacoits looted property nearly worth 100 thousands including ornaments from women. 3. 20 November, Dhanusha, An unidentified gang murdered former Chairman of Patanuka VDC. Similarly, unidentified men murdered 70 year old local women. 4. 14 Dec, Mahotari, An unidentified gang abducted two NC cadres from Harinmari. 5. 20 December, Mahotari, Two persons were severely injured when a bomb went off at the house of one local at Raghnathpur VDC. Police said that bomb might be hidden there by some groups. 6. 25 December, Mahotari, An unidentified armed gang abducted two persons including a woman from Bujulapura. A gang of four persons abducted them. 7. 5 January, Mahotari, In-charge of JTMM-J has been sued under the arms and ammunition act. The Special Task Force nabbed him earlier. 8. 6 January, Mahotari, Two persons, who had reportedly gone to the nearby forest to fetch fodder, were injured when cadres of JTMM-J shot at them. 9. 7 January, Mahotari, Maoist launched political and developmental programs for the public awareness raising purpose with reference to CA election. 10. 7 January, Mahotari, The body of one local of Adhyanpur in Dhamaura VDC-3 in Mahotari, who was abducted few days ago has been found dead. 11. 17 January, Mahotari, Four persons were injured in bomb explosion at Bardibas.
  9. 9. 12. 25 January, Dhanusa, Indefinte bandha jointly organized by Nepal Sadvawana, MPRFand Madhesh Terai Loktantrik Party, affected life in Dhanusa and Mahotari. 13. 25 January, Dhanusha, Four bomb were detonated to disturb the SPA rallies. 14. 27 January, Dhanusha, JTMM-J detonated a bomb in the Maoist’s Office. 15. 28 January, JTMM-J shot dead a civilian near the Jagdhar river. 16. 29 January, Dhanusha, JTMM-J abducted and shot dead a man at Pushpalpur.