Despite official reports of an improving security situation in the country over the past four months, recent incidents and clashes seem to tell a different story. To make matters worse, the worsening confrontation between the palace and the political forces has added another dimesion to the national political crisis. The curbs on democratic and press freedoms and the derailment of the democratic process, without any sign of their being restored anytime soon, not only make the situation messier but threaten to make the political and constitutional problems, as well as the security situation, worse in the days to come.

While Monday’s toll of at least 38 dead and over 70 injured in Chitwan after a bus hit a landmine was a grim reminder of the state of security, it was also a senseless attack that has drawn widespread condemnation. Maoists’ chairman Prachanda’s expression of ‘sorrow and shock’ over the tragedy and his ‘condolences’ to the bereaved families cannot bring back the lost lives. However, he has admitted a ‘serious mistake,’ expressed his party’s ‘self-criticism,’ and announced the ‘suspension’ of those responsible, pledging to take special care to avoid such mistakes in future. On the same day, in the Masuriya village of Kailali district, a clash erupted between the Maoists and the security forces, killing 13 soldiers, an armed policeman, and a civilian, according to figures supplied by the army, which also says it has uncovered the bodies of eight Maoists. However, the Maoist version puts the death toll among the rebels at 10 and among the security forces at 48.

The main concern, however, of the Nepali people is the escalating violence and the fact of the Nepalis being killed, on either side. The killing of innocent civilians is even more tragic. It is getting late for the important political forces to think and act responsibly. Trying to dictate one’s terms at the cost of others lies at the root of the problem. Those who are counting on fissures in the Maoist camp for an end to the insurgency should consider the dangerous implications of a diversified chain of command after such a split. But a continuation of the conflict will invite armed foreign intervention, with unpleasant consequences for the Nepali people as a whole.