KATHMANDU, March 26: Almost all districts in tarai have demanded additional security forces for the upcoming local level elections, arguing that the existing pool of security personnel falls short of meeting the security needs of the region which is likely to face bigger threats from polls-opposing forces.
Though polls security remains a concern throughout the country, the government expects to face bigger challenges to ensuring free, fair and credible elections in tarai.
Since 2015, several districts in tarai have witnessed some worst forms of violence which have claimed at least 60 lives, according to the Ministry of Home Affairs. Earlier this month, at least five people were killed after clashes ensued between supporters of the United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF) and police when the former tried to obstruct mass meetings of the main opposition CPN-UML in Saptari district.
Based on the intelligence reports gathered from the ground, the home ministry has mapped over 80 percent of polling stations in tarai as sensitive and extremely sensitive from the security point of view, according to officials involved in drafting polls security plans at the ministry.
Since 2015, several districts in tarai have witnessed some worst forms of violence which have claimed at least 60 lives, according to the Ministry of Home Affairs.
“Parts of Sarlahi district face multiple challenges in maintaining law and order during the polls. The polls security plans we have designed demand more security personnel. We have already demanded additional security force,” said Laxmi Prasad Kharel, spokesperson for the District Administration Office (DAO), Sarlahi.
The district administration of Saptari, which witnessed deadly clashes earlier this month, has also demanded additional security forces in the district for the upcoming polls.
“We have already worked out the details of polls security and corresponded with the home ministry about the logistical and security support we need,” said Krishna Bahadur Katwal, chief district officer of Saptari.
Katawal, however, stressed the need for bringing the agitating Madhesi parties on board the election process.
“The situation is such that the security forces alone cannot handle the elections. Therefore, there is a need for resolving the political stalemate to ensure participation of the Madhesi parties,” said Katawal. Saptari and adjoining districts face security threats from the CK Raut-led secessionist group, Jaya Krishna Goit-led armed outfit and other armed outfits, besides the UDMF.
Home ministry officials told Republica that several other district administration offices including those of Bara, Parsa, Siraha, Mahottari, Kailali, Kanchanpur, Nawalparasi and Rupendehi have demanded additional security forces. Most of the polling stations in these districts have been mapped as sensitive and extremely sensitive.
The government has divided the polling stations into three zones - normal, sensitive and extremely sensitive. There will be 21,000 polling stations across the country. The home ministry has so far identified a total of 1,847 polling stations as extremely sensitive, 4,260 as sensitive and 5,526 places as normal zones.
Three to 11 police personnel will be deployed at each polling booth depending on its security sensitivity, while Nepal Army soldiers will guard the outer periphery of the polling station. A polling station can have up to six booths.
“Some districts have demanded up to 15 percent more of the current deployment. We are consulting with the security agencies to deploy security forces currently in reserve,” said a home ministry official.
With the district administration offices demanding additional security force, security agencies including Nepal Police have started groundwork. Nepal Police spokesperson Sarbendra Khanal said that the police headquarters has recalled police personnel on leave and stopped issuing new leave permission.
An estimated 226,000 security personnel including intelligence officials are likely to be deployed during the polls, according to MoHA officials.
Plans are afoot to mobilize 54,000 personnel from Nepal Police, 30,000 from Armed Police Force, and 1,000 from National Investigation Department, while NA soldiers will provide a back-up security cover. An additional 75,000 temporary police personnel will assist the regular security forces.