Excerpts from an interview with former deputy prime minister Ram Chandra Poudel, NC
.Even before the Maoists attacked Dang, I received a report that clearly stated the three reasons the Maoists had withdrawn from the dialogue with the government-to test the army, if the army was not mobilised, to defeat the police and threaten the government, and finally, even if the army was mobilised, to defeat it. If the army was defeated, the Maoists could easily reach their goals. If they could take on and defeat the army, the victory would silence the hawks in the Maoist party, which could then come for a political compromise. The emergency was imposed at the right time..
Earlier, there was a growing concern in our party about how events would turn out if the army was mobilised. As a result, many policemen lost their lives. We had to bear massive loses. We were thinking along the wrong lines and wrong decisions were made. I tried to get the army, tried for the implementation of projects under the Integrated Security and Development Programme, and for the control of terrorist activities. This is the context in which the army must fulfil its responsibilities. How can there be two armies in a country? I told the Royal Nepal Army that they could not and should not tolerate such a thing.
When I was acting prime minister, I had a two-day discussion about this with His Late Majesty Birendra. The king told me that the army could only be mobilised in a very co-ordinated manner. You cannot only look at the problem created by the Maoists. The army is the only organisation that provides security for the whole country, so you have to think of the security of the nation, not only the Maoist problem. You have to make policies that contain ways in which to deal with the Maoists... We have to take into account the economic and social aspects. The people have to be lured away from the Maosits, lifted out of their present situation. Once you have brought the people over to your side, you can force the Maoists to settle for a political compromise. This is why security operations and development projects must go hand-in-hand. I discussed this with the king, then told the prime minister what we had talked about. We formulated the ISDP and sent it to the palace for approval.
It was delayed there for some days and I told the prime minister that I, as Home Minister, wanted to convey my opinions to the king. We fixed an appointment and 17 of us went to meet him. Since I was Home Minister, I told the king that the ISDP had to be launched immediately. I further requested that the two ordinances [regarding the establishment of a paramilitary force and empowering the regional administrators to coordinate all army and development activities] should also be implemented immediately. I stated all this forcefully and with total conviction. The very next day, both ordinances were accepted, signed and returned, and the ISDP program was accepted. Immediately, the army was mobilised in some districts and development programs started on a war footing.
I was accused of resigning just as the army had been mobilised in Holleri. That charge was proven wrong the very next day, when then Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala himself resigned. He said he was resigning since he was receiving no help from anyone and that the army was not being mobilised. If the prime minister himself resigned because the army was not being mobilised, how could my resignation, which came two days earlier, be linked to the mobilisation? Where did this conspiracy originate? There is no relation between my resignation and the mobilisation of the army.
My resignation had been discussed for two months prior to my quitting. When parliament was obstructed by the opposition over Lauda Air, I told the prime minister that he needed to win the trust of all political parties and take on the Maoists. I said I was prepared to help him in any way possible. The Congress had been cornered and the situation had to be resolved. A few days later, the Maoists called for a bandh. I told the prime minister that since I was Home Minister, it was my duty to challenge this bandh and stop it, and I would face it down in any way possible. I further reminded him that the budget would be passed in a few days and requested him to accept my resignation shortly after. He told me he himself should resign, not I. I did not want to put the prime minister in a fix, and so I did not tender my resignation.
The next day at a cabinet meeting, the prime minister told everyone present that most parties had put forward their demands. He asked everyone to formulate a program so every party's demands would be met. Chakra Bastola said, "These programs are all related to your resignation. If you do not resign, these programs are of no interest to the other parties. What do you think about quitting?" Koirala replied, "You either get 57 people to throw me out or wait till I vacate this post of my free will." I then realised that another game was being played. The situation was very tense and the problems could get out of hand.
The police were being slaughtered. There were already rumours that many policemen would resign. I could not find a way out of the mess-the ordinances brought forward by government were not being passed, the army was not moving, parliament could not meeting, the armed police would not be formed, and the Maoists were not prepared to come to the negotiating table. I decided that in such a situation I could not remain Home Minister or even deputy prime minister. History would pass its judgement on me. I resigned. The events that followed showed that it was the right decision. The Maoists are now cornered, and alone. For the nation, for democracy I sacrificed my position and the possibility of being prime minister in the future.
Dunai and Nuwagaon
Rumours were spreading that the army had surrounded the Maoists in Nuwagaon. They were using locals as human shields, which is why the army could not attack. Everyone, everywhere was repeating this. 1,100-armed guerrillas in Nuwagaon had attacked a police striking base where there were 72 policemen, and had taken all their weapons. They were on every hilltop, and 42 army personnel were sent in. This certainly did not mean the army had been mobilised or that they had surrounded the Maoists. I told them they should not spread such rumours. They should not have done this just to corner me, it would only mean bad publicity for the army.
I will not agree that news of the mobilisation of the army was spread to put me in a fix. I have asked the army why they did not help when the rebels were massacring the police. There was pressure from all sides for the army to be mobilised, which was why they sent the 42 soldiers to Nuwagaon. They later said that they could not send more personnel because of the weather. The fact is, the area was only four hours from Dang. Enough personnel could have been mobilised from Dang to control the Maoists. Perhaps the army was not prepared to send these forces. In the Dunai case, the Home Minister resigned-asked by the prime minister-saying that the army had not moved in. My resignation is viewed against this. I want to clear up this muddle: they were not prepared to mobilise the army and later they blamed the army for all that went wrong.