Nepal’s agitated Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha (SLMM) called off their nearly five-month long blockade at Indo-Nepal border. The end of the protest brings about relief to the country suffering from shortages of fuels, medicines and other supplies.
A statement issued after the meeting of United Democratic Madhesi Front leaders said that considering the current crisis facing the nation and the public necessity and aspirations, the ongoing protest programmes of general strike, border blockade, government office shutdown have been called off for now. The statement also said that the agitation shall continue till the demands are addressed.
This announcement comes ahead of Prime Minister KP Oli’s Indian trip, that is scheduled on February 19, which is the first overseas visit of the new Nepalese premier.
Based in the Tarai lowlands, the Madhesi Front launched the protest in September to force Nepal’s major political parties to make amends in the new charter and give them a greater role in the power structure thus bringing about a new Constitution.
The main border point at Birgunj has seen trucks move about for the first time in more than four months on Friday after the protesters were chased away. It was opened briefly, but it was closed again. Except the border point Birgunj, trade has resumed at all other posts.
To see to it that the Madhesis participate in the parliament, Nepal made changes to the constitution. But the community leaders state that the amendments still fail to address their central fear of division of their ancestral homeland under the seven-province structure.
Research Analysis Wing (RAW), has recently been appreciated along with other intelligence agencies (Intelligence Bureau and National Intelligence Agency) for the successful arrest of Abdul Kareem Tunda and Yasin Bhatkal. Both these terrorists were in India’s “Most Wanted” list. Talking to two retired RAW officers, certain queries about the procedure which will be followed for their punishment were answered.
Q: After many years, the intelligence agencies have arrested two of the “most wanted” terrorists. RAW has played a very important role in this. What was the reason behind the successful captures?
Mr. V. Swaminathan (name changed): You should realize that our intelligence agencies, working under a democratic set-up, are pitted against the Inter Services Intelligence Agency (ISI) of Pakistan who control all terrorist activities against India. The ISI is almost independent of the civilian government in Pakistan and is only answerable directly to the army Chief. Whatever successes we have achieved in the last 20 years have been secured by out witting ISI. Incidentally, our successes are not only in terms of identifying and occasionally capturing the perpetrators. We are unable to capture all the identified criminals because they take shelter in Pakistan and are controlled by ISI. We have also foiled many other acts of terrorism thanks to our intelligence agencies.
Mr. M. Bose(name changed): Intelligence agencies have been doing some really commendable work since their inception, arrest doesn’t warrant a remedy all the time, but anyway this is a very encouraging development.
Q: It’s been said that RAW and other agencies like IB and NIA, have worked together to successfully locate and arrests these terrorists? Why do you think this wasn’t done before?
Swaminathan: Your impression that RAW, IB, NIA worked in collaboration only this time is not correct. There is always a body (it has changed its name from time to time) to which all these agencies report any information gathered by them and it is that body which collates all the information and draws conclusions which are placed before the Home Minister and Prime Minister. In my time we had a joint intelligence committee headed by a very senior IPS Officer Sri. K. Subramanyam who was considered India’s best strategic expert. He was founder of IDSA (Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis). He passed away a few months ago.
Bose: Inter agencies coordination is key to sources, it’s not that that there was nothing like it earlier, but the catch this time got some attention.
Q: Do you personally think that these guys will also be made “Terror Icons” like Kasab?
Swaminathan: I do not know what you mean by terror icons. The two guys recently captured would be questioned thoroughly by the various police agencies and intelligence agencies. There are experts who can question any person in such a way that ultimate they tell the truth.
Bose: The whole term ‘terror icon’ is disturbing, its media which acts like the PR agents of them. Kasab certainly was a priced catch in the recent times. I am sure we are all aware that intelligence is banked upon information thus; these terrorists are an encyclopedia of information.
Q: It took years for the government to punish Kasab, when it was clearly understood beyond reason that he was guilty. Do you think the government will ensure that speedy justice is delivered this time around?
Swaminathan: Being a democratic polity, we have to give the opportunity to everybody – citizen or not – to have a fair trial. This can be time consuming. In the case of Kasab, it did not take too much time compared to some terrorists of Indian Origin who are in custody much longer and not yet brought to trial.
Bose: There is a law of the land, we all need to follow them and that’s what makes India a democratic country where the 3 estates are well established. Executions don’t help otherwise world would have been a safe place by now and Israel not a super power.
Q: What is usually RAW’s role after an arrest is made?
Swaminathan: RAW or IB or NIA all provide verifiable evidence to the prosecutors. Sometimes they may have to withhold the name of the source from where they got the evidence to protect the source and also to be able to use the source in future.
Bose: I don’t know much about it, but there are certain legislative procedures where the RAW will now come into play.
Q: Two terrorist in 2-3 weeks have crossed the Indo- Nepal border. Do you think the Indian military is lacking pro-activeness?
Swaminathan: The border between Nepal and India is quite open. There is no military presence guarding the frontier. Travel between India and Nepal is quite easy both ways. That is why Nepal is being used by terrorists. If Nepal had a strong government, they would have ensured that their country is not used as base by terrorists.
Bose: It’s a porous border, people come in and leave, besides that, just like everybody else terrorists are smart enough to deceive and camouflage their identity well. I agree, that there is a bit of political will required to handle these situations but it serves the much larger geo-political purpose.