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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2967

Enigmatic Nepali Maoists

By M Rama Rao - Syndicate Features

Nepal Home Minister Krishna Prasad Situala has cancelled his scheduled visit to Delhi ‘for the time being’. He was to be in India to sign an updated India-Nepal extradition treaty and an agreement on mutual legal assistance on October 5.

No reason has been given officially for the cancellation. Only a cryptic communiqué was sent to the Indian High Commissioner in Kathmandu that the visit which was due to begin on October 4 stands cancelled for the present. The existing extradition treaty is fifty years old and is found inadequate to deal with present day problems like drug and human trafficking along the 1,700 km long ‘open’ border between the two countries. Both sides had set into motion the process of revising the treaty about two years ago.

Various accounts in circulation in the Kathmandu Valley put the blame for the cancellation of the Situala visit on the Maoist supremo Prachanda. It is said he prevailed over Prime Minister Koirala saying that the treaty should be put on hold till Nepal settles down to a semblance of normalcy. This is a euphemism for Maoists joining the interim government. The Maoists have reservations on the Treaty and feel that the draft as worked out at the official level in January 2005 gives advantage to India, notwithstanding the clarifications from Delhi and Kathmandu.

The treaty doesn’t give a free hand to Indian Police to do anything inside Nepal as many critics aver. Like in the past, post treaty ratification also, India will have to go through tortuous legal processes as at present but where India stands to benefit is that the updated treaty is clearly designed to check growing nexus between left wing extremists of the two countries and to combat terrorism and other cross border criminals. Under the treaty, Nepal will be obliged to extradite even third country nationals. This is a gain because Pakistan’s ISI is active in Nepal in fomenting trouble for India and terrorists of all hues in the ISI pay roll are using Kathmandu as their entry point for India.

It is no secret that Nepal Maoists are getting help from ISI since their larger goal and Pak agencies limited goal converge. While the Maoists are for spreading the flames of revolution across South Asia, the ISI will be happy to see disorder and discord spread in India.

How the Maoists will be reacting in the days ahead is still a matter of conjecture. They were expected to hold summit level talks with Nepal Prime Minister towards September end. These talks have been postponed to October 8, but the negotiators for both sides admit that the ‘way ahead still seems quite difficult and time-consuming’. Home Minister Krishna Prasad Situala is heading the team of government negotiators.

The problem is ‘the nine-point secret proposal’ presented by Maoists as their "bottom-line". Not surprisingly a senior leader of the ruling alliance has admitted, "There are still wide differences on crucial issues, and settlement of all issues is unlikely even in the upcoming proposed talks."

MAOISTs’ DEMAND: The Maoists are insisting that the interim legislature should incorporate 45 percent members of seven-party alliance, 35 percent Maoists and 20 percent members of civil society.

Their second demand, which has no takers from the ruling alliance, is that the Maoist militia and Nepal Police should form a joint mechanism to hold constituent assembly elections. Maoists are not hiding their aversion for the Palace and are saying that the monarchy should be suspended until constituent assembly election is held. They also want a referendum on monarchy along with constituent assembly polls and nationalization of royal assets.

On the issue of ‘army’, the Maoists have proposed a high-level military commission "to control both armed forces." They want to retain their Kangaroo courts at the village level.

Proportional representation system, dissolution of both the Houses of Parliament after interim legislature is formed, and setting up of ‘joint committees’ of the government and Maoists at the village level are amongst their other demands besides a pronounced pro-poor tilt in the socio-economic policies..

KOIRALA STAND: Nepali Congress is not in favour of holding a referendum on the future of the Palace along with the assembly election. Prime Minister Koirala is credited with the view that referendum would ‘unnecessarily reactivate the now-passive king’ and gives him a ‘pretext to seek a role in politics based on the votes cast in his favour’.

Both within the NC and most other constituents of the seven party alliance, the Maoist demand that their militia and the army should work together has caused serious misgivings. Firstly, their point is that the Maoist militia is a partisan force and hence should have no role during elections to ensure a free and fair ballot. Secondly, Maoists have not endeared themselves with their continued recruitment, extortions, kidnappings and killing spree.

Local media reports say that the intensified donation drive launched by Maoists has unleashed a reign of terror in the districts like Sankhuwasaba. Various Maoist wings claim they are collecting "donation" as their party is under huge debt burden of some five million rupees. Those collecting donations include ‘District People's Government’, ‘Peoples' Liberation Army’ and ‘Kirat District People's Government’. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of Nepal has come out with its critique of the Maoists. Even a casual reading of the document does not bring smile to the Maoists and their supporters.

The Maoists have a grouse against the United States. Washington’s publicly stated stand is that armed groups should not be allowed to stay in the political process. The US envoy is an open critic of the Maoists and in so many words he has been lobbying against them. In fact a few days ago several political parties have openly demanded his ‘recall’.

On their part, the Maoists termed the US stand as ‘an unnecessary interventions in the political matters of Nepal’ and took Washington to task for clubbing them (Nepali Maoists) with terrorists. "We demand that the US withdraw (us) from the list of terrorists at the soonest," said Krishna Bahadur Mahara, spokesman for Maoists. He is also the coordinator of Maoist team for talks with the government.

Surprisingly the Maoists are not helping their cause by regularly holding out a new threat. The latest warning of sorts has come in from none other than Prachanda himself. Speaking at a function on the eve of Vijayadasami festival, he declared that the Maoists would launch a capital-centered ‘new revolution’ with the help of native Newar community of the valley, if the summit talks do not bear fruit.

- Syndicate Features -

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