In-depth analysis of the situation in Nepal, including the anti-monarchist protest movement, the Maoist insurgency, the international economic background and the Nepalese working class.
Notes on Nepal - Spring 2006
Terrain and culture
Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world; most people have never used a telephone, never mind a computer, the staple diet for most of the country is 'dhal batt' - rice and/or lentils with maybe some veg - every day, for life. The terrain is a mix of three altitude zones; the Himalayan mountains - the so called 'roof of the world', their foothills and valleys, and the southern plains with some rainforest. The Kathmandu valley is the centre of administration, commerce and what industry there is. The country is a mix of 70% Hindu and 20% Buddhist religions (Buddha was born in Lumbini in the south), 4% Muslims who are clustered around the border with India, plus a few more obscure sects. In the Kathmandu valley a synthesis of Hinduism and Buddhism is practiced by the Newars, while in the eastern and western hills, the oldest religious form, Shamanism, still survives. 80% of the population work in agriculture, an estimated 40% live in extreme poverty. Gross national income per head stands at US $240, according to the World Bank. Illiteracy is very high, though diminishing gradually; 35% of men, 70% of women.(1) The industrial working class is clustered around the Kathmandu valley and a few other urban areas; the unions claim several hundred thousand members but the figures are questionable; membership fluctuates considerably due to casualised employment and changing political loyalties. Many workers are non-unionised(2). There is a rigid caste system, but religion doesn't appear to be significant in party politics, apart from the class/caste aspect. Slavery was officially abolished in the early 1900's, though a form of neo-slavery continued well into the 1990's in some more remote rural areas; family debts were inherited by the children and could never realistically be worked off as more debt was added, so were passed on in turn to the next generation as a form of indentured servitude. This is now outlawed, but indentured villagers are still occasionally discovered and rescued from such slavery. Yet these local archaic feudal remnants co-exist alongside a tourist industry that provides internet cafes with global satellite connections.
The modern parliamentary system was established after a bloody democracy movement in 1990, a reluctant concession from the King. As in recent events, demonstrators defied curfews, were shot down, fought back - bodies of headless cops could be seen in the streets. But it was a popular multi-class struggle to establish democracy, and the conceding of it stabilised things; but in those days the Maoists were not part of the equation. The parliament has two main parties; the relatively conservative Congress Party, and the Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist)(3), which is, ironically(?), pro-China and pro-parliamentary democracy. The larger part of the poor mainly vote for the communists, but there is much cynicism about politicians and bureaucrats in general. Corruption and bribery is a fact of everyday life; and while the political class have enriched themselves, most people's standard of living has changed little since the emergence of democracy in 1990.
Maoism - the 'maobadi' insurgency
Most of the Himalayan mountain range areas are only accessible on foot, donkey or helicopter, so the State has always had a minimal presence there. Subsistence farming, seasonal work migration and tourism are the economic base of these areas. It is here that the 'maobadi' - Maoist insurgents of the Nepalese 'People's Liberation Army' - have established themselves, in this ideal guerrilla terrain. 10 years ago they were a small student-based grouping, little known in the country and always dealt with heavily by the authorities (in 1997, when guerrilla activity had barely started, 400 students were locked up for trying to attend a party conference in a remote area). Like most so-called '3rd World' guerrilla groups (Mao, Zapatistas, Castro/Guevara, Shining Path etc), they have their origins in a 'cadre' of university intelligentsia but have gradually gained peasant support. This intelligentsia presumably sees its options stifled by lack of economic development, due to an incompetent, small and weak merchant class and a royal family/aristocracy reluctant to abandon their divine right to rule. They have a typical cadre mentality; communism equals sacrifice, hierarchy, conquest of the state, industrialisation and cult-like obedience to iconic political dogma and chief dogmatists.(4)
We are simply not well informed enough to give a definite answer as to why the guerrilla movement emerged when it did and gained such support. We can only speculate; that by 1996, there was disillusionment after 6 years of parliamentary democracy that had delivered little improvement for the poor, whilst obviously enriching politicians and bureaucrats; that joining the guerrilla army offered a sense of unity and adventure to youth more appealing than the narrow horizons of a life of subsistence farming in rural isolation. Escape from traditional cultural restrictions for women may account for the high female involvement (one third of guerrillas). Perhaps the shortage of available farming land was a factor - Nepal is intensively farmed, with terraces cut out of every available hillside, and the mountain terrain means only 20% of the land is cultivable. There is also apparently a strong aspect of religious fanaticism to the maobadi guerrilla culture; "Perhaps the most complex aspect of Maoist morale strength to grasp, particularly for Westerners, is the cult of sacrifice. Anne de Sales, in the European Bulletin of Human Research (EBHR, v24), discusses this aspect in a way that brilliantly conveys its strength and centrality as a motivating force for Maoist fighters. In 1997, writing about preparations for launching the ‘people’s war’, Prachanda noted that, “New definitions of life and death were brought forward. The physical death for the sake of people and revolution was accepted as the great revolutionary ideal for oneself as it gave true meaning to life.”....
