Hooliganism in Balaju: An incident that exposes lapses in security strategies

On 13 February, violence erupted in Balaju during a protest by transport workers in which over 41 security personnel were injured while public and private properties were set on fire. Who is responsible?

Narayan Adhikari

  • Read Time 2 min.

Kathmandu: On Monday, Balaju turned into a battleground of sorts. The protest organized by various organizations of workers and entrepreneurs associated with public transportation sector, such as Nepal Yatayat Majdur Sangh, Swatantra Majdur Sangathan and Akhil Nepal Majdur Sangh,  went violent as demonstrators engaged in arsoning, including police vans,  vandalism of public properties and looting of private assets.

They had staged protests with various demands that included end of ‘traffic police’s suppression’ and revocation of the system of suspending driving license, among others.

Over 41 police personnel sustained injuries while they were trying to take the situation under control.

The incident was akin to an act of terror, an eye witness of the incident told Nepal Live Today.

Security experts say the incident exposes several lapses on the part of Nepal Police as well as the Ministry of Home Affairs and the District Administration Office of  Kathmandu.  

The incident has raised several questions, which remain unanswered, regarding our security system. 

First is the question of preparedness. Why did Nepal Police fail to stay prepared and take timely action? Was it due to political pressure or Nepal Police as an institution has weak mechanisms to remain alert? It should be noted that the incident occurred at a site just a few kilometers from the Nepal Police Headquarters and Singha Durbar, the central secretariat of the government of Nepal.  

Second, the incident has also exposed the weak intelligence of Nepal Police. The major duty of the intelligence bureau  is to gather information from the ground and keep the policy force alert about the possible situation on the ground. This should have been a major concern for Nepal Police which itself has an intelligence system while the country also has a dedicated intelligence agency named the National Investigation Department (NID). The role of these agencies has been questioned following the incident. 

“Based on media reports, it appears that Nepal Police failed on threat analysis,” said Hari Pal, former Additional Inspector General (AIG) of Nepal Police. “They should have been able to assess the situation of threat on time.”

Third, the Home Ministry and agencies under the ministry including the District Administration Office failed on  vigilance and alertness to assess the situation and intervene timely. The incident occurred inside Kathmandu Valley and the Ministry could have controlled the situation by deploying additional forces. But that was not the case.

Fourth, the incident also indicates how rampant impunity has become in the country. Of late, bringing the perpetrators to book, especially if they are organized in a group, has become a challenging task in Nepal. Established political forces tend to back their cadres for the sake of votes. The demonstrators might have resorted to criminal activities thinking that they would be protected by the political parties they are affiliated with anyway.

Fifth, the incident can also be interpreted to indicate low morale and self confidence of Nepal Police. As things stand, meddling by political parties in appointment and promotion of officials and in overall functioning of the Nepal Police has adversely affected the morale of Nepal Police. “The in-charge who was taking command of the area may have thought that he might face consequences if actions are taken against demonstrators directly affiliated with either one or another political party,” a police officer told Nepal Live Today on condition of anonymity.