Aug. 28: Maoists picked out a Nepal subsidiary of Hindustan Lever Ltd to intensify a bombing campaign against foreign companies, triggering explosions in a factory after getting the gates opened at gunpoint.
The three explosions before Saturday dawn damaged the building and some machinery but there was no casualty as the guerrillas herded the workers of Nepal Lever, a joint venture in which Hindustan Lever owns around 80 per cent shares, to safety before detonating the bombs.
A group of 15 rebels overpowered the guard at one of the watchtowers of the plant, located at Hetauda in Makawanpur district, around 150 km south of Kathmandu, and forced him to open the electronic locks on the gates and entered the premises. The intruders then placed the bombs at three carefully chosen places and set them off.
Around seven of the 100 employees of the Nepal company are said to be Indians. Its managing director Rakesh Mohan is an Indian.
With 15,000 Nepalese shareholders, the joint venture had clocked a turnover of Rs 100 crore last year and is one of the most valued companies quoted on the stock exchange in Nepal. The Indian parent imports some of the personal products the Nepal company makes but the quantity is not significant.
The full extent of damage is being assessed, Nepal Lever said in a statement issued in Kathmandu. The company added that it had received no warning or threat — a regular procedure followed by the Maoists in their campaign to strike terror among foreign investors.
The Indian government condemned the bombing and urged Kathmandu to bring the culprits to justice.
“The Government of India strongly condemns the bomb attacks on Nepal Lever and holds the Maoist outfit directly responsible for the reprehensible acts,” the Indian embassy in Kathmandu said in a statement.
The external affairs ministry issued a similar statement in Delhi, renewing its support to the Nepalese government and “the friendly people of that country in dealing firmly with those responsible for terrorist activities”.
The attack came a day after a Maoist-affiliated trade union issued a statement saying it would not target any multinational, barring American joint ventures, as the US government was actively supporting the kingdom in “suppressing” the rebel movement.
However, the Maoists have not yet lifted a ban on the operations of 12 multinational companies, including ITC’s joint venture Surya Nepal and Soaltee Crowne Plaza. These ventures have been prevented from functioning for what the Maoists claim as “exploitation of workers”.