The Nepal government has decided not to deploy army personnel for security of Upper Karnali, a hydropower project being developed by GMR Energy, which was attacked by Maoist cadres last month.
Although the cabinet had approved deployment of Nepal Army at the project site on June 15, it was forced to backtrack following pressure for Maoists, the biggest constituent of the ruling coalition.
Three office buildings belonging to the Indian company were burnt down by a mob on May 22 and two people severely beaten up. Others including 11 Indians working at the site fled to a nearby army camp to save themselves.
“Army will be deployed at Upper Karnali only if the police fail to provide security,” deputy Prime Minister and home minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara told a parliament committee on Friday.
Citing it as against Nepal’s interests, Maoists have been opposing GMR’s involvement in the 900 MW project spread across the Dailekh, Accham and Surkhet districts of western Nepal.
Following the cabinet’s decision to deploy Nepal Army for security of the project, senior Maoist leaders had been voicing anger and pressurizing the government to stop the move.
“We will launch protests within the parliament and on the streets if the government doesn’t revoke the decision,” Maoist politburo member Dharmendra Bastola had warned earlier this week.
Despite witnesses identifying several local Maoist leaders as being present in the attack on GMR’s offices last month, Maoists have denied any involvement in the incident. No arrests have been made yet.
Maoists had also targeted the Upper Karnali project earlier and during his Nepal visit in April, External Affairs Minister SM Krishna had strongly taken up this issue with Nepal government and the Maoist leadership.
Maoists have refused to let GMR continue work on the project and are demanding cancellation of the contract. The party has also imposed fresh conditions like renegotiation of MoU.
GMR started work on the project after winning a global bid. The same group is also developing the 600 MW Upper Marsyangdi-II project in Lamjung and Manang districts in central Nepal.