Nepal: Information on the Democratic Terai Liberation Front (Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha, JTMM), including origins, structure, and activities (2002-September 2016) [NPL105604.E]

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa

1. Overview

Sources describe the Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha (JTMM) as an "illegal armed group" (UN 17 Jan. 2007, para. 38) or an "armed Madheshi group" (AI 28 May 2008). Sources indicate that the group was founded by Jaya Krishna Goit in 2004, as a split-off from the Communist Party of Nepal - Maoist (CPN-M) (SATP n.d.a; UN 17 Jan 2007, para. 38; Development Professional 29 Aug. 2016), reportedly due to the CPN-M's lack of commitment to the development of the Terai region [1] of Nepal (ibid.; SATP n.d.a). For further information on the CPN-M and other Maoist groups in Nepal, see Responses to Information Requests NPL105360 of November 2015 and NPL104890 of June 2014.

Sources indicate that the JTMM sought to establish independence for the Terai region from Nepal (SATP n.d.a; PHW 2015, 1038; Development Professional 29 Aug. 2016). A 2007 UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) report also states that the JTMM advocated for the "armed struggle for self-determination of the Madhesi community, which has been traditionally marginalized in Nepalese society" (UN 17 Jan. 2007, para. 38). According to the Political Handbook of the World (PHW) 2015, the JTMM was a "principal instigator of the insurgency in the Terai," which started in 2007 (2015, 1038).

In correspondence with the Research Directorate, a development professional who works on peacebuilding, conflict and context assessments of Nepal and is currently employed by Saferworld in Nepal, an "independent international organisation" that undertakes research and analysis on violent conflict (Saferworld n.d.), noted that to his personal knowledge, although the JTMM claims to be a political organization, "it seem[s] more [like] a violent criminal organization than political" (29 Aug. 2016). Similarly, a report by Small Arms Survey, a Geneva-based think tank that undertakes research on small arms and armed violence (Small Arms Survey n.d.), states that the JTMM "is now believed to be motivated largely by economic interests rather than political objectives" (ibid. May 2013, 13).

2. Factions

Sources indicate that the JTMM splintered into "several" factions (Rawski 2009, 614; Small Arms Survey May 2013, 9; PHW 2015, 1038). According to a 2010 International Crisis Group report, in 2007 there were a "handful" of active groups including JTMM factions, but by 2010, there were "dozens of groups, frequently merging and splintering and therefore nearly impossible to track" (29 Sept. 2010, 14). In an article published in the International Organizations Law Review journal, Frederick Rawski, the Coordinator of Accountability and Rule of Law at the UN OHCHR in Kathmandu, states that as of 2008, these factions each have "a slightly different articulation of the JTMM platform" (2009, 614).

Sources indicate that in 2006, Nagendra [Kumar] Paswan [also known as Jwala Singh (Nepali Times 2 Mar. 2007-8 Mar. 2007; PRIO 2008, 15)] split from the JTMM and created the Jwala faction of the JTMM (JTMM-J) after disagreeing with Goit's political agenda and strategies for the Terai region (SATP n.d.b; Development Professional 29 Aug. 2016). In January 2008, Nepali Times reported that the JTMM-J emerged as "the most powerful armed group" in the Terai region (4 Jan. 2008-10 Jan. 2008). The same source indicates that the JTMM-J consists "largely [of] Dalit and non-Yadav upper and intermediate castes" (ibid.). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response. The Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), a Norway-based organization that "conducts research on the conditions for peaceful relations between states, groups and people" (PRIO n.d.), characterizes the JTTM-J as a "criminal Madhesi organization" (ibid. 20 July 2008, 9). According to the Development Professional, in 2007-2008, the JTTM-J became the "most ferocious" of the JTMM factions (29 Aug. 2016). In a 2007 article, Nepali Times similarly describes JTMM-J as "the most violent-but not the most important or largest- faction of the JTMM" (2 Mar. 2007-8 Mar. 2007).

