Waiting for what?

By Abhi Subedi

Nepal has become a big waiting room where people allay their anxieties by making different performances and restlessly shifting their positions. Sometimes they read old newspapers and turn the pages of illustrated glossy magazines. Nothing happens. It is like an absurd drama where waiting itself becomes the goal. The grand anticipations are political in nature. They are the interim constitution and the constituent assembly elections.

Many other expectations are amorphous in nature. Young children who are turned into newspaper hawkers rush to car windows to push tabloids that predict this country’s false apocalypse or pralaya each day. These minor tabloid hawkers are like the indifferent court criers in the old times who announced the king’s programmes. They usually pronounce two names Girija Koirala and Prachanda. In these tabloid reports bizarre narratives are appended to these two names. They are presented as two leaders of two warring camps who fight and negotiate secretly. All the other politicians remain outside the pale in the tabloid reports. You can judge the impact of those tabloids from the drifts of political conversations going on in public places, buses and restaurants.

The country is in the grip of the politics of gossip. The metropolis has become a wailing wall of democracy where people come each day and scribble their grievances and listen to the echoes of their own slogans. The only way to put across one’s ideas and demands is to use the streets and demonstrate in groups of different sizes and shout in front of the Wailing Wall. Politicians have performed historical deals that have surprised the world. Though they have signed an interim constitution, they are caught in the maelstrom of niceties. Nay, perhaps they listen to the voice of the spirits of the post cold war era, the casual loitering spirits, the ancestral souls that descend on their privately kept planchet tables. Nepali politicians are famous for their fetish engagements. They act with the tantrics’ advice. Curiously, they are gathering moss.

A seventy-year old British Gurkha came for a “new recruitment” in the peacekeeping battalion of a historical order. He rose from the ashes of colonial history as it were and came to lend his hand in the peace process of his country. I was struck by the image of this hero whom I have brought to my play Mayadevika Sapana directed and performed by Nisha Sharma. My hero, an ex-Indian Gurkha, who has lost one arm in war, returns home to work for peace only to find the night-vision helicopters hovering above his head and youths killing each other. But this seventy-year old Gurkha came to work when the youths have laid down their guns and want to work for peace.

The first trickle of the UN arms supervisors who were shown on the TV walking like penguin birds with arms akimbo have arrived. Ian Martin is all set for the peace process to take its momentum. The images are worth watching on the TV screens. The juxtaposition of this readiness came with two other images. The CPN-Maoist leader Prachanda declared that they would call for a people’s movement if the constitution was not promulgated within twenty-five days. The chief election commissioner Bhojraj Pokharel told the press that they are stuck without the interim statute.

To delay the promulgation of the constitution can be in the interest of those who want to see it become an obsolete document by waiting. The postponement will completely derail the process of peace. The old power brokers who are active and slowly mustering their energy will influence the situation. What we can see clearly are the Maoist cantonments and what we cannot see clearly is the dark side of the moon. We do not know what the feudalists with their foreign and native advisors, their long arms trade connections and vast subterranean wealth have been doing at the moment.

The upper middleclass and urban based people find the age-old hegemony like a comfortable cocoon to hide inside. They do not want to change. The people who have suffered by the war of attrition can not sleep, can not eat and move with ease. The greatest hubris of the CPN-Maoist and other political parties is that they have long recklessly played with the psyche of the masses and wounded it.

The last minute hitch shown by the erstwhile parliamentarian parties to accept the Maoists into the main stream is ironical. The Nepali Congress has a long history of armed struggle for democracy. BP Koirala’s memoirs speak volumes about this legacy. If the Maoists choose to swap the occupied territories for the electoral districts, the Nepali Congress should be in the forefront to welcome them. Then why the big delay about the promulgation of the Interim Constitution?

