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      Nepal, the land where Buddha was born

      Nepal is a state in the heart of the Himalayas in South Asia. With its capital located in Kathmandu, divided into 7 provinces, home to a multi-ethnic population of 26.4 million, the majority of whom are Hindus, it is considered one of the most beautiful countries in the world due to its geographical diversity – fertile plains, hills of sub-alpine forests, the highest mountains in the world, including Mount Everest. But it is also considered one of Asia’s poorest countries, with a chequered history. It is the birthplace of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. Kingdom of Nepal

      Because of its access to the Silk Road, Nepal’s Kathmandu Valley was a thriving urban area for merchants. It was dominated for years by empires such as the Mayurian and Gupta, then by the Licchavi kingdom, the Tibetan Empire, the Newar and the Malla people. Although it was the birthplace of the Buddha, Nepal has renounced Buddhism and adopted Hinduism as its official religion. From the 12th century it became a kingdom where kings ruled for 200 years. A difficult period followed in which the kingdom was split. In the 14th century, the kingdom was unified, but later it was divided into three kingdoms, Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur. In the 18th century, a Gorkha king, Prithvi Narayan Shah, founded what would become today’s Nepal, consolidating borders and neutrality with the other mountain kingdoms. After the great battle of Kirtipur, he asserted his control and conquered the Kathmandu Valley in 1769. Nepal has extended its rule from the Teesta River as far east as Kangra, Himachal Pradesh, across the Sutlej in the west, controlling the mountain passes and the interior of the Tingri valleys in Tibet. This prompted the Qing Emperor of China to start the Sino-Nepal War, forcing Nepal to retreat and pay damages to Peking. Rivalries between the Kingdom of Nepal and the East India Company followed, resulting in the Anglo-Nepal War of 1815-1816. The British were defeated. The period of conflict ended with the Treaty of Sugauli, in which Nepal surrendered the captured territories of Sikim and Terai and gave up the right to recruit more soldiers. There followed a period of instability among the royal family, culminating in a plot in 1846 and the Kot Massacre between military personnel loyal to Nepalese ruler Jung Bahadur Kunwar and the princes and chieftains who sought the throne. Kunwar laid the foundation of the Rana dynasty. Nepal joined the ranks of the world when it signed the Treaty of Partnership with the USA in 1923, abolishing slavery in 1924. But the Rana Dynasty continued to be noted for tyranny, religious persecution, and depravity until the 1940s when pro-democracy movements and parties began to criticize the autocracy of the regime. During the years of China’s invasion of Tibet, India continued to sponsor the regime in Nepal. However, in 1989, a popular movement, Jan Andolan, forced King Birendra to accept constitutional reforms and establish a multi-party parliament. On 1 June 2001, 10 members of the royal family, including King Birendra, were killed in an attack by a crown prince after he was denied the decision to choose his wife. King Gyanendra came to power for the second time, but he was not to enjoy a fruitful reign. Since 1996, the Communist Party of Nepal has been fighting the monarchy to proclaim a people’s republic by violent means, resulting in a long and bloody civil war.

      The beginning of the Maoist insurgency

      On 13 February 1996, the Maoist/Communist Party of Nepal launched the People’s War. The movement was led by Baburam Bhattarai, Hisila Yami, Ram Bahadur Thapa and Pushpa Kamal Dahal alias Prachanda.

      In Kathmandu, a soft drink factory owned by a multinational company was attacked and burned down by Maoists. In Gorkha district, Chyangli, the Small Farmer Development Programme office owned by the Agricultural Development Bank has been vandalised. Meanwhile, in Kavre district, a moneylender’s house is raided overnight, wealth and property worth Rs 1.3 million is seized and loan documents worth another million rupees are destroyed. The seven members of the loan shark’s family were shot dead.

      In Rolpa, Rukum and Sindhuli districts, every police outpost was attacked, with 17 policemen killed.

