Violence in the time of polls

  • Govt and security forces need to be alert, but constructive public engagement is best policing

May 11, 2017-Nepal’s elections have always been marred by violence, albeit at low levels. Violence in the 2008 Constituent Assembly elections was relatively high, as it was held in the immediate post-conflict period. The 2013 elections were far less violent. 

There is some apprehension that the upcoming local elections will be marred by some violence, though the level of fear is relatively low. Security preparations for the elections have been intense, and the Nepal Army too has been put on standby for the purpose. 

It is widely believed that the main cause of disruption to the election could come from the breakaway Maoist faction led by Netra Bikram Chand ‘Biplab’, which has boycotted the polls. So far there have been a number of incidents where this group has attempted disruption, but there has been no major incidence of violence. In the 2013 elections too, there were fears that the breakaway Maoist group led by Mohan Baidya would instigate violence, but elections were largely peaceful in the end. 

It is very likely that a similar scenario will occur this time around. Nonetheless, it is wise for the security forces to be prepared.

There is another potential cause of violence which has received much less attention so far. And this is the violence in which cadres of the parties competing in the elections themselves participate. There is intense competition between parties during elections and tensions can run high. A number of clashes have already occurred between rival parties in various parts across the country. 

In Rukum, CPN (Maoist Centre) cadres clashed with those from the Nepali Congress. And in Dolakha, a UML member was killed in a clash with the Maoist Centre party. These might be sporadic events, but the potential for violence can only increase as electoral preparations escalate. On voting day, it is even likely that some parties will attempt to ‘capture’ booths to prevent supporters of rival parties from voting. The security forces thus need to ensure that voter fraud and violence between political parties do not occur.

But at the same time, security personnel need to make sure that they do not use excessive force while tackling unruly groups. As the country has witnessed numerous times in the past, the use of excessive force by the police increases anger and can inflame social tensions. In addition, the police needs to be very careful not to violate the rights of anyone they take into custody. 

The government and the security forces have to do their utmost to engage with the population in a cautious way and follow due process even if they arrest potential disruptors of the electoral process. 

Published: 11-05-2017 08:21

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