Rolpa-bound bus passengers subjected to multiple security checks

Liwang, Rolpa, November 15

Wase Budha Magar, 45, was surprised when the driver of the bus he was travelling in asked him and other passengers to alight and get their baggage checked at Khungri Police Post in Pyuthan district this morning.

The night bus, which had left for Liwang from Kathmandu at 4:00pm on Tuesday, arrived at Khungri Police Post at 5.25am today.

“Is it a state of emergency? Why should we alight to get our baggage checked?” a visibly angry Budha Magar retorted. Some other passengers also wondered why they were being asked to alight and get their bags checked. The passengers eventually had to get off and stand in a queue to get their baggage checked by police.

Budha Magar, who has returned from Saudi Arabia, expects to cast his vote for the first time. He told THT that the scene was reminiscent of state of emergency imposed during the 10-year Maoist insurgency. Police personnel, who checked the baggage of passengers, also wrote down their names, addresses and occupations.

During the Maoist insurgency passengers travelling to and from Rolpa, Rukum and Pyuthan – strongholds of insurgents -- had to alight from vehicles and get their bags checked by security personnel.

When this scribe asked security personnel deployed at Khungri Police Post the rationale for doing so now, a police officer said, “We have been checking passengers for the last five days, as we were told to do so by our seniors.” He said they were checking passengers’ baggage to ensure that no anti-social or anti-poll elements infiltrated the districts and caused disturbance in the run-up to the provincial and parliamentary elections scheduled for November 26 in 32 districts, including Rolpa.

According to police, security was beefed up along the road after CPN-Maoist Centre candidates for parliamentary first-past-the-post election Janardan Sharma and Barshaman Pun were targeted on   Friday and Saturday in Rukum and Rolpa, respectively. “We may find only one contraband after checking hundreds of vehicles, still we have to do our duty. We have not found any contraband yet,” the officer said.

Temporary police personnel again entered the bus at the Area Police Station at Bhingri Swargadwari Rural Municipality in Pyuthan and counted passengers and checked their baggage.

Budha Magar wondered why the bus was being repeatedly checked.

Netra Bikram Chand-led Communist Party of Nepal has been threatening candidates with dire consequences and has demanded that elections should be scrapped.