Onboard Kathmandu: Rebel Dahal and Bhattarai’s flight to Baluwatar

Published On: November 21, 2017 03:22 PM NPT By: Prasanta Lamichhane  | @prasantaparbat

KATHMANDU, Nov 21: It was an unusual wait at the Prime Minister’s Office, Baluwatar on June 16, 2006. The then prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala was anticipating two rebel leaders. Following the second people’s revolution, a peace accord was in the offing. The then CPN-Maoist leaders, Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Dr. Baburam Bhattarai were on their way to Kathmandu to discuss the peace accord. Twenty five years after living underground, it was Dahal’s first time at Baluwatar. For Bhattarai, it was his second.

The 12 point agreement of November 22, 2005 would lead to the people’s revolution and start a new wave of politics in the country.  Bringing the Maoists into the peace accord was crucial and Girija P Koirala was keen to meet the revolting leaders.

While Krishna Bahadur Mahara and Dev Gurung were in Kathmandu, the party’s senior leaders were still underground. Krishna Sitaula, the then home minister, was shouldered the responsibility of communicating with Mahara and Gurung. It was this communication that drove Sitaula to Sikles of Kaski to meet the rebel duo, thereby creating an environment for the latter to come to Kathmandu.  

On June 16, 2006, Dahal and Bhattarai entered Baluwatar wearing similar clothes—grey shirts and pants, and the hosts had had difficulty to identify Dahal. While the rebel duo’s entrance to Baluwatar had seemed unexpected, it was not. During insurgency, the duo had come to Kathmandu from its Gandak bureau.  

The Maoists had a training gathering at Sikles of Kaski. However, only few leaders were informed that Dahal and Bhattarai would arrive there. Maoist leader Jit Bahadur Tamu had chartered a helicopter to Ratnanagar, Chitwan to bring the duo to Pokhara. “We chartered Air Dynasty’s helicopter citing a relative was severely ill at Chitwan. From there, we reached Sikles,” Tamu recalled.

While the duo were expected to travel via road, they decided that it would be unsafe and then, decided to go by helicopter. The then Kaski district secretary, Raj Kaji Gurung and Brigadier Commander Dipak Koirala of Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) had travelled to Chitwan to bring the duo.  However, heavy security checks led the duo to opt for alternate routes.

It was at Sikles that Sitaula and Nepali Congress leader Sekhar Koirala met Dahal and Bhattarai. It was a cloudy day and despite risks involved, the helicopter carrying Sitaula landed at Sikles to meet the rebel leaders and convey PM Koirala’s wish to meet them. 

“Due to security reasons, we had proposed to meet around Pokhara,” Dr. Bhattarai recalled. However, after internal consultations, they decided to Kathmandu.

Dahal and Bhattarai went to Pokhara after meeting Sitaula. “Dahal and Bhattarai had come to Pokhara in disguise,” Raj Kaji Gurung said adding that the journey with senior Maoist leaders along with PLA was memorable. The duo walked from Sikles upto Kahu Khola and entered inside a reserved micro van, Dipak Koirala recalled.

The grey clothes that Dahal and Bhattarai wore at Baluwatar were stitched overnight at Pokhara. Grey became the party’s dress color for a long time. 

On June 16, Sitaula and Dev Gurung chartered a helicopter to Pokhara to receive Dahal and Bhattarai. The helicopter landed at Lamachaur of Pokhara where Maoists had constructed a temporary helipad.

Tamu recalled that they had used red cloth to signal helicopter. Until the helicopter landed, Dahal and Bhattarai were staying at the house of professor Krishna Bahadur Gurung of Prithvi Narayan Campus. As the helicopter arrived, the duo flew to Kathmandu. At Pokhara, a Maoist leader called one photographer, Ram Gurung to take photos before they left for Kathmandu.

Upon arrival, the rebel duo travelled alongside Sitaula in his vehicle to sign the 8 point agreement.  It was this document that forged agreement between the state and the Maoists to sign the peace accord on Nov 21, 2006.

Until June 18, the duo stayed in Kathmandu before leaving for BP Nagar, Doti. Home Minister Sitaula had accompanied them and returned back to Kathmandu.


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