Terai talks fail as rebels demand comrades’ freedom

March 28th, 2008 - 4:52 pm ICT by admin  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, March 28 (IANS) Four armed groups in Nepal that had warned they would oppose the crucial election next month and called an indefinite closure to paralyse the Terai plains ahead of the polls refused to start negotiations with the government Friday, raising fresh doubts about the security situation. The talks scheduled to start Friday between the seven-party ruling alliance and four Terai underground organisations - the Madhes Mukti Tigers, Terai Cobras, Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha and Samyukta Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha - failed to start after the rebels laid down preconditions.

The rebel groups, responsible for a series of abductions, extortion, explosions and killings in the plains, are demanding the release of their captured comrades and the withdrawal of all cases against them, a senior Communist leader said.

The groups are demanding an autonomous Madhes state for the people of the plains who, they allege, have been ignored and repressed by a succession of governments. Two of the groups include former Maoists.

Shankar Pokhrel, senior leader of the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist, told the media Friday that the four groups had issued the preconditions Thursday night, warning that they would not appear for talks if the demands were not met first.

There was no indication from the government about a fresh date for the talks.

If the government concedes the demands, it would come under fire from human rights organisations, who are already clamouring for stern action against the Maoists and the officials of the Nepal Army who were responsible for human rights violations during the 10-year Maoist insurgency.

After the Maoists signed a peace pact with the government two years ago and ended the armed movement that claimed over 13,000 lives, human rights workers have been demanding a truth commission that would throw light on the fates of hundreds of people still missing and bring soldiers and Maoists, responsible for arbitrary torture and killings, to justice.

However, the government is yet to form the commission for fear of angering the Maoists, the army and senior politicians from its own parties who had ordered the mass killings.

With just 13 days left for the constituent assembly election, the failure of the talks to take off has raised fresh doubts about the twice-postponed polls.

Last year, it could not be held due to the growing violence in the Terai and later due to Maoist opposition.

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