The Maoists have joined the peace process (and the government) after a decade-long insurgency, but a growing number of armed groups have sprung up to take their place. The most recent target: the media. Arun Singhaniya, owner of two main news outlets in the southern province of Janakpur, was shot three times at point blank range on March 1 while walking home from celebrations for the Holi festival. So far, 10 people have been arrested on suspicion of involvement in his murder, but the police have yet to file a claim.
According to Nepal's Home Ministry, there are more than one hundred armed groups in the Terai region, which includes Janakpur, on the Indian border. Human rights records show that there were 240 killings last year in the Terai, 89 of which remain unsolved.
Industrialists and entrepreneurs have started putting serious pressure on the government to improve the security situation. In a recent meeting, a group of businessmen warned Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal that the country’s main industries would fail if the violence continues.
In response, the prime minister promised to beef up security – especially in the Terai.
However, the Terai is a vast, rural area of jungles and plain, and the prime minister has had security issues in his own capital.
Barely a month ago, another prominent media figure, Nepali cable TV magnate Jamim Shah, was gunned down in broad daylight in a rich and “safe” neighborhood in Kathmandu, allegedly by Indian gangsters.
Indian newspapers have regularly accused Shah’s TV channels and newspapers of propagating anti-Indian sentiment. Shah was shot dead on February 7—which, according to the Nepali astrological calendar, is supposed to be among the luckiest days of the year for marriage ceremonies.
- Rajneesh Bhandari