Security and impunity

The attack on Assumption Church in Lalitpur Sunday is shocking, and symbolizes, once again, our painful transition to peace. Preliminary evidence so far indicates the role of Nepal Defence Army (NDA) a rightist extremist group which is professedly against a secular Nepali state and which wants

to restore the country’s status as a Hindu state. The attack on the only public Catholic church in Kathmandu is tragic, and it is hard to fathom why somebody would kill innocent people and disturb communal harmony so as to make a point that

no rational mind can accept. This, however, has also raised questions about larger possible motives, other than religious intolerance, given the country’s volatile political situation. Intolerance is divisive; people should be free to live a life of their choice, and practice the religion of their choice. The incident is a sad reminder of the continued existence of intolerance in our society, and the inability of the security apparatus to stem violence.

In the last several years, two groups have carried out attacks on Christian missions in Nepal, revealing threats to religious tolerance from two extremist groups. One group is the CPN-Maoist, which, in 2004, carried out a series of bomb attacks on Christian missions throughout Nepal. During that year, the Maoists bombed a Catholic school in eastern Nepal, a Lutheran World Federation (LWF) office in Dhangadhi, and a school in Gorkha, among others. The other group is the National Defence Army, which has carried out a series of attacks against Christian missionaries, particularly after January 2007 when Nepal was declared a secular state. In July last year, the NDA gunned down a Salesian priest in Sirsiya, eastern Nepal, in the middle of the night as pamphlets recovered from the site indicated. In May 2007, the NDA bombed an orphanage run by the Pentecostal Church giving shelter to children who lost their parents during the Maoist People’s War. The NDA said one of its reasons for bombing the orphanage was because it was giving shelter to children of the Maoists. While the Maoist attacks were primarily targeted at damaging buildings, the NDA bombings are targeted on individuals.

Extremism in Nepal is likely to continue, but what shouldn’t continue is the ineffectual security apparatus in the country. Security agencies in Nepal, like all other wings of the state, are highly politicized, and are allowed little professional space to flourish. The police is the primary civil agency for law enforcement, and also for ensuring implementation of peace agreements. Currently there is a sense of heightened insecurity in the country, and aspirations for security is leading to a rise of non-statutory actors involved in the process. While there are many dedicated officials in the security forces, they have to face severe problems in day to day operations including public distrusts, low morale, impunity and politicization. Currently, there is no vision for the development of the security apparatuses, and it is high time that the new government embark on far reaching reforms.