....This belief of what ‘death in action for the cause’ means is clearly an extraordinarily powerful motivating force when facing extreme danger. It must be fully integrated with the other factors contributing to Maoist morale in any assessment of the likelihood of RNA success through its current approach of simply killing as many Maoists as possible. For the RNA, such a policy carries with it the clear danger of measuring operational success and campaign progress by that most misleading of yardsticks – the body count." (Himal South Asian, 2006).
In the areas they hold the Maoists have instituted reforms and controls, and have set up various organisations as parallel-state structures. According to human rights groups and survivors, they have often enforced a brutal and murderous discipline on the population in guerrilla-held areas, including the abduction of children as soldiers into the army(5). Drinking alcohol is allowed at their discretion, and villagers are encouraged, sometimes forced or even abducted to attend political meetings. The reforms, such as equality for women, would be more or less 'advanced' depending on local traditions; in some areas the mountain women have long had a reputation for being more independent and self assured. They are left alone to run things for long periods when the men migrate for work. (Apart from the normal seasonal work migrations within Nepal, many poorer Nepali men pay agents large amounts to secure jobs in Saudi Arabia, as security guards, cleaners etc. They often stay for up to 4-5 years, saving money, and sending some back to family. If they're lucky, they can return, build a house and be more likely to find a wife. Another main form of migrant work is joining the Ghurka regiments - thousands of youngsters apply every year - only a tiny proportion accepted. Ghurkas (properly 'Gorkhas') were incorporated into the British army after 12,000 trashed an attempted invading force of 30,000 British soldiers in the 1814 Nepal War.)
Tourism has recovered substantially from the initial decline after the start of the guerrilla activity. In Maoist controlled areas the guerrillas levy a tax on tourists - they realise this tolerant attitude is both profitable and sensible so as to maintain the support of the many poor who depend on tourism for a livelihood. The guerrillas were smart enough to issue a statement of reassurance to tourists.
But the oft-quoted figure of 80% Maoist control of the territory is perhaps not quite as impressive as it appears. The real centre of power is the Katmandu valley, centre of government, industry and commerce. The harsh remote mountain terrain may be militarily important, but hardly economically. It is in the valley that any decisive battle will be fought. But the Maoists have launched brief raids into the valley and during the recent general strike kept it successfully blockaded.
Dealing with the neighbours; alliances and rivalries
In 1948 the British quit India; when China went 'communist' in 1949 the new Indian government became concerned at the weakness of Nepal as a buffer state. In 1950 the two countries agreed a 'peace and friendship treaty' to consolidate their alliance, including a policy of 'mutual defence'; later that year China invaded Tibet, confirming in India's eyes their worst fears of the Communists' intentions for the region. Since then, Nepal has become a strategic buffer zone its two big brother neighbours compete for influence over.
The Chinese government has pledged support towards the Nepalese government's move in curbing the Maoist insurgency. China terms them only as 'ultra-leftist guerrillas', and certainly not truly Maoist, unsurprisingly. It was reported last year that they sent 6 armoured personnel carriers to the King to aid his fight against the 'Maobadi' insurgents. This was shortly after he dismissed the prime minister; disapproving of this politically destabilising act, India then stopped its military aid - which apparently prompted China to offer its own. The acceptance of military aid from India is politically controversial(6) - there is much hostility between some Indians and Nepalis (check out recent internet blogs), rooted in a history of land border disputes that continue on a small scale to the present, and Nepal's general dependence on its big brother neighbour. Mountainous as the northern territory is, the southern border with India is necessarily Nepal's lifeline. Nepal is landlocked and dependent for import/export trade movement on the Indian transport system, particularly the port of Calcutta. Nepal hardly even has a rail system, only on a small scale on the southern plains. (So expect few Mexican-type pics of insurgents hanging on the side of a locomotive while holding rifle proudly aloft...) India has used this dependence on several occasions to deny right of transit to Nepal as a means of blockade and political leverage to influence Nepal's internal politics
Both the US and Indian interests have been eyeing up the prospects for exploiting the great hydro-electric power potential of Nepal. The US energy company Enron, before its spectacular collapse, was preparing to begin work on a massive hydro-power project in Nepal. Enron's financial meltdown was a fortunate turn of events for the thousands of mainly poor Nepalis who would have been displaced from their villages by this project. (The damming and flooding would have been an ecological disaster too.) For Indian capital, the harnessing of the inherent energy of the Himalayan water system would be a convenient source of both electricity and (as a by-product of the energy extraction process) irrigation for agriculture.
