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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2614

What are the Nepali Maoists up to now…?

By Shikha Baraily - Syndicate Features

In the beginning of the year 1996, a new People's War was launched in Nepal, led by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), aimed at abolishing imperialism, feudalism and bureaucratic capitalism. Within a decade, the movement spread out to almost three quarters of the country and accomplished a lot. Last year, the Maoists surprised their critics by forging an agreement with the political parties and by helping to ‘dethrone’ the Monarch of his absolute power. Now they occupy 83 seats in the recently formed 330-member interim parliament. They are all set to join the interim government which is expected in the next few weeks. Also disarming their critics at home and abroad, the Maoists have agreed to lock up their arms and armies under the supervision of the United Nations. This has paved the way for the elections to the Constituent Assembly which will draft the new statute to usher in the all new Nepal.

The Maoists have since dissolved their parallel government. The declaration was made by none other than Prachanda, the Maoist supremo, after the promulgation of the interim constitution. Will his declaration be effectively implemented? Well, at this point, all one can say, let us wait and watch!

From the beginning, the Maoists called their ‘regime’ a People’s Government. They had set up People’s Courts to deliver and implement verdicts on any thing and every thing that effected life in the country side – from land disputes and debts to domestic violence and divorce. People generally turned to the comrades since the Kathmandu’s writ was visibly limited in reach. The Maoist People’s government raised money by levying taxes and fines. And used the money primarily for feeding their combatants, and at times to offer loans to landless farmers.

There is another side to the Maoist saga in Nepal. And it is the crippling blow they gave to the already ailing economy. Apart from destroying infrastructure worth millions of rupees, they forcefully shut down businesses, closed down schools and colleges, prohibited the building of roads and bridges, and forcefully organise strikes. They randomly levied taxes on businesses and individuals in whatever way they desired. They did not spare vegetable vendors and livestock sellers. Transportation, forestry, hotels, schools, colleges, and seemingly rich individuals came under Maoist tax net. Even Customs check posts on Nepal- India border, for that matter. The Maoists are also guilty of numerous summary executions and cases of abduction and torture.

To sum it up, the common man was surely scared off the Maoists. Yet, their movement did enjoy ideological sanction which gradually resulted in mass support. The Nepalese were desperate for a change. This fact was made evident during the April uprising, which forced King Gyanendra to concede defeat.

The transformation of the Maoists from insurgents into a powerful political force is truly awe inspiring. Nonetheless, we cannot gloss over the reality: what the Maoists have been striving for, and still are, is ‘Power’. And as we can see, the eight parties, now under the leadership of Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala are still not united. The power balance is very fragile. Only the prospects of a ballot are preventing these parties from indulging in their trademark brinkmanship games. But after the Constituent elections are over? Will they still work together sinking their differences? Will the Nepalese ever see a bright, prosperous, new Nepal? Will the change in governance change the lives of the common man? Frankly, there are no ready answers.

Announcing the disbanding of the parallel mechanisms, Maoists Chief Prachanda cautioned, “Any effort to reverse the right decisions of the people's governments and people's courts will be against the historic (peace) agreement." The main stream parties will do well to take note of the warning. Also for that matter that the latest clashes between the JTMM (Janatantrik Madhesi Mukti Morcha) and Maoists in the Terai belt which show that the Maoists do not mind using their weapons if the need arises. So what is actually going on in the name of weapons management?

Consider this. US ambassador to Nepal has charged that the Maoists are exchanging their high-quality China acquired sophisticated weapons for mediocre weapons with the Indian insurgent groups like ULFA and the Naxalite groups. If the allegation is true, it means the so called arms management is a futile exercise. It also means that the Nepali Maoists will take back their old weapons once the elections are over, or whenever they needed. The porous Bihar-Nepal border is easily permeable and such activities cannot be ruled out. And it is hard to predict the course of events and how it is all going to affect India.

The Maoists are known to break their promises. Even truce pacts! So much so, their latest peace agreement does not mean anything unless it is implemented honestly and sincerely. The transformation of the Maoists is not going to be as easy. While the changes brought in by the Maoists' joining the interim government and its impact on the national power balance will be gradually known, the Maoists will be at odds if they do not make their transformation swift and clean.

Needless to say, political parties are largely responsible for the growth of Left Wing Extremism in Nepal. They have failed over the years to offer stable and secure governance. It has given the extremist elements the opening they needed. One such extremist movement is - the separatist movement of the Madhesis, which, of late, has been flaming anarchy in the Terai region. The Madhesi’s claim we are neither Indians nor the subjects of Nepal. Unlike the Maoists who launched their quest with traditional weapons, the JTMM has in its possession ultra modern weapons. The issues germane to the Madhesis movement should be tackled expeditiously. The government in Kathmandu will do well not to treat the Madhesis issue casually.

There is an urgent need to envisage policies to curtail the momentum of such movements. If not then such issues will also have a significant bearing on Nepal’s relations with its neighbours, especially India.

For India, the build-up of the Madhesi movement would mean yet another border conflict. The Madhesis claim that the entire territory south of Mahabharat Mountain Range is Terai and it belongs to the Madhesis. It is therefore in Kathmandu and Delhi’s interest to clearly demarcate the border. Undoubtedly, the stakes are very high for India in the region. Firstly it is an open border. Secondly, major Indian industries and investments in Nepal are concentrated in the Terai. Any disturbance in this region would invariably have its adverse impact on at least four Indian states which border the Terai.

The Maoists have been saying that they will review all pacts with India, including the “obsolete and unequal” 1950 Treaty of Friendship. Review of the pact will surely lead to some wrangling between the two neighbours on security, transit and water issues, since the Maoists will definitely seek greater economic independence for their landlocked nation while simultaneously striving to improve ties with China. Yet another alarm bell for India!

- Syndicate Features -

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