A Wake Up Call For Nepal?

 

Narayan Upadhyaya

 

Terrorist attacks around the world have been on the rise lately. The latest incident in neighbouring Bangladesh, in which pro-Islamist militants killed many hostages in a cafe, many of them foreigners, has sent a chill across South Asia and the world. Never had such an incident taken place in Bangladesh, which is in utter shock and is mourning the death of 20 innocent people.

The pro-Islamist militants had stormed a café in an area where expatriates love to hang around in the evening. After taking many café goers hostage, the militants had asked them to recite lines from the Quran. They spared the Bangladeshis before brutally killing 20 persons, most of them Italians, Japanese, American and Indians. Later, the militants were killed by the Bangladesh special force in an operation.

 

Killing spree

The killing of innocent people by the militants having their own ideology and political and other agenda has gained momentum across the world lately. Recently, the Islamist militants attacked and killed many people in a busy market of Baghadad and in Istanbul’s Ata Turk Airport in a series of offensives targeted against the governments.

Nepalese have suffered immensely at the hands of militants in strife-torn countries of Iraq and Bangladesh. A few weeks ago, an alleged ISIS suicide bomber killed 13 innocent migrant Nepali workers in Kabul. Way back in 2004, several Nepali workers were killed in Iraq, too. Apparently, these Nepali victims had nothing to do with the militants’ agenda or ideology, but they were made victims by the militants only because they had scores to settle with their respective governments.

Islamist militants belonging to different terrorist and militant outfits are found across South Asia, too. Afghanistan and its neighbour Pakistan are said to be places where militants, mostly affiliated to the Taliban, and nowadays the ISIS, are indoctrinated and  then exported to other parts of the region and the world with the intention of striking public places and government installations to send their message across. The governments of these countries have been unable to stop the “manufacture” and flow of militants. The remote and difficult geography of the bordering areas of these two neighbours are said to be a safe heaven for the militants, who receive militant training before they are deployed to their working stations by their outfits.

Media reports suggest that the hardened militants produced in these places often sneak into neighbouring India and Western countries. These militants have only one objective - to unleash terror in the hearts and minds of the people and governments. In South Asia, apart from the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan, India is a major target of Islamist militants. India has suffered attacks from various Islamist groups over the decades. In 2008, militants attacked the famous Mumbai Hotel and different place of the city, killing more than 150 persons. The militants belonging to Laskar-e-Toiba had attacked the Indian parliament a few years before the Mumbai attack. In 1999, an Indian Airlines plane flying from Kathmandu to Delhi was hijacked and was taken to Kandahar of Afghanistan.

The militants who hijacked the plane and took more than 150 passengers hostage for several days sought the release of their leader from Indian jail in return for the safe release of the passengers and the plane. Indians had suffered another bloody terrorist attack way back in 1993 when a series of bomb blasts killed many in Mumbai after the demolition of the Babri Mosque. The Indian government had claimed that the serial blast was a handiwork of the notorious Mumbai gangster, Dawood Ibrahim, who is now hiding in Pakistan. This is probably a classic case of a gangster turning to terrorism to settle scores against those who undermined his religious faith. Many in India also alleged that the gangster was a pawn in the hands of Pakistani militant outfits.

The above mentioned incidents of terrorism are an indication that South Asia is a place where terrorist attacks happen repeatedly. While Afghanistan and Pakistan are the worst hit, other nations are also not free from the militants’ terror. The latest incident in our neighbourhood, Bangladesh, a Muslim majority secular country, should be a wake up call for Nepal, too.

The identity of several attackers of the Bangladeshi café reveals that they belong to well-off families. It is generally believed that terrorist outfits often entrap youths with a poor economic background. But terrorist indoctrination can happen to any person, who can then be turned into a hardened militant ready to strike anywhere, any time.

Nepal, which suffered a 10-year-long Maoist insurgency, too appears vulnerable, given its lax security at key places. Though the nation does not harbour any terrorist outfits, it is often said that militant outfits from outside find the country a safe transit or hiding place. Security at the only international airport in Kathmandu has been bolstered following the Indian Airlines hijack, yet the existing security, according to experts, is not up to the mark. On the other hand, the long, porous border with India has increased the country’s vulnerability.

Nepal too has a big expatriate community, who reside in certain places of the capital. Militants can make these places their target too as in the case of Bangladesh’s popular Gulshan area.

 

Beef up security

In the aftermath of the Dhaka incident, the Nepali government must beef up security in the nation. The airports, bus stations, border towns, busy markets and other important places should be given the highest priority while the national authority should mobilise its intelligence and deploy sleuths at key and vulnerable places. On the other hand, the security organs must keep a close tab on the movement of suspected persons and groups that come to the nation, especially in the border areas.

 

 

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