Netra Bikram Chand-led outfit—‘outfit’ because it has not been registered in the Election Commission and it is guided by violence—has to be contained. The government so far has tried to contain this group mainly by use of force. Ever since the government outlawed Chand’s outfit in March with the view to controlling the violence unleashed by this semi-underground outfit, there has not been much to show for success. Yes, hundreds of his cadres have been arrested and eight of his cadres have been killed—some in suicidal explosion and others in police action. But since the Sarlahi district in-charge of this group was killed in police action last month, Chand group’s hostility against the government is escalating. Last week, two people including a police constable died in incidents involving the outfit cadres in Bhojpur. It has become urgent to bring them to negotiating table at the earliest.
In this context, the backchannel negotiations the government is supposedly conducting to bring Chand-led group to ‘save the country from the brink of another war’ are welcome steps. According to Som Prasad Pandey, former coordinator of the talks team formed by the government, “efforts are underway to bring the outfit to the negotiating table” and we will soon “hear good news.” Reportedly, several NCP leaders are reaching out to the outfit for talks. Last week, NCP General Secretary Bishnu Paudel, a confidant of Prime Minister KP Oli, met Hementa Prakash Oli, a senior leader of Chand outfit, at Nakhhu jail. Paudel is said to have proposed talks during the meeting.
Chand has long been claiming that the government has made no sincere efforts for talks and, in this pretext, his cadres have been launching violent activities. Now that the government has started the process, Chand’s outfit must reciprocate without any ifs and buts. However, both the government representatives and Chand’s group need to be honestly engage in talks. Chand’s outfit was outlawed by the government because it was not behaving like a political party. Some of the activities it launched—such as extorting from civil servants and political representatives, bombing infrastructure and killing people—amounted to the act of terrorism. This is why we have been strongly denouncing such activities and will continue to do so. By using violence as a means to get their demands met, Chand has earned more condemnation than goodwill from the general public. This is the opportune time for his group to prove itself as a party that believes in democratic values. On its part, the government should also do necessary homework. What does Chand’s outfit actually want? Ironically, what they want is still unknown. The government was rightly appreciated for mainstreaming CK Raut. The government will be credited for mainstreaming Chand’s outfit as well, if it becomes successful in this much-needed initiative. Time is running out to deescalate tensions especially because there has been tendency among some interest groups to use Chand to destabilize current political system. The government has started the process. It is now the turn of Chand to prove that he is committed to peaceful politics.