Girijababu was like a guardian: Dahal

Girijababu was like a guardian: Dahal          


Girija Prasad Koirala´s demise is an irrecoverable loss -- especially in the context of concluding the peace process and constitution drafting. We have taken this as a loss which cannot be calculated by any means.

If you ask about my own experience, I began to have direct conversations with Girijababu for the first time in the fourth or fifth year after we launched the People´s War. When we met in
Delhi for the first time, we came to know each other in person and also began to understand each other´s feelings. We talked for one or one-and-half-hours during that meeting. Without speaking much he put his views directly and I too put forth my views in straightforward fashion. “Girijababu you should agree to our agenda of a republic and we will accept multiparty democracy. We should move ahead together,” I told him. We discussed the matter and reached the conclusion that the country could not afford protracted conflict. I think he probably formed some perception about me and our party from that very meeting.

My views about him also changed after I studied various facets of his personality, inquired about him through indirect channels and especially after I met him in person. I found him trustworthy at that very meeting and also afterwards (it was in 2059 BS). We were in regular contact as long as the talks lasted (second talks between the government and the Maoists). The talks between the government and the Maoist team led by Dr Baburam Bhattarai failed. Soon after that, Girijababu and I were in regular contact. We even talked twice a day no matter whether I was in Rolpa, Rukum,
Delhi, Mumbai or Noida. He was determined to merge the two different political currents into one, and we were sure that the cooperation should be taken to a historic conclusion.

The second meeting also took place underground. It was in
Gurgaon, India. The second meeting was focused on different political currents. The significance of the meeting was that we discussed what type of political current we should lead the country to. We Maoists had been waging a people´s war for a people´s republic while they were sticking to parliamentary democracy. We could not completely accept their political philosophy, nor could they accept ours. We said that the country´s future would be in peril if we continued the conflict with a “fight to finish” strategy. And it was in that meeting that we used the term “new political mainstream” for the first time.

New political mainstream means we had reached a position to accept competitive multiparty politics and intensify the struggle against the autocracy. The agenda of republic, which would be formed after waging the struggle against autocracy, should be developed into a new political mainstream. And that would mean both a republic and competitive multiparty politics.

While talking to him, it was understood that he had already developed a wish to go for a republic, but he did not say it frankly due to the party´s formal statute, legal matters and various other reasons. Though he did say that it would be difficult to go for a republic at that juncture, it could be understood that he was moving towards that direction. In the second meeting, he assured me that the country would slowly move towards that direction - the one we had demanded. That strengthened the trust between us. The gap between the two meetings was one and half years.

The third meeting took place in the context of forging a 12-point agreement. We met many times while forging the 12-point agreement. There were leaders of the CPN-UML as well, but he played the lead role. Sometimes the talks would not move ahead due to differences over terminology in the agreement, but Girrijababu was against such disputes. He would say that priority should be given to moving ahead together, rather than to words in the agreement. That boosted our confidence and brought us closer.

After the 12-point agreement, we focused on launching a mass movement. Some of the political parties were against launching a large scale protest. I don´t want to take their names now. They also did not believe that the protest would snowball. He asked us to chart out a comprehensive plan for a mass movement. At that time, the Nepali Congress and CPN-Maoist were in favor of launching a large protest from 13 Chaitra, while the other political parties were for holding a demonstration on Chaitra 26 alone. Girijababu had already sent me a message and his delegation and our party completed the homework and charted out the plans. Then the other political parties also sat with us and decided to turn the protest programs into general strikes. It strengthened our mutual trust.

He was worried that our party would remain a weak force during the 19-day mass movement (I have said this many times. But I don´t think it has been established yet). He told me that if the Maoist movement became weak, it would weaken the strength of the parties. “So don´t relax your activities, intensify them,” he said. That made me feel that Girijababu had developed revolutionary thought and leaning toward radical change at that old age. It is at his initiative that we were taken by helicopter from Sikles, Kaski to Pokhara and
Kathmandu and then back to BP Nagar, Doti. He was afraid something bad might happen.

Should it be taken as a great historic coincidence? In the past we did not like him at all; we would take on him as an extreme anti-communist. In the beginning of the people´s war we had waged a fight against the Tanakpur treaty and other anti-national moves. But our views about Girijababu underwent massive change at that stage. As he was concerned over my security, I felt it as love bestowed upon a child by its guardian. I felt that the heart of the old man was different; his was a great heart. When we reached Baluwatar for the first time, he told Krishna Situala to arrange special security for us. In the past we thought that the old man would be narrow-minded, but I felt it was wrong. I realized that he was a different kind of person.

We then met very frequently while forging various agreements including those concerning the Constituent Assembly (CA) elections and integration and rehabilitation of Maoist combatants and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. After we met, all complex matters would be settled. It was during that time that we talked about numbers of combatants to be integrated into the Nepal Army, which we have been talking about now also. We talked about it many times during the informal talks. He convinced me that we could easily settle whatever difficulties we had. He convinced me that he would not go for anything that put the Maoists in difficulty.

When the interim constitution was being finalized we held talks well into the night, till
11 p.m. or 1 a.m. While the other parties were pestering us with different things, we were very clear about the roadmap for peace, the constituent assembly and republic. Girijababu was also converging on the roadmap. Once he was very angry during an eight-party meeting and said that the party that came through armed revolt was cooperating with him while the parliamentary parties were putting him in difficulties. And that was the reality. If we had not developed that kind of relationship with Girijababu, there would have been no Comprehensive Peace Agreement, no election of the constituent assembly, nor would the country turn into a republic. In retrospect, I think these have been of historic importance with far-reaching consequences.

