South Asia Theater

Nepal: thousands flee vigilante terror

Violence continues to escalate in Nepal, with 64 Maoist guerillas reported killed in a gunbattle with security forces in western Rukum district April 14. (Reuters, April 14) A page 3 story in the New York Times April 12 notes that thousands have fled across the border to India in recent weeks, and that vigilante groups are beginning to emerge to hunt down guerillas and their sympathizers in rural villages. At least 50 are confirmed killed in vigilante violence, mostly hacked to death. The Times strongly implied a government hand in creating the vigilante groups. "We have a feeling that the people want to fight against the terrorists," King Gyanendra's deputy, Tulsi Giri, said in an interview in Katmandu. "Perhaps there will be mass uprisings organized against them, plus military action as well." (NYT, April 12) Days earlier, Nayan Bahadur of Nepal's National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) told Reuters some 500 homes of suspects guerilla sympathizers have been burned down in the vigilante terror. (Reuters, April 7)

Nepal: journalists protest censorship

More than 400 members of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ) staged a rally in Kathmandu March 29 to demand an end to press censorship imposed by King Gyanendra when he seized power last month. Unlike other anti-monarchy demonstrations in the past two months which have been quickly broken up by police, the journalists' protest was allowed to proceed uninterrupted as a strong deployment of armed police looked on.

Bush approves F-16 sales to Pakistan

Reversing a policy instated by his own father, President Bush has authorized the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan—a move India has warned could destabilize the region. The US banned the sale of such potential nuclear delivery systems to Pakistan in 1990 due to concerns about its nuclear weapons program.

Rice offers Delhi nuclear aid

New Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited New Delhi March 16, where she offered India US assistance in building nuclear plants, while admonishing Indian leaders to drop plans to build a pipeline to import natural gas from Iran. Ironically, the US is seeking to isolate Iran over its perceived nuclear ambitions, while India has already developed and tested nuclear weapons. (SMH, March 18)

Nepal: repression escalates

While a big anti-Syria rally in Lebanon made the front page of the NY Times Feb. 15, a nationwide coordinated campaign of protests for restoration of democratic rule in Nepal—harshly put down with hundreds of arrests—rated only a small blurb in the "World Briefing" section at the bottom of page 6. Nepal has almost completely dropped from the news since the seizure of dictatorial emergency powers by the king Feb. 1, but repression is escalating. Student protest leaders are wanted for arrest and have gone into hiding; newspaper editors who report on the protests are themselves hauled before the police and held "for questioning"; the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders has called for a thorough investigation in the recent shooting of an editor in east Nepal, and for the immediate release of detained journalists.

Pakistan "honor rape" case to supreme court

Pakistani authorities say they will appeal the acquittal by the country's Supreme Court of five men charged in an "honor rape" case that drew international condemnation.

Nepal: screw tightens

The crisis in Nepal has disappeared from the headlines since King Gyanendra suspended civil government in an "auto-coup" Feb. 1, but he continues to tighten dictatorial rule in the Himalayan kingdom. For the first weeks after the coup, newspapers ran blank space in their pages to let readers know that stories had been cesnored. But after the editors of four major newsweeklies were detained for several days and threatened with prosecution for implicitly criticizing the king, they pledged to halt the practice. (AFP, Feb. 26)

Nepal crisis deepens; AI sends high-level team

The crushing of a rally for the restoration of democracy in Nepal Feb. 10 rated a tiny blurb of wire copy on page 10 of the next day's NY Times. Meanwhile, the crisis in the Himalayan kingdom rapidly deepens. Security forces are hunting down the 150 inmates liberated from a prison in an attack by Maoist rebels, and pledge to break up road blockades the guerillas intend to launch throughout the country to resist the state of emergency. Concerned about reports of detention of political leaders, rights activists and journalists, Amnesty International is sending a special high-level team to Kathmandu, led by the group's secretary general Irene Khan. (Indo-Asian News Service, Feb. 11)

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