I only know one answer. The waiting will make the process of political change a complicated and even an impossible process if new power groups use the period of interregnum to gather new energy that could even break this nation and invite greater disasters. Then who is delaying the promulgation of the Interim Constitution? The civil society wants to answer but the “jesting Pilate did not wait for the answer”, says the Bible. (Source: The Kathmandu Post, Jan 10, 2007)

RIM instigated Maoist insurgency

Mohan Bikram, who was once an active Nepali Congress cadre, embraced Communism in 1954. He is the senior most communist leader of Nepal. He heads CPN Unity Center (Masal). He worked with Mohan Vadhya (Kiran) and Puspa Kamal Dahal (Prachanda) until 1986 when the duo split to form Maoist Party in Nepal only to lead an internal war which claimed 13,000 plus lives in a decade. He was one of the communist leaders who attended the launching of RIM in 1984. He spent almost a decade in jail and chose a peaceful means to fight for political rights. Many call him a communist purist. Mohan Bikram, who spoke with Puran P Bista of The Kathmandu Post, shed light on the communist movement in Nepal, especially led by the Maoists.


Q: How have you been assessing the Maoist activities? Mohan Bikram: We were neither convinced by their revolutionary idea, nor do we consider them communist leaders. The CPN (Maoist) is a mere bunch of opportunists and careerists. Right from the day they associated with us and later chose to raise arms after splitting in 1986, they were inconsistent in their action and approach. The statements issued thus far by the Maoists, if you read them, tell us how inconsistent they are. They have left the communist ideology and conventionalism. They have given up their communism and their main goal is to come into power. I know their movement is only to come to power. Their struggle was not to restructure the state and ensure that the people are sovereign.

Q: You know better Kiran, Prachanda and Babu Ram Bhattarai than they know each other. Are they your students?

MB: I do not know much of CPN (Maoist) spokesperson Krishna Mahara. I associated with Kiran, Prachanda and Babu Ram Bhattarai for long.

Communism does not allow me to say so though they are my students. I must say they were my comrades. A few months after we started working together, I felt that both Prachanda and Babu Ram Bhattarai were careerists and not honest comrades, who could fight for the people's rights. They kept on changing their minds rather than discussing on the issues of national importance. They cannot keep their commitments.

Q: How often did you have differences on the political agenda in your meetings with these two leaders? MB: Both Babu Ram Bhattarai and Prachanda were young. It was Kiran who worked with me closely. Babu Ram and Prachanda's views, political thought and the way they presented themselves in the meetings showed us that they were a mere bunch of opportunists. You can see their behavior and actions. It is very clear that they speak one thing today, and do something else tomorrow. Whatever the Maoists have done so far is not because of the strong leadership and they desire to bring about real political changes. Some local level cadres are very devoted and dedicated. The difference between the Maoist cadres and the Maoist leadership is glaring. The latter has done nothing other than luring the local criminals, illiterate and unemployed junks, who saw the Maoist movement as a new avatar. Q: There are obvious differences as you said. Do you think the cadres will desert their masters that will jeopardize the comprehensive peace accord?

MB: Prachanda and Babu Ram chose to raise arms against the establishment without assessing the geo-political situation of this country. We have always opposed such an armed movement. We decided not to raise arms against the state during the sixth convention held in 1994. RIM kept on insisting us to raise arms, saying Nepal's topography favors such an armed struggle. We never took it seriously.

Q: Could you tell me name of those RIM leaders who insisted you to raise arms? MB: I cannot tell you their names. I have contributed an article to a book published by RIM on Communist movement in Nepal. I have mentioned the names of RIM leaders, what we discussed with them and why we did not subscribe to their views. At that time, we flatly rejected RIM's suggestions, saying that taking topography of this country into account for an armed struggle will help us achieve no political goal. We have to take into account the geo-strategic aspect which does not favor any armed movement in Nepal. That distanced us from the RIM but brought Prachanda, Kiran and Babu Ram closer with the RIM leaders. Secondly, the day the trio embraced Maoism, the differences between my party and the CPN (Maoist) started simmering.

Q: How did you work with Prachanda after he was heading a separate Maoist party?

MB: Prachanda was leading the Maoist group since 1986 but we were together during the RIM conventions. RIM was established in 1984. CPN-Unity Center (Masal) sent its representatives, so did Prachanda's party.

I represented Masal. We had differences with the RIM at that time but the Maoists had emulated RIM's ideology. We strongly opposed the Maoists not to be RIM's tail. Later, Prachanda became a member of RIM. So, Prachanda started adhering to RIM's doctrines. RIM encouraged the Maoists to raise an armed struggle. The Maoists did not raise an armed struggle themselves. Though there is no hard evidence that impelled the Maoists to raise arms, RIM was the main instigator behind the armed movement in Nepal. I am sure RIM is not with the Maoists, and it is against the ongoing peace process.

