By Farooq Sulehria
Nepal is often refereed as the home of world's highest peak: Mount
Everest. Of late, Nepal has also been home to the fastest flourishing
and most successful Maoist movement of the world in the post-Cold
War period. On March 23, media reported the authorities in Nepal
claiming to have killed 500 Maoists in Bani, a town 120 kilometres
from capital Kathmandu. The 'battle' so far had been the bloodiest
episode in seven year long clashes between Nepali police and Maoists.
The Maoists have contradicted the death toll claimed by the government
authorities. The government also has revised the figure. The fresh
figure is 100.
Following Bani event, the media reports claim 9000 deaths in Nepal
in last seven years, since the insurgency mounted by the Maoists.
Whatever the truth is, 500 or 100, the event however points out
to the strength that Maoists have gained in Nepal since February
12, 1996 when the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) or shortly
CPN-M started its so-called "people's war" (jana yuddha)
to cause the downfall of state power, it called reactionary, and
to establish a new people's republic.
The CPN-Maoist is one of several splinter groups of the Communist
Party of Nepal (CPN), The CPN-Maoist came to birth when the political
wing of Nepal's radical left parties, the Samyukta Jana Morcha
Nepal (SJMN) or United People's Front Nepal, split in late 1993.
At that time, the SJMN had been the third strongest force in the
Pratinidhi Sabha (parliament) with nine MPs.
The Maoists in Nepal had not only survived but flourished and
have extended their base of support, it seems. Reportedly, almost
70 percent of rural Nepal is under guerrilla control. The Maoists
are running these districts through peoples committees and have
set up people's courts. Unlike, 1970s when Nepal was witnessing
an upsurge of Maoists activity getting an active support from
China, this time the Nepalese Maoists have no support from China.
On the contrary, the CPN M declares China as revisionist rather
new revisionist. The CPN M thinks that the China has turned to
revisionism since the death of Mao Tse Tung.
The success of Maoist ideas in Nepal underlines the crisis facing
this impoverished country of almost 25 million, 80 per cent of
them living below poverty line. Despite some democratic reforms
paving the way for multiparty elections in 1990, Nepal is still
a classic example of feudal state ruled by a powerful monarch.
The King is a military-police dictator hiding behind a weak parliament.
The social base of these parasitic degenerates is extremely small.
It gets its support from a Hindu elite. Nepal is the only official
Hindu state in the world. The pro-monarchy parties in the weak
parliament have tiny mass support.
The economy is heavily reliant on aid since a disastrous 'neo-liberal'
experiment in the early 1990 when Nepal was opened to multinationals.
The super exploitation of Nepali masses has been looking to the
communists to rid them of this exploitation at the hands of cruel
monarchy, its lackeys and state apparatus. The communists have
been in the forefront of the struggle for democracy in Nepal.
Finally, when limited democratic reforms paved the way for multi
party elections, the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist
Linenist) often referred to as CPN UML emerged as the largest
party in 1994 general elections.
In Asia, this was the first time a communist party was elected
to power. In the post Cold War period, this was the first such
election victory for any communist party. It generated a lot of
enthusiasm in the Indian sub continent soon to be subsided when
the CPN UML government headed by Comrade Adhikari was dissolved
after nine months in power.
The Adhikari government not only failed to deliver reforms it
had promised, land reforms above all which are most important
in this agri-based country, but also disillusioned a whole lot
of cadre. Communist Party of Nepal on the other hand provided
the action the Nepali masses perhaps were looking for. Though
the CPN UML has not lost its electoral bases and mass support
in towns, yet the Maoists have been major pole of attraction in
The growth of Maoists have been making neighbouring India pretty
nervous. Nepal that serves as a kind of buffer zone between India
and China has been strategically very important. Nepal, being
a Hindu state, has been a kind of Indian sphere of influence.
Land locked Nepal is also desperately in need of Indian support
Traditionally, the monarch has been supported by Indian and British
governments, and of late increasingly the US has been supporting
the monarch. The Bush administration added the CPN-M to the US
list of terrorist organisations on April 30 in 2002. The US government
also signed a five-year agreement "for co-operation in fighting
terrorism and preventing possible terror attacks" with Nepal
Washington provided $US14 million in military aid to Nepal in
2002 and announced the delivery of 3,000 M-16 rifles in January
as part of a total consignment of 5,000. By beefing up the Nepalese
army with political and material support, the US is also boosting
the autocratic monarchy, which traditionally has rested heavily
on the military. Washington may have concerns about the impact
of instability in Nepal on the Indian subcontinent as a whole.
But the major reason for growing US military ties with Nepal is
the country's strategic position-adjacent to China and Central
Washington has a series of military arrangements with countries
bordering China, stretching from its new bases in the Central
Asian republics through South East Asia to its formal allies in
North East Asia-Japan and South Korea. On the other hand, India,
which is developing strong ties to Washington, is also backing
the Nepalese monarchy and strengthening the army. New Delhi has
provided substantial military aid to Nepal.
The Maoists are clearly concerned about growing US involvement
in Nepal. Deputy leader of CPN-M Baburam Bhattarai told the Guardian
in May 2002: "They (government forces) can't crush us. They
can't defeat us militarily... But the US is the world's biggest
terrorist. The US has been threatening us openly. We want to avoid
that scenario." The Maoists have been holding talks for truce
in November 2001 when the Nepali government started branding them
as terrorists and USA got more interested in Nepal. The 'truce'
broke down. By end 2003, another round of talks was proposed between
Maoists and the Nepali government but the talks could not beheld.
Like other Maoist groups, the CPN-M is based on the Stalinist
"two-stage" theory. In entering talks, the Maoists have
distanced themselves from their own limited demands and indicated
their willingness to embrace open market restructuring. The CPN-M
chief negotiator Krishna Bahadur Mahara has indicated in the past
that the party would consider retaining the king. "If the
people accept the monarchy, there is no problem. If they reject
it, it should go" Also, Mahara fielded questions at a big
business forum entitled "Peace for Economic Revolution"
organised by the Federation of Nepal Chambers of Commerce and
Industry. He promised to make the party's policies public but
to reassure his audience added: "Our economic model is a
free economy with sound competition and a level playing field
for all the players."