      In January 2001, the government created the paramilitary Armed Police Forces movement to confront the insurgents. On 28 May, Maoist Party leader Prachanda gave an interview to the Communist magazine A World to Win.

      The course of the war suddenly took a turn for the better for the Maoists. On 1 June, King Birendra and members of the royal family were killed in a massacre by Crown Prince Dipendra, who later committed suicide. The reason? His family had forbidden him to marry the girlfriend of his choice. The deceased king’s brother, Gyanendra, has been crowned the new king of Nepal. He was also temporary king in 1950-1951 as a child, and his grandfather, Tribhuvan, was exiled to India with the rest of his family.

      Seeing that the Maoists had the upper hand, in August , the regime began peace talks , but they failed in November when the Maoists pulled out of the talks and launched an attack on police and army posts in 42 districts, in which 186 pro-regime police and soldiers and only 21 Maoists were killed.

      On 26 November, the government led by Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba declared a state of emergency and ordered the Nepalese army to attack the Maoists. Meanwhile, the US State Department has declared the Maoist party a terrorist organisation.

      In 2002, the US Congress approved $12 million to train Royal Nepalese Army officers and supply 5,000 M16 rifles as fighting was heating up along the border between Pyuthan and Rolpa district. The Belgian arms manufacturer, FN Herstal, has delivered 5000 M249 SAW machine guns.

      On Prime Minister Deuba’s recommendation, King Gyanendra has cancelled the elections until further notice. Eventually, the Deuba government is dismissed and the king takes over executive power. It also dissolves the House of Representatives in Parliament. On 11 October, he appoints Lokendra Bahadur Chand as Prime Minister.

      Civil War

      In January 2003, the US continues to be involved in training the Nepalese army. Maoist insurgents killed the inspector general of the armed police and his bodyguard.

      Peace talks resumed on 29 January. A code of conduct was declared by the government and the Maoist Party for a ceasefire period. But Nepalese military forces have killed 39 Maoist rebels in Ramechhap district following an offensive.

      On 24 August, the Maoists issued an ultimatum threatening to withdraw from the ceasefire if the government did not agree to allow the Maoists to participate in the Constituent Assembly within 48 hours. On 26 August, the ultimatum expired and the regime has not shown any sign. So, on 27 August, the Maoists withdraw from the truce and resume attacks.

      On 27 September, 15 people, 8 Maoist rebels and 4 policemen were killed. Nepalese authorities suspected that Maoists bombed 5 government utilities despite plans to create a new 9-day truce.

      In Janakpur, an industrial centre on the Indian border, Maoists under Prachanda’s direct command carried out five morning bombings, disrupting telephone and electricity service. The offices of the road department and the Nepal Electricity Authority were bombed, as well as a telecommunications tower.

      On October 13, 42 recruits and 9 Maoists were killed when 3,000 Maoists stormed the police training centre in Bhaluwang, blowing up highway bridges, cutting telephone cables and felling trees.

      On 11 November, the government accused the Maoists of abducting 29 students from Mugu district.

      On 5 February 2004, in a village in Bhimad, Makwanpur district, a raid was executed by the Bhairavnath battalion in which 14 suspected Maoist rebels and two other civilians were captured and executed. Amnesty International has written to the Nepalese government to complain of human rights violations and call for an immediate investigation.

      Meanwhile, two Maoist Party central committee members were arrested in Lucknow, as Ganesh Chilwal led a protest against the Maoists and was shot dead by two rebels. Fighting erupted at a jungle base west of Kathmandu in Kalikot district, where 5,000 Maoist soldiers are believed to be sheltering. A private helicopter flying over the base was hit by Maoist troops but did not crash.

      In the following period, dozens of Maoist rebels were reported killed. On 18 February, a former Member of Parliament, Lawmaker Khem Narayan Faudjar, was shot dead by two Maoist motorcyclists. Twelve trucks bringing oil from India were reportedly torched on Nepal’s western border by rebels. India has hit back hard, condemning the attacks and terrorism. In Kathmandu, pro-democracy and anti-monarchist protests are raging, with 150 demonstrators beaten by police.