Q: Will the differences between the Maoists and RIM affect the peace process? MB: It all depends on the formation of interim government. If the Maoists make a big jump from a mere gun totting rebel group to a mainstream political party, they will quit RIM and baptize themselves as a new political entity. Otherwise, the Maoists may continue to create political disorders. As I said, they are opportunists. Q: Communist parties have set a trend of splitting and forming another party or becoming royalists. What is the reason? MB: It all started when Krishna Jung Raymajhi became a royalist. He wanted us to join him. We did not follow him. The Jhapa movement was a different story because some communist radicals chose a wrong way of seeking justice. Had we joined them, we would have been together. But once you deviate from the mission and objective of your party, you have to be different. It is a natural phenomenon--some myopic communist leaders look for personal benefits instead of adhering to party principles. So, either you adhere to your party or leave it and form another group for petty interests is the choice. It may be very common among the communist leaders. Q: Will your party join the republican front if the CPN (Maoist) and UML form it before the elections to constituent assembly? MB. We believe that there has to be a huge awareness campaign for a republic Nepal. The majority of Nepalis do not know what is republic. We still see that the king continues to pose a threat to democracy. The regressive forces are active across the country. Recently, a Hindu convention in Gorakhpur was held to revive monarchy. Now, we need a unity among all political forces to eliminate the king's threat to democracy. However, we will not support the Maoists on this score. They cannot lead such a front. They have talked but have not managed to hold any discussion on the republican front yet. We still doubt that UML could lead such a front. Until the king ousted the UML-joined government and inducted royalists, UML was supporting an active monarchy. We have to sit together, discuss on the future of monarchy and launch a campaign for a republic front. Otherwise, it turns out to be a fruitless effort. Q: What is your party's stand on the interim constitution and interim government? MB: We will not join the interim government but we will campaign for a republic Nepal. We have opposed the distribution of citizenship certificates. There should be a mechanism to issue citizenship certificates. You cannot simply declare it in a parliament, legislate it and begin distribution of citizenship certificates. Secondly, we want the government to ensure the overseas Nepalis the right to caste votes. We do not want to see a powerful prime minister. It will invite an autocratic regime. That does not mean that we have opposed the government and its activities. On several issues we have supported it. Q: Being a senior communist leader, how do you see Nepal's future? MB: We do not see that the country will witness an armed-struggle again. The Maoist rebels, especially the leaders, do not want to revive an armed movement to capture power. It is not possible either to be in power through an armed struggle. Maoist acts of atrocious cruelty on the people are immense. The people just want the rebels to be out of their villages. Initially, the Maoists had cadres who wanted to bring about a real political change. Maoist atrocities increased after the rebels began to recruit local criminals, and unemployed and illiterate junks, who joined the so-called people's war with an intention of taking revenge against some local innocent villagers. They extorted money from local businessmen, landlords, they kidnapped the villagers and killed them when they had nothing to give them. Resistance against the Maoist demand was to face death. They fought people's war on the strength of criminal acts. And the people still see them as criminals rather than a group fighting for people's rights. Although they have decided to join the interim government, we do not think the Maoists and the seven parties are in to bring about major political change or the country is undergoing a major political transformation. There are several reasons: First, they are incapable of taking right decisions. The decade-old insurgency has taught us how able the Maoist and seven-party leaders are. The rebels are shallow. They wanted to come to power through guns but they changed their track. This is the outcome of their weak decisions and incompetent leadership. They once dup up trenches across the Nepal-India border to fight against India. Later, they dropped the idea of fighting giant India. That means, they have not read Nepal thoroughly-its geopolitical influence, its geo-strategic importance and its century-old relation with India, etc. Second, they are the opportunists. They do not want to know how Nepal should be developed, how plans for its development should be formulated and what the potential areas are to be identified to spur up the country's development activities. They do not know what open market economy is. Yesterday, they talked of establishing a communist state, today they say they support for market economy and tomorrow they will speak "weird" economy.

Once the rebels presented forty-point demand to the government but now the demand is to allow them to join the interim government. They do not have any clear-cut political agenda because they have no leaders who can discuss and outline political agenda that benefits this country. (Source: The Kathmandu Post)

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