Teaching the Royal Nepal Army "Lal Salaam"

Revolutionary Worker #1199, May 18, 2003, posted at rwor.org

There is currently a cease-fire between the Nepalese government and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). Both sides have agreed to a "code of conduct" in which the government pledged not to attack or use armed force against the people's rights in return for the People's Liberation Army's suspension of operations.

The April 8 issue of the Kathmandu weekly newspaper Janadesh*carried the following report:

Since the cease-fire and its aftermath, we have been constantly receiving information about violations of the code of conduct by the Royal Nepali Army (RNA), which the PLA is strictly following.

According to information we have just received on an incident that took place some time ago, the PLA Satbaria Second Battalion sponsored a program to celebrate the anniversary of the People's War on 28 February in Dullu, in western Nepal. The next morning, the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA), thinking that the PLA had left the village, came in at 9 a.m. Around 150 RNA soldiers cordoned off the program site, randomly firing their rifles. They began looting, beating people and burning belongings. But the RNA was wrong about the situation. While being careful not to violate the code of conduct following the cease-fire and not even open fire in self-defense, the PLA had encircled the RNA. By that time the RNA had injured several villagers.

The Maoists wanted to talk with them and get them to leave the village. The president of a revolutionary student organization, Kaman Singh Basnet, went to speak to them. The RNA grabbed him and began to beat him. They demanded to know who he was. Basnet answered that he was a student leader and that he wanted to talk to them. His captors replied that the negotiations are going on at the top level and soldiers were not supposed to hold a dialogue with the Maoists. After that, Basnet said that if you are here to fight, you are surrounded by the PLA and none of you will go back alive. The soldiers then took him to speak to an RNA major. The RNA sent a negotiating team to talk to the Maoists. PLA Company Commander Comrade Jokhim and others spoke with the RNA. Finally they persuaded the RNA men to return all the looted belongings and beg the villagers for pardon.

For whatever reasons, the RNA team began to say "Lal salam!" (red salute!) to the PLA fighters and shake hands with them. The RNA Major was furious at having seen his men asking questions and listening to explanations about the People's War and People's Liberation Army. He shouted, "Oh, boys! If you stay and talk with them for 20-25 minutes, you will also become communists! We must leave now." Then they went away. But the RNA soldiers waved goodbye until they disappeared in the distance.

* In November 2001, when the Nepalese government declared a "state of emergency," they immediately raided the offices of Maoist newspapers, including Janadesh . Editors and journalists were arrested, equipment and files confiscated, and the newspapers were closed down. The editor of Janadesh , Krishna Sen, was later arrested and tortured to death in custody. In November 2002, some of the revolutionary journalists who were being held in jail were finally released. And just recently, Janadesh has begun to publish again.

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