Indian court sentencing Nepal’s Maoists causes ripples

September 12th, 2011 - 5:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Sep 12 (IANS) The reported ruling by an Indian court slapping 11 Nepali Maoist leaders with prison and other punishments has created ripples in Nepal.

The Patna High Court in Bihar last week sentenced a former Nepali Maoist minister, at least six sitting MPs and other senior party officials to two to six years’ jail in absentia and fined them between Indian Rs.375,000 and Rs.700,000.

This week, one of the sentenced, Maoist member of parliament Tara Gharti Magar, raised the issue in parliament and demanded an explanation from the prime minister, who is also the deputy chief of her party.

The affected Maoist leaders have questioned the diplomatic efficacy of the new Maoist-led government, saying it failed to react to the Indian court gesture even five days later.

During the 10-year “People’s War” fought by the Maoists in Nepal, many of their leaders lived in hiding in border cities of India, taking advantage of the porous border between India and Nepal.

Seven years ago, Bihar police raided five hotels in state capital Patna and arrested the 11 Maoist leaders, imprisoning them in Beur Jail for over two years.

In 2006, after the Maoists agreed to give up violence in Nepal and joined the parliamentary parties to stage a pro-democracy movement that ousted King Gyanendra’s army-backed regime, Nepal’s new government requested India to release the Nepali Maoist leaders held in various Indian prisons.

Though Bihar released the 11 on bail, last week it resumed the cases against them, charging them with being involved in activities that threatened India’s sovereignty.

The sentenced-in-absentia Nepali Maoist leaders include politburo member Lokendra Bahadur Bista Magar, who was health and population minister for a brief while in a coalition government, Tara Gharti Magar and at least four other sitting Maoist MPs.

Tara Gharti Magar told the State Affairs Committee of parliament Sunday that Bihar police were harassing the locals who had stood bail guarantor for the 11 jailed leaders.

Gharti Magar herself was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment by Patna high court and a fine of Rs.375,000 while Bista was handed down three years and a fine of Rs.700,000.

Two other top leaders from the ruling Maoist party, Mohan Vaidya and C.P. Gajurel, were also imprisoned in India’s West Bengal and Tamil Nadu states, respectively.

Some of the released prisoners eventually became ministers and MPs. At least one was nominated as Nepal’s ambassador to India but the proposal was rejected by New Delhi.

Two Maoist leaders were also arrested in China and sentenced to death for trying to smuggle out arms through the Tibet-Nepal border. However, on appeal by the Maoist party, Beijing released both.

Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai, who is expected to visit India later this month, has reportedly said he would take up the Patna court verdict with New Delhi.

Nepal’s Maoists say they have only ideological support for the Indian Maoists and have not taken part in any Maoist attacks in India.

(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at sudeshna.s@ians.in)

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