Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Brutal Police Counterattacks Send Recruits to Rebels' Side

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Brutal Police Counterattacks Send Recruits to Rebels' Side

Article excerpt

In village after village, the tales of police brutality take on a numbing similarity.

In the standard scenario, police arrive at the home of a suspected Maoist supporter. The villager is taken to jail and severely beaten. A few days later, the family is informed that the villager was shot dead in an "encounter" with police.

It's a scenario that has been repeated, with slight variations, hundreds of times in the past six years, as Nepali police struggle to squelch a violent "people's war" by Maoist insurgents. While both sides bear responsibility for the killings, human rights groups say it is clear that the government bears the greater burden.

"Of the 1,600 people killed since the insurgency began, Maoists have killed about 300 and the rest were killed by policemen," says Padma Ratna Tuladhar, president of the Forum for the Protection of Human Rights in Kathmandu. "Now the government has decided to unleash a paramilitary force.... Everyone understands the government's position, but the fear is that it may incite civil war."

The Maoists count their greatest support in the remote areas of western and midwestern Nepal, far from the name-brand mountain peaks like Everest and Annapurna that attract millions in tourist dollars each year. It is there that farmers point to promised irrigation projects that remain unbuilt; to electricity projects that remain unfunded; and to the often thuggish behavior of local policemen, often the only government presence these Nepali farmers have ever known.

Consider the case of Subhadra Sapkota, a 15-year-old dancer from Naubise. Two years ago, she and her group performed in Kathmandu to build public support for the Maoist rebels. After the performance, the guesthouse where the group was staying began to burn. Witnesses say the fire was set by police. When the troupe fled the burning building, witnesses say, they were gunned down by police.

Now Subhadra's 10-year-old sister, Sangeeta, says she will join her sister in the revolution someday. "I want to carry a gun too," she says. "I want to kill those who killed my sister."

Human rights workers say the level of anger among Nepali farmers is not unjustified. …

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