James F Moriarty, US Ambassador to Nepal, expressed ruling class fears for the stability of the region recently, stating that the Maoists in Nepal “...also pose a threat to stability in larger parts of India”. In July 2001, a regional Maoist organisation, with parties in five countries, CCOMPOSA (Coordinating Committee of Maoist Parties and Organizations in South Asia), was created(7). According to The Economist, 157 out of 593 districts in India are affected by some degree of ‘Naxalism’ (Indian Maoist guerrilla activities). 102 of the effected districts are newly affected areas of guerrilla expansion. The strongest bases of Indian Maoism are in Bihar and Andra Pradesh. It is likely that much of the recent diplomatic pressure put on the King by US and Indian diplomats has been to point out that it is preferable to have the Maoist leadership integrated into the parliamentary process than to have them holding dual power in much of the country. How much difference this will make in the long term depends on the ultimate political goals of the Maoist leadership and what they are prepared to do achieve them.
If the Maoists were to seize power in Nepal - and the only choices appear to be this or a major accommodation of them into the political system - it would obviously displease both their neighbours, India and China. There are many Tibetan refugees in Nepal who've escaped over the border (though some were repatriated - to an uncertain fate? - recently, at China's request). China would be concerned that a Maoist victory next door might encourage similar forms of struggle in Tibet or inspire a more militant independence movement. India would also be concerned that it would encourage the extension of peasant struggles there. A repressive attitude towards a Maoist Nepal might be the one thing they could agree on. It is possible it could inspire some form of struggle in the rest of China - though the peasants and workers are in a quite different situation there, in a fast developing economy rather than a stagnant one. But there is a growing class antagonism in both the rapidly expanding economies of China and India as the emerging new class of entrepreneurial capitalists flaunt their enrichment at the expense of the poor.
But if/when the King goes, the outcome may be less predictable than some think. The Maoists have rethought their policy recently - their central committee has concluded that the armed struggle is a dead end long term. A decline in spectacular damaging attacks on the Royal Nepal Army, due to foreign military aid making the RNA more effective and well protected, and the declaration of the post 9/11 War on Terror, make the Maoists more of a target for internationally-funded counter-insurgency. This produced some demoralization in the ranks and some degeneration into apolitical banditry. The Maoists could continue a skirmishing war indefinitely but they are totally out gunned (a third of their weapons are said to be 50 yr old rifles) and they have apparently acknowledged "publicly that they cannot seize and hold anything in the face of RNA action" - presumably the areas they do hold are seen as containment areas by the RNA. They have also realised that India would not tolerate an officially Maoist Nepal on its doorstep, nor would other global powers be too impressed.
Recent events; militant bourgeois democracy in motion, in the hills and in the streets
In November 2005, the Maoist leadership signed an agreement with the pro-democracy alliance of 7 opposition parties (SPA) stating that they favoured a democratic parliamentary system. Since then the opposition parties have apparently co-ordinated their demonstrations and strikes so as not to clash with insurgent actions.
The SPA called the general strike on Apr 6th. On the later demonstrations in late April there were millions in the streets nationwide, and reports of banks, government offices and police stations being ransacked by roaming mobs. It's possible the SPA democrats and the King were afraid the opposition politicians were losing control of the movement on the streets and wanted to re-establish their authority and leadership. This and external US and Indian diplomatic pressure influenced the King's capitulation.
The demonstrators ignored the curfews imposed and made them unenforceable nationwide by sheer weight of numbers. Despite beatings and shootings by police and army, they appear to have become increasingly confident and many are now openly calling for the establishment of a Republic. This is extremely blasphemous in Nepal, the last remaining Hindu Kingdom, as the King is officially considered to be an incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu.
