Ferrying of arms: Is it a violation of ceasefire code?

Ferrying of arms in truck-loads on the night of September 12 by the Nepali Army had become the most sensational event since the declaration of indefinite ceasefire by the government on May 3 and the second three-month ceasefire announced by the Maoists on July 13.

After receiving the information about the movement of about forty trucks ‘loaded with arms and ammunition from India’ made the National Monitoring Committee members active throughout the night and we decided, with mutual consultations, to move as early as possible to the site where the trucks were stationed. It was the barracks at Gajuri, about 70 km from Kathmandu where we had to reach for monitoring purposes. We left in two vehicles — one official and another personal. We reached the office at 6 a.m. but could not proceed immediately as neither our office nor our members were ready for this urgent job. Anyhow, we could leave only at 8.30. We were altogether seven in number.

Before leaving for Gajuri, I thought it proper to inform the defence secretary about our visit to inspect the trucks stationed at the barracks so that our entry to the barracks would be easy and unhindered. The first response from the secretary was to ask me whether we were going to inspect the vehicles including some white-coloured Armed Personnel Carriers (APCs) made in China and other vehicles which are being brought to Kathmandu from different places like Pokhra and Hetauda to be sent to Lebanon along with the peacekeeping force there. I did not elaborate our purpose and secured his assurance that he would inform the barracks about our visit.

We reached there at 9.30 a.m. and entered the compound of the barracks immediately after informing the Major who came to receive us. From the road itself all the vehicles were visible including the white APCs. What we observed was made immediately to the media persons who were waiting curiously at the gate of the barracks. Our prompt monitoring and informing the media then and there were very effective as the news of our findings eased the tense atmosphere of the country since the Maoists had already declared an indefinite bandh throughout the country. The Maoists, after getting information regarding our findings, immediately withdrew their call for the bandh showing their seriousness and hence peace prevailed immediately thereafter. On our return to the capital we called for the defence secretary and the DMO of the Army and sought clarifications from them and released our press note in the evening. We are further looking into the matter. There were altogether 31vehicles meant for the army out of which 15 were new Indian trucks without any hood, five jeeps, seven Armed Personnel Carriers, two old trucks and two containers. After opening the containers in one of the vehicles, we came across some boxes with plastic dummy bullets meant for firing at the time of Dasain celebrations, and in another there were empty used bullets.

To pass judgment upon the actions of both sides reminds me of Immanuel Kant, who while propounding his philosophy of Transcendental Idealism or Criticism, had criticised both the classical empiricists and rationalists by asserting that they were right in what they affirmed and they were wrong in what they denied. In the present case, we, too, found that both were right in what they did and wrong in what they did not do. The army appears to be right in bringing new trucks and jeeps and empty trucks with used bullets and dummy bullets but they were totally wrong in not informing the Maoists and their negotiating team about the movement of army vehicles at the time when any suspicious action could jeopardise the peace dialogue.

Similarly, the Maoists were right in being vigilant about the army vehicles’ movement in a big convoy when there was a rumour relating to a large number of arms unloaded at an Indian airport that were bound for Nepal. They were wrong, as they could have waited for the monitoring team to reach the spot for verification where vehicles were stationed before declaring a nationwide bandh paralysing the nation. The code of conduct for ceasefire consists of 25 points out of which only two are related to military activities. The point number two forbids both sides to have the movement, mass parade and use of army, which may spread panic among the general public. Similarly, point three restricts both sides from conducting such activities like attacking each other’s army or security organisation, destructive actions, laying of mines, using ambush, new recruitment and espionage against each other.

Interestingly, there is no clause barring ferrying of arms. Hence, the code of conduct should be revised immediately side by side with signing of a joing ceasefire agreement, peace accord and human rights agreement. The National Monitoring Committee has been calling on the negotiating teams to conclude these pacts.

Prof Mishra is coordinator of NMCC