The Development Professional indicated that another JTMM faction, led by Rajiv Jha [Ranjit Jha], was created in 2008 (29 Aug. 2016). República, a Nepal-based newspaper, reports that Jha formed the JTMM-Rajan Mukti after separating from the JTMM-J over disputes on the ransoms extorted by the group; the article notes that Jha’s faction "soon" outdid "all other armed outfits in murder, kidnap, extortions, and bomb blasts in the Terai" (1 May 2012). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

Other JTMM factions reported by sources include:

  • JTMM-Prithivi (Rawski 2009, 614);
  • JTMM-Bisfot (ibid.);
  • JTMM (Jhawar Shah Pratap) (The Kathmandu Post 4 Mar. 2012);
  • JTMM (Bhagat Singh) (The Himalayan Times 17 June 2012);
  • JTMM (Krantikari) (ibid. 14 June 2016);
  • JTMM Revolutionary, led by Krishna Goit (The Kathmandu Post 14 June 2016).

Additional information on these factions could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

3. Structure, Size, and Location of JTMM Factions

The Development Professional stated that both the JTTM-G [Goit's faction] and JTMM-J factions were organized similar to the CPN-M, with a "central committee," "regional committee," "district" and "village committees", and "cell committees" (29 Aug. 2016). The South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), a New Delhi-based online database on terrorism and low intensity warfare in South Asia (SATP n.d.c), similarly indicates that the JTMM-J's organisational structure resembles the CPN-Maoist's, with a "central committee, central and district level governments, a Terai Liberation Army and district committees" (ibid. n.d.b). SATP also indicates that the JTMM-G has a "central committee, East and West Terai Regional Bureaus, village, ward and cell committees, and a parallel military organisation" (ibid. n.d.a). The Development Professional noted that to his knowledge however, at their peak, the groups were unable to have a fully functional structure; the source indicated that "currently" these factions "probably only have a central committee and a few district committees with occasional presence in village committees" (29 Aug. 2016). Additional information on the structure of these factions and information on the structure of other JTMM factions could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

According to SATP, it is "difficult to estimate [the size of the JTTM-G], though unconfirmed reports suggest a support base of a thousand, including hard-core cadres and sympathisers" (SATP n.d.a). The same source indicates that the size of the JTTM-J is "a few hundred," while the JTTM-J itself claims that it has armed militias present in 12 of the 20 districts in Terai (ibid. n.d.b). In March 2007, Nepali Times cites the JTMM-J as stating that "it ha[d] 'full strength' in 13 districts and 'agents' in five more" (Nepali Times 2 Mar. 2007-8 Mar. 2007). In January 2008, the same source reported that the JTMM-J claimed to have 25,000 people, while unnamed sources indicated that "they do have about 500 people each in several of the sensitive districts as active cadres and part time sympathisers" (ibid. 4 Jan. 2008-10 Jan. 2008). Further and corroborating information on the size of JTMM and its factions could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

In January 2007, the UN OHCHR report noted that the JTMM had "extended its influence from a few Eastern Terai districts to other districts in the Eastern, Central and possibly Mid-Western regions" (17 Jan. 2007, para. 39). The Development Professional also stated that the JTMM was active in ten Terai districts, including Saptari, Siraha, Dhanusha, Mahottrai, Sarlahi, Rautahat, Bara, Parsa, Rupandehi, and Kapilvastu (29 Aug. 2016). According to SATP, the JTMM-G is active in the districts of Siraha, Dhanusha, Morang, Sarlahi, Bara, Saptari, Mohattari, Laliptur, and Rautahat (SATP n.d.a). The same source also states that, except for Laliptur, the JTTM-J is active in the same areas as well as in Birgunj, (ibid. n.d.b). The Development Professional further indicated that "[c]urrently" the JTMM-J and JTMM-G have a "very low presence and activities in their strong hold areas, and that organizationally, they are very weak and their cadre base is almost disintegrated" (29 Aug. 2016). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