      Hundreds of Maoist rebels armed with assault rifles and RPG-7 portable cannons attacked a police station in Yadukuwa on April 4, killing 8-9 Maoists and 13 policemen, while three Indian traders were killed and their cars set on fire by the rebels.

      On 5 April, the Maoists began a three-day national strike. In Kathmandu, clashes between 50,000 protesters and police resulted in 140 injuries. Protests spread to Lalitpur and Bhaktapur. King Gyanendra didn’t seem to mind as he was reportedly spending his time in the tourist villages of western Nepal.

      On 16 August, the luxury Soaltee Hotel was bombed and on 18 August, a bomb exploded in a public square in southern Nepal, killing only one child. Maoist rebels demanded that the authorities release their warriors, blocking the road near Kathmandu and threatening to attack the cars. Some Nepalese businessmen have been shot. Kathmandu was under a trade blockade.

      Another bomb exploded at the US intelligence office in Kathmandu on 10 September. Three days later, US peacekeepers suspended their operations and US embassy staff were evacuated. On 9 November, another bomb exploded in a government office complex, injuring 36 people.

      News of killings of officials, hostage-takings and bombings by Maoist rebels was becoming commonplace.

      On 10 January 2005, Premier Deuba said he would increase defence spending if the Maoists did not join the negotiations. The blockade, killings, bombings and protests in Nepal led to a 25% increase in fuel prices.

      On 1 February, King Gyanendra dissolved the Deuba government, abolished the constitution and banned all news reporting. The army has launched forceful operations such as arresting political leaders, journalists, trade unionists, activists. Phones and internet have been cut off.

      On 6 June, another attack took place. A bus explosion killed 38 civilians and injured 70 others in Chitwan district.

      On 3 September, after a series of killings and fighting, the Maoists declared a three-month ceasefire, saying they were ready to work with opposition politicians who had the same goal – the overthrow of the monarchy.

      In January 2006, Maoists launched coordinated attacks on military targets in the Kathmandu Valley and the blockade was extended to roads, leading to a general strike. Violent clashes between police and rebels led to hundreds of arrests and dozens of injuries in April. A general curfew has been declared. On the King’s orders, any protester who broke the rules was shot on sight. A ceasefire was issued in May following negotiations between the rebels and the new government cabinet led by Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala.

      On 21 November, peace talks between Prime Minister Koirala and Maoist leader Prachanda led to the end of the civil war.

      Republic of Nepal

      The Maoists were finally allowed to participate in government life after controlling more than 80% of the state’s territory.

      The Maoist Party won a majority of seats in the Constituent Assembly in the 10 April 2008 elections and a coalition government was formed. Dr Ram Baran Yadav became Nepal’s first democratic president.

      On 28 May 2008, the new parliament convened in Kathmandu where it voted to declare Nepal a secular state and democratic republic and to suspend the King from office, giving him a 15-day ultimatum to leave his Narayanhity royal palace which has been reopened as a public museum. Prachanda was appointed Prime Minister until 2009.

      But political tensions continued. Hard political battles were fought in 2009 when the Maoist government was dismissed by the Communist-Leninist Party, which formed a new government. However, changes in government have led to a period of political instability.

      In February 2014, Sushil Koirala was appointed Prime Minister when the two major parties reached a consensus. A new constitution was voted and imposed in 2015.

      At the same time, a devastating earthquake struck Nepal, resulting in 8500 people killed and 21,000 injured. In October 2015, Bidhya Devi Bhandari was nominated as the first woman president, and in 2016, Maoist party leader and rebel leader Prachanda became prime minister.

      After a long civil war resulting in 17,800 casualties, dominated by a communist republican regime, Nepal is still one of the poorest countries in Asia.

      Author: Stan Alexandru Bogdan

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