Nepal 2008: Facts on the Conflict
Small arms fill power vacuum
May 2008
Small arms fill power vacuum

KATHMANDU, 14 May 2008 2008 (IRIN)

Civilians are becoming more vulnerable to attack by militant groups and criminal gangs in the Terai region of southern Nepal as a result of the apparent proliferation of small arms and improvised explosive devices, local analysts say.

Easy access to guns has led to an increasing number of killings, abductions, attacks and cases of looting and extortion, they said. "The control of small arms still seems to be a low priority for political parties and the government; such neglect has led to a dangerous situation in the Terai," independent conflict analyst Bishnu Upreti told IRIN in Kathmandu.

Some 20 violent incidents - including killings, child kidnappings, rape, shootings, abductions and bomb explosions - have taken place in the past two weeks, according to the Informal Sector Service Centre (INSEC), a local human rights group. It said about five people had been killed and 14 injured in the incidents - mainly in the Terai.

The Madhesis dominate the Terai but feel they have been sidelined and excluded from national politics and development. Over a dozen armed political groups and criminal gangs (mainly Madhesi) have emerged in recent times, analysts said.

Armed groups
A new report by Amnesty International said there were over a dozen armed groups in the Terai, including the Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha (JTMM), led by the Jaya Krishna Goit (JTMM-G) and Jwala Singh (JTMM-J) factions.

''There is virtually no government presence as the ruling parties are too busy fighting for power and seats in the new government.''

According to the Nepal police, there are also other armed groups like the Madhesi Mukti Tigers (MMT), Samyukta Janatantrik Tarai Mukti Morcha (SJTMM), Liberation Tigers of Terai Elam, Terai Cobras, Madhesi Virus Killers, Terai Army and the National Defence Army.

Analysts are concerned that many criminal and armed militant groups have taken advantage of the recent power vacuum (a government has still not been formed over a month after the 10 April elections), and have been able to bring in arms and use them at will.

"There is virtually no government presence as the ruling parties are too busy fighting for power and seats in the new government," Bhagyanath Prasad Shah, president of Madhesi Janadhikar Forum-Madhesh (MJF-M), told IRIN.

Officials from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA) agreed the security situation was tense in the Terai.

"This is why we have stepped up security by stationing more security personnel in most of the areas," senior MoHA official Ekmani Nepal told IRIN. He said a large contingent of the Armed Police Force (APF) - originally deployed to cover the election period - would remain in the Terai to protect civilians. Nepal said the issue of small arms would remain a priority after the formation of the new government.


Experts and analysts lobbying for tighter controls on small arms are frustrated that no party has yet spoken out on the issue.

"The new government should immediately put the control of small arms at the top of its agenda, as this is a crucial step for the peace process," said independent conflict analyst Shovakar Budathoki.

"A clear policy on small arms is needed and there is a need for border checks," said conflict analyst Upreti.

Upreti and Budathoki said there had not been enough pressure from the media, academia and political parties to tackle the issue.

Credit IRIN 2008
Copyright © UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2008
[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), part of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Madhesi factbox
Nepal's largest ethnic group; make up about one third of Nepal's 27 million people
Concentrated in the lowland Terai region, southern Nepal, the country's industrial and agricultural heartland
Traditionally, their main ethnic rivals are the politically dominant hill people known as Pahades
Comprised of various sub-groups with several different languages and dialects and have only recently developed a political consciousness and unity of purpose
Campaign for regional autonomy for the Terai, a federal Nepal, and greater representation in parliament
Militant factions such as the Madhesi People's Rights Forum (MPRF) and the Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha (JTMM) have carried out violent acts
Not allied in any way to the Maoists who have separate political goals
Include some of the most impoverished and disadvantaged castes in Nepal such as Badis (traditional sex workers) and Kamaiyas (bonded labourers)
According to rights activists, Maoist leaders are unable to control their supporters.
External Links
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