4. Activities

Sources report that the JTMM was responsible for killings, kidnapping (UN 17 Jan. 2007, para. 39; Development Professional 29 Aug. 2016; AI 28 May 2008), bomb attacks (ibid.), intimidation (Development Professional 29 Aug. 2016), and threats (ITUC, 11 June 2009). The Development Professional indicated that Goit adopted the tactics used by the CPN-M in Nepal's civil war, including killings, intimidation, and extortion (29 Aug. 2016). Rawski similarly states that Goit has acknowledged that the JTMM engaged in "what some would describe as criminal activity (such as extortion and abduction for ransom)," but that according to Goit "these are exactly the tactics the now 'legitimate' Maoists used to support the insurgency" (2009, 614). According to sources, the targets of JTMM factions' activities include industrial workers, members of the Young Communist League (PRIO 20 July 2008, 9), police officers (Nepali Times 2 Mar. 2007-8 Mar. 2007), journalists (ITUC, 11 June 2009; UN Dec. 2007, 6), teachers (ibid.), local administration buildings (AI 28 May 2009), the Pahadis (people of hill origin who migrated to the Terai) (ibid.; UN 17 Jan. 2007, para. 39; Development Professional 29 Aug. 2016), political leaders from other parties (ibid.), government officials (ibid.; UN Dec. 2007), and businessmen (ibid.). Nepali Times reported in January 2008 that the JTMM-J has also targeted Madhesis for extortion and killings (4 Jan. 2008-10 Jan. 2008). A December 2007 UN OHCHR report indicates that since December 2006,

[t]he JTMM-Jwala Singh faction was implicated in some 30 killings and 80 abductions, with eight killings and some 34 abductions being attributed to JTMM-Goit faction. Of those killed, 11 were reportedly members of armed groups, the rest civilians, including 10 CPN-M cadres (five killings attributed to JTMM-JS and five to JTMM-G), local government officials such as Village Development Committee (VDC) secretaries and District Development Committee (DDC) officers, a Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) and a Nepali Congress (NC) Party member. Additionally, two Madheshi members of the NC party were also killed in Siraha in November. … JTMM-JS was implicated in 64 and JTMM-G in 26 abductions. In several recent cases, JTMM-JS reportedly accused the victims of a particular crime or of spying. Some of the victims have been Madheshi. (UN Dec. 2007, 6)

Some of the incidents reported by sources involving the JTMM and/or its factions include:

  • On 1 December 2007, the BBC reported that the JTMM called for a three day strike in the central Terai region, and that there "were reports of attacks on vehicles and small businesses" (BBC 1 Dec. 2007).
  • In June 2008, the JTMM-J claimed the responsibility for the murder of the coordinator of the Civil Society Network Bardiya who was also a member of the Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist Leninist (Observatoire pour la protection des défenseurs des droits de l'homme 19 June 2009, 427).
  • In June 2010, the JTMM-Rajan Mukti claimed responsibility for the killing of an office assistant of the Dhanusha District Development Committee, as a protest against the arrest of five of its cadres (The Himalayan Times 11 June 2010).
  • In April 2013, the JTTM-Rajan Mukti claimed responsibility for shooting a domestic aid; the victim was mistaken for the owner of a medical college who the group accused of selling "fake certificates" (The Himalayan Times 16 April 2013).
  • In June 2016, an IED was detonated by a faction of the JTMM behind a house in Saptari in order "to pay tribute" to its cadres who were killed (The Kathmandu Post 14 June 2016; The Himalayan Times 14 June 2016). The Himalayan Times reported that the faction was the JTMM (Krantikari) (ibid.), while The Kathmandu Post reported the faction responsible was the JTMM Revolutionary led by Krishna Goit (The Kathmandu Post 14 June 2016).
  • In August 2011 Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reports that the JTMM-Rajan Mukti faction threatened a reporter from the Rajdhani newspaper, by posting a Facebook message accusing the reporter of "working for the police" (RSF 18 Aug. 2011). RSF also indicates that on 21 June 2011, the JTMM sent "intimidatory letters to several local newspapers in the southeastern Janakpur region … demanding that they begin publishing in the Maithili language within 35 days" (ibid.).

