KATHMANDU, July 15: The government has initiated backchannel negotiations to bring the outlawed Netra Bikram Chand-led Communist Party of Nepal to ‘save the country from the brink of another war’.
Tensions between the two sides continue to escalate since the government launched a nationwide crackdown on the party’s activities after outlawing it on March 12.
Last week, two people including a police constable died in incidents involving the outfit cadres in Bhojpur.
“Efforts are under way to bring the outfit to the negotiating table. I have nothing substantive to share now, but you will hear good news soon,” said Som Prasad Pandey, former coordinator of a talks team formed by the government.
Leaders privy to backdoor meetings said the tension could soon end if current efforts bear fruit. They said that 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. Details of the meeting have not been made public but leaders said that Paudel had made offer for talks.
A leader close to Chand said that the government was reaching out to them ‘for talks’.
There are still some doubts if Chand will readily accept the offer. He had turned down several requests in the past. Soon after coming to power, PM Oli had formed a talks panel with Pandey as coordinator. Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa had also made multiple requests for talks without much avail.
Sources said that Chand is likely to accept talks offer if the government agrees to lift the ban on the outfit, withdraw court cases against its leader and release its imprisoned leaders.
More than 600 leaders and cadres of the outfit are currently in jail, while many other face criminal charges. Eight of its cadres have lost their lives since the crackdown started in March.
Talks are likely to offer rare window for both sides to deescalate tensions. Options are limited for both the government and the CPN. Pressure is building on the Oli government to find solution through talks. There are fears that opposition parties would use Chand to destabilize the government. Despite its nationwide crackdown on CPN’s activities and arrests of hundreds of the outfit members, there is growing consensus in the government that the problem which has its roots in the past Maoist insurgency cannot be resolved through iron-fist approach.
Chand is under equally big pressure from within and outside the party to reach some sort of settlement with the government. NCP insiders say that many leaders aren’t happy with Chand for premature attacks on Ncell tower despite full knowledge that the party was ill-prepared to resume a struggle against the state. In the wake of widespread arrests of senior leaders, several leaders including Khadga Bahadur Bishwakarma has stressed the need for truce to ensure environment for unconditional release of those arrested. Chand also lacks solid agenda to canvass public support.