It is unfortunate that the student wings of two major political parties have indulged in clashes at various campuses in recent days. The bad blood between them has become worse, following the clashes at the Thapathali Engineering Campus on Monday and subsequent events. On Tuesday, members of the two NSUs, affiliated to the Nepali Congress and its breakaway NC-D, and ANNISU-R, the student wing of the CPN-Maoist, skirmished at some one dozen campuses on Tuesday. More than four dozen people from both sides were reported injured. The situation grew particularly tense on Tuesday after activists, out to enforce the bandh the NSU had called, reportedly vandalised the central office of the ANNISU-R, carried the belongings outside and set them on fire. Accusations and counter accusations are flying in both directions, as each side holds the other responsible for the provocations. The NSU leadership has alleged that even members of the Young Communist League were mobilised to beat up NSU students, but the YCL leadership has denied the charge.

The clashes have not been limited to one place and time, but they have occurred at a number of places sporadically for some time. So, it is difficult to put the blame squarely on one side unless some independent inquiry is conducted into all related incidents. Sadly, each side has vowed to deal with the other firmly, meaning resort to physical violence and vandalism. This is particularly worrying, as it increases the risk of escalated violence and casualties. If the violence continues further, the educational environment in the country will get vitiated further. No less important will be its implications for the forthcoming constituent assembly (CA) elections, as the forces both these organisations fought against during the movement of last year are sure to benefit. Therefore, if the leaders of these two unions cannot resolve the crisis, other student unions, and even the political leaderships of the parties the two are affiliated to should step in to defuse it immediately.

While it is necessary for these two, and also other student unions, to learn to live and let live, and tolerate each other despite their natural competition, the urgent need for a truce, along with minimum guidelines for their behaviour towards one another, emerges, at least until the CA polls. On the other hand, the government should also take strong legal action without fear or favour against those who have broken the law, irrespective of the political affiliation of the accused. In this respect, on Tuesday, 46 YCL and ANNISU-R activists, some of whom were reported to be wearing combat dress and carrying kukris or rods, were taken into police custody. The law should take its course. The guilty in various incidents between the two groups ought also to be brought to justice after an independent inquiry. To lend credibility to the whole process, the campus administration and the home ministry will have to demonstrate impartiality — something not witnessed on many occasions in the past.