Additional information on these events could not be found by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

The START Global Terrorism Database (GTD), which contains open-source information on over 150,000 terrorist attacks throughout the world from 1970 to 2015 (START n.d.a), lists 173 incidents which the JTMM and its factions were either responsible for or suspected of perpetrating (GTD n.d.b). The statistical analysis, including dates and types of activity, provided by the GTD database concerning these incidents is attached to this Response. According to the Development Professional, the activity level of the JTMM peaked between 2005 and 2008, especially in 2007 and 2008 (Development Professional 29 Aug. 2016). The same source indicated that, from 2009, both the size of the groups and the number of their "terror" activities declined, and that since 2013, "no major activities have been observed from JTMM" (ibid.).

Sources indicate that the JTMM faction led by Rajiv Jha announced the end of the use of violence in April 2011 (The Kathmandu Post 30 Apr. 2011; The Himalayan Times 30 Apr. 2011). Similarly, the Development Professional stated that this faction became a political party after negotiations with the government, and in 2012 officially declared "giving up violent means" (29 Aug. 2016). On 4 March 2012, The Kathmandu Post reported that the government signed an agreement with the JTMM (Jhawar Shah Pratap) faction that included the treatment as a "political party" and the laying down of the faction's weapons (4 Mar. 2012). Further information on peace agreements with factions of the JTMM could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

Note

[1] IRIN indicates that the Terai region, also known as Madhes in Nepalese, "stretches from the east to the west of the country along the Nepalese-Indian border adjoining the Indian states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. It comprises nearly 17 percent of the land and the Madhesi people make up about 30 percent of the 27 million people in Nepal. The Madhesi are predominantly Hindus with some Muslims, Buddhists and Christians". They are an indigenous group. (UN 8 Feb. 2007).

References

Amnesty International (AI). 28 May 2009. "Nepal." Amnesty International Report 2009: The State of the World's Human Rights. [Accessed 31 Aug. 2016]

Amnesty International (AI). 28 May 2008. "Nepal." Amnesty International Report 2008: The State of the World's Human Rights.  [Accessed 31 Aug. 2016]

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). 1 December 2007. "New Nepalese Rebels Stage Strike." [Accessed 24 Aug. 2016]

Development Professional, Saferworld. 29 August 2016. Correspondence with the Research Directorate.

The Himalayan Times. 14 June 2016. Byas Shanker Upadhyaya. "Tarai Outfit Explodes Bomb 'to Pay Tribute' to Deceased Cadres." [Accessed 30 Aug. 2016]

The Himalayan Times. 16 April 2013. "Janaki Medical College Owner's Servant Shot." (Factiva)

The Himalayan Times. 17 June 2012. "Armed Outfit In-charge Killed." (Factiva)

The Himalayan Times. 30 April 2011. "JTMM Hangs Up Guns for Peaceful Politics." (Factiva)

The Himalayan Times. 11 June 2010. "Govt Employee Shot Dead to Avenge JTMM-R Arrests." (Factiva)

International Crisis Group. 29 September 2010. Nepal's Political Rites of Passage. Asia Report No. 194. [Accessed 25 Aug. 2016]

International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). 11 June 2009. "Nepal." 2009 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights. [Accessed 24 Aug. 2016]

The Kathmandu Post. 14 June 2016. "Goit-led JTMM (R) Takes Responsibility of Bomb Blast." [Accessed 24 Aug. 2016]

The Kathmandu Post. 4 March 2012. "Govt Holds Talks with 2 Outfits." (Factiva)

