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Nepal: 9000 Dead In Seven Year Maoist Uprising

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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 rural areas.

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 and co-operation.

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 in2002.

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 Asia.

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."

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