KATHMANDU, Nov 2: Despite continued criticism over the national holiday announced for avoiding possible security threats and easing traffic management during the visit of Indian President Pranab Mukherjee, the security agencies of Nepal braced themselves for ensuring elaborate security in the midst of a few failed attempts at protest.
Streets in the main parts of Kathmandu were sealed ‘like never seen before’. Security was stepped up with three or four ring security- with the Nepal Army in the inner ring, the Armed Police Force in the middle and Nepal Police in the outer ring.
One hour prior to the arrival of the VVIP convoy, the route was evacuated - people were not allowed to walk on the footpaths nor to peep from windows and high-rise buildings. Bridges along the VVIP route were guarded by armed personnel.
Bearing in mind the anti-India feelings among Nepalis following the blockade that created severe shortages of fuel, medicine and other essentials, the Ministry of Home Affairs had worked out special security strategies with the participation of the four security agencies, including the National Intelligence Department.
The Ministry of Defense and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs also took special stock of the security plan in connection with the Indian president’s three-day visit.
“As per the government’s security plan, we have been jointly carrying out high security alerts and making security arrangements accordingly,” Nepal Army spokesperson Brigadier General Tara Bahadur Karki said. “It’s not only a matter of duty but of national pride, so we are leaving no stone unturned to make his visit a success,” he said.
The Nepal Army was also designated for securing the program venues and the hotel for the VVIP, as well as route patrolling. Similarly, Nepal Army personnel also patrolled the VVIP carcade by helicopter.
Apart from the security agencies, a few other special units in plain clothes were deployed for collecting, analyzing and disseminating field reports to their respective line agencies. Special commandos from the Indian security forces were also deployed for the security of the Indian president.
“We were compelled to tighten the security as the streets in Kathmandu Valley are narrow for the VVIP carcade,” DIG Hemanta Pal, who looks after the operational department, said. The first day was relatively peaceful as it was a national holiday, but on the second and third days we will need to deploy additional forces, he said.
APF spokesperson DIG Diwakar KC said that they are on 24-hour duty in the more sensitive areas in the Valley for the duration of the visit.
Over 3,500 Nepal Police personnel including traffic police were on duty in the field to clear the roads and divert vehicles to alternative routes. Nepal Police personnel were also deployed to keep a close vigil on the guests invited to programs attended by the VVIP and VIPs.
Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Baldev Raj Mahat, who heads the operational and intelligence aspect at the Nepal Army, was appointed coordinator of the security related sub-committee formed by the government. Earlier, the government had formed a threat analysis committee under Home Ministry Joint Secretary Yadav Prasad Koirala.
Five arrested in Kathmandu
Meanwhile, Nepal Police arrested five protestors from different places in Kathmandu on the charge of trying to disrupt the visit of Indian President Mukharjee, through the showing of black flags and chanting anti-Indian slogans.
Those arrested have been identified as Phadindra Pathak, chairman of Greater Nepal, an organization raising its voice against ‘land encroachment by India’, and Ram Khadka, secretary, and Dev Raj Bohara, member, of Greater Nepal. They were arrested from the TIA Golden Gate while trying to show black flags Similarly, Sharada Bhusal, who was dressed in black and preparing to protest against the VVIP, was arrested from Maitighar, according to SSP Bikram Singh Thapa, chief of Metropolitan Police Range Office Kathmandu. Police also arrested Lokraj Jaisi, member of the Federation of Revolutionary Journalists.
TIA closed for 45 minutes
Meanwhile, TIA, the only international airport in Nepal, was closed for 45 minutes because of Indian President Mukherjee’s state visit.
TIA was closed in view of VVIP security, said Premnath Thakur, spokesperson for TIA. No planes landed or took off at TIA from 12 noon to 12:45 pm. TIA had issued a notice informing that the flights would be halted before and after the arrival of the Indian president.
Most traffic routes in Kathmandu are likely to be closed for the general public on Thursday also, leaving the entire traffic management vulnerable.