The Kathmandu Post. 30 April 2011. "Madhes-based Outfit JTMM Lays Down Arms." (Factiva)

Nepali Times. 4 January 2008-10 January 2008. Prashant Jha. "Tarai Frontline." Issue No. 381. [Accessed 25 Aug. 2016]

Nepali Times. 2 March 2007-8 March 2007. Leo Blaze. "All Fired Up and Nowhere to Go." Issue No. 338. [Accessed 25 Aug. 2016]

Observatoire pour la protection des défenseurs des droits de l'homme. 19 June 2009. L'obstination du témoignage: Rapport annuel 2009. [Accessed 24 Aug. 2016]

Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO). 20 July 2008. Jason Miklian. Nepal's Terai: Constructing an Ethnic Conflict. PRIO South Asia Briefing Paper No.1. [Accessed 23 Aug. 2016]

Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO). N.d. "About PRIO." [Accessed 30 Aug. 2016]

Political Handbook of the World (PHW). 2015. "Nepal." Edited by Thomas Lansford. Washington, DC: CQ Press.

Rawski, Frederick. 2009. "Engaging with Armed Groups: A Human Rights Field Perspective from Nepal." International Organizations Law Review. Vol. 6, No. 2: 601-626.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF). 18 August 2011. "Sharp Fall in Ability of Nepalese Journalists to Work Freely." [Accessed 24 Aug. 2016]

República. 1 May 2012. "Who is Rajan Mukti?" (Factiva)

Saferworld. N.d. "About US." [Accessed 31 Aug. 2016]

Small Arms Survey. May 2013. Nepal Armed Violence Assessment. "The Missing Middle: Examining the Armed Group Phenomenon in Nepal." Nepal Issue Brief. No. 1. [Accessed 23 Aug. 2016]

Small Arms Survey. N.d. "About the Small Arms Survey." [Accessed 26 Aug. 2016]

South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP). N.d.a. "Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha - Jaya Krishna Goit (JTMM-G)." [Accessed 22 Aug. 2016]

South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP). N.d.b. "Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha - Jwala Singh (JTMM-J)." [Accessed 10 Aug. 2016]

South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP). N.d.c. "A Profile." [Accessed 30 Aug. 2016]

START, National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism. N.d.a. Global Terrorism Database (GTD). "Overview of the GTD." [Accessed 25 Aug. 2016]

START, National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism. N.d.b. Global Terrorism Database (GTD). "Search Results: 173 Incidents." [Accessed 25 Aug. 2016]

United Nations (UN). December 2007. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Human Rights in Nepal: One Year After the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. [Accessed 25 Aug. 2016]

United Nations (UN). 8 February 2007. Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN). "Background of the Terai's Madhesi People." [Accessed 29 Aug. 2016]

United Nations (UN). 17 January 2007. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Implementation of General Assembly Resolution 60/251 of 15 March 2006 Entitled "Human Rights Council." Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Human Rights Situation and the Activities of Her Office, Including Technical Cooperation, in Nepal. A/HRC/4/97. [Accessed 25 Aug. 2016]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: BBC; Centre for South Asian Studies, Kathmandu; Fellow, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies; International Alert; Peace Research Institute Oslo; Professor of anthropology and international studies, Ramapo College; Professor of political science, Western Michigan University; Researcher, Oxford University; Visiting Associate, Nepal Center for Contemporary Research.

Internet sites, including: Canada – Public Safety Canada; ecoi.net; Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung; Human Rights Watch; INSEConline; NepalMonitor.org; Norway – Landinfo; Radio France internationale; South Asia Analysis Group; Stanford University – Mapping Militant Organizations; UN – Development Programme, Refworld, ReliefWeb; US – Department of State.

Attachment

START, National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism. N.d. Global Terrorism Database (GTD). "Search Results:173 Incidents." [Accessed 25 Aug. 2016]