He had not thought that we would become the largest political party. Frankly speaking, Sitaula advised us that we´d better make Girijababu president and a Maoist the prime minister and that would solve all the problems. The negotiation went on for one and a half months. Our party pushed class perspectives a bit more.

We formed opinions putting ideology at the center. We won the elections unexpectedly, and now we thought that we could win everything. In retrospect, we think we could have easily led the country to a solution if we had compromised at that time. Now this is a matter to be evaluated by the people and by history.

Now Girijababu is gone. But it remains a matter of judgment: what would have happened if we had compromised. It was obvious that the proposal on president was Girijababu´s own. We met each other many times, but he never told me about it. Perhaps he felt uneasy about telling me frankly me about that. His self-esteem, the contradiction between his personality and a “make me president” stance might have inhibited him. I think the political evaluation and analysis of that event would last for many years. But now it is a thing of the past.

Meanwhile, I led the government. I always maintained good relations with him. I readily agreed on anything he proposed to me seriously. But I couldn´t agree with him on president. Frankly speaking, we inclined more toward the ideological aspect and analyzed it more through the class perspective. When I headed the government, he frequently called me whenever he wanted some support from me and I also helped him as far as possible. "I have no problem recognizing this government" Girijababu used to say.

When we entered into the army chief row, he continuously suggested to me that I should not get into that controversy. He telephoned me in the mornings and in the night. He called me every hour. He telephoned me many times in the day when I took action against the army chief. While we had already readied the plan against the army chief, he was suggesting to me not to make the move. He said that the action would backfire. He also sent Sitaula to my place to communicate the matter properly.

"We should be careful. He may take any action any time," I heard him saying. In our party, we had taken the decision. I had also made up my mind. At present, when I recall those days, I realize that he was worried as he was like our guardian. He time and again advised me not to get into controversy since he [army chief] was retiring in three months. Many times he tried very hard to convince me over several issues. "I know everything. You don´t need to worry. You better check it," he told me. He consistently advised me to study the matter myself. He advised me not to take action against the army chief as asking him for clarifications was enough. "You have asked for clarifications. This is enough for now. You can also send him a warning letter," he had told me. At that time, we looked at the matter only from the perspective of the party´s struggle. When I recall it, I now feel that it requires a review. It is an issue to be reviewed. My resignation came as a shock for him.

I couldn´t share with him my decision to resign. It was
4 a.m. when I decided to step down. I had made up my mind that stepping down would be in the interest of the peace process and the nation.

I shared my feelings indirectly but didn´t tell him clearly. But he sensed that I was going to do something. He then sent me a message saying "By the way, never think about resignation." He was shocked when he suddenly heard about my resignation. Next day and even till recently, he used to tell me that I took an unnecessary step. I gave several arguments about internal as well as external factors, but he was never convinced. "It could have been resolved in two or three days. It was a mistake" he always said.

"You were about to create an image like Nelson Mandela. You missed an opportunity to become a Nelson Mandela of the
Asia region. If you had completed the task of constitution writing and the peace process in time, you would have established yourself as a Mandela" he argued many a time. I found that his guardianship and his greatness were reflected in such suggestions. It was not once or twice, but many times tht he advised me sincerely.

When I met him last time, his health condition was not good. His face and body language indicated that he was getting weaker. "It seems that you are not recovering. I think you should have stayed in the hospital for two to four days more," I told him. But he preferred to go home. He talked to us briefly-- Sitaula, Shekhar Koirala and me. "Now you have to shoulder the responsibility. You have to lead the country." He gave such an important statement. One can say such things as a matter of general courtesy. But that was not the case over there. He didn´t speak of this matter just for courtesy. I have taken it more seriously now because he said it during his last days. I also shared the matter with the public.

When we were launching protests for national independence just before the formation of the HLPM, his trust in us increased, not decreased. It is symbolic. I never felt that he was trying to weaken the party. Our party men would advice me to be careful with the old man. But he never let me feel that way. I felt deeply that he was a nationalist. Yes, he had other beliefs because he believed in parliamentary politics. But he felt deeply towards the country. When we talked about national independence, I think he liked it. It was not as useless as others thought.

Taking these things into consideration, we had a deep relationship during these seven-eight years. Sometimes I had my doubts. Being a communist, it is natural to have the dialectics of doubt and trust. Communists do have doubts. It was perhaps our weakness. Nowadays we discuss the issue of doubts and trust in the party meetings. In some compartment of mind, I always had the feeling that the old man might betray us. There were questions in my mind. People would say that we had believed in him too much and he could stab us in the back. I myself did not think that way, but when others warned us against him, I would have doubts. Now, the things he told me in the hospital and his demise have removed all doubts. History proved that wrong.

Following his death, the challenges are really serious. But looking at things differently, negative events sometimes lead to positive outcomes in an unexpected manner. Such things have happened in history. Girijapabu left the world remaining honest about constitution-drafting and taking the political transition to its logical conclusion, and this is something that might bring the parties closer. I have begun looking at things from that perspective. It has produced a new feeling and sensibility. All have developed respect towards Girijababu, and that has increased the possibility of forging an understanding for peace and constitution.

This is a very tragic moment for all of us. But such events may lead to new an understanding, bring the incongruous political strands together and result in a new political consensus. Taking into account my latest talks with Girijababu, I feel that the Maoists themselves should analyze their role deeply and take on a new one to turn the peace process into a success.

There is widespread concern about what will happen in future. We should be able to address this concern. Now I think the other political parties would also be serious about forging an understanding. There are still 70 days to go. I believe that some solution would be found by that time.


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