If a Republic is eventually declared but the King refuses to budge, (even in the face of international pressure ) there may be defections in the lower ranks of the police and army, though the higher ranks of the RNA are traditionally exclusively high-caste semi-feudal loyalists from one family (the Ranas), closely interlinked with the Royals who appoint all officers. The loyalty of the security forces would probably determine whether there is an urban civil war or not. If it happens, the Maoists could ride to victory on the back of the wider pro-democracy movement and then choose between one party rule or parliamentary democracy. But if they denied democracy this would presumably provoke internal resistance and likely external intervention, and lead to a continuation of civil war and/or a Maoist reign of terror. In a post-revolutionary democratic parliament the Maoists would be sure of a large slice of power, so it seems more likely they'll go for the democratic option. This may seem an unorthodox turnabout in classical Maoist guerrilla terms, but not in terms of Nepalese politics. Every major Nepalese political party has gone through an earlier period of armed struggle, before being integrated into the mainstream political arena. As things stand now, with the King giving in to the demands for new elections, the Maoists have called a 3-month ceasefire and will be standing candidates for parliament.
Political power growing out of the barrel of a gun? It is a leftist illusion to see Maoism as outside or beyond bourgeois politics, in Nepal or elsewhere. Maoism has always had a schematic theory of progressive stages of revolution involving cross-class alliances with supposedly 'progressive' bourgeoisies in the conquest of state power. When the Chinese CP took power, having won the civil war in, 1949, their official line was that the 'class struggle' (supposedly incarnated in the political advancement of the vanguard party and their victory over the nationalists) was 'the victory of the national bourgeois democratic revolution'.
'3rd world' armed leftism is typically a form of substitutionism for the failings of a weak underdeveloped native bourgeoisie. Local conditions restrict the modernising accumulating powers of this class, both politically and economically. So the non-mercantile bourgeoisie - the student intelligentsia with restricted options in a stagnant economy - go to the peasantry, offering a unifying ideology based on peasant aspirations and progressive conquest of state power. They increasingly fulfil a statist role in guerrilla-held areas. Two Chinese anarchists describe developments after the seizure of power there in 1949; "Having won control of the state machine, the only way to move forward for the Maoist bureaucracy was to impose a regime of ruthless exploitation and austerity on the masses.
The bureaucracy began to carry out the task of primitive accumulation. Because of the lack of capital-intensive industry, economic development depended on the most primitive methods of extraction of surplus value: in the countryside, mobilising millions of peasants and semi-proletarians around the construction of public works and irrigation projects, built almost bare-handed by the rural masses; in the cities, forcing the workers to work long hours for extremely low wages, banning strikes, putting restrictions on the choice of employment and so on.
The new bureaucratic capitalist class in China did not emerge because of the development of new modes of production. It was on the contrary, the bureaucracy which brought the new mode of production into existence. The Chinese bureaucracy did not originate from the industrialisation of the country. Industrialisation was the result of the bureaucracy's accession to power." (Lee Yu See & Wu Che, Some Thoughts on the Chinese Revolution; in 'China - The Revolution is Dead - Long Live the Revolution', Black Rose Books, Montreal, 1977.)
The Maoists have now lifted their blockade on Kathmandu valley and are calling for immediate elections to the constituent assembly. Their long term strategy is likely to be defined by how well they do in these elections. '...during an interview on May 28, 2001, Prachanda admitted that “the [people’s war] would not be discarded until the final construction of Communism.” He confirmed, “Our talk of negotiation [with the government] is a revolutionary tactic advanced in a conscious and balanced manner after drawing lessons from the same negative experience in Peru.”' (frontpage.com). This statement from 2001 by the leader of Nepal's Maoists sounds uncompromising, but given the Maoist belief in cross-class alliances with 'progressive' bourgeois factions and their approaching participation in elections, there could be a pragmatic change of the invariant political line to justify the start of a 'Long March through the institutions' of bourgeois democracy. The leadership may have already accepted that the one-party Chinese model of development is simply unrealistic under present conditions in Nepal; though they may still retain a desire for it, US and Indian objections and interventions would seem to override this.
The wounded tiger may strike back with greater vengeance; off with his head?
More than ever, the King's days look numbered. If he refuses to stay out of politics and eventually makes another attempt to assert sole power over parliament, the level of repression and authoritarianism needed to maintain his long-term rule now would be unlikely to be attractive to anyone, possibly even his security forces(8). And he has so enraged the democratic parties and their popular support that a Republic is closer than ever. The US and Indian governments have been distancing themselves from the King. They would now see a continued royal presence with internal unrest as a destabilising influence on the region. His own court and civil servants may be losing faith in him; rumours circulated that during the 3 week general strike and protests the government was paralysed - the King's puppet ministers more or less abandoned their posts and left their secretaries to run things. "Even though the king said in his proclamation that the present Council of Ministers would continue to function until the new one is formed, the ministers have already suspended operations. And the ministers are caught in the middle of nowhere since they are presently unable to move out of the government quarters. The general strike and the curfew clamped in the capital have made it difficult for them to move to new places...
...Following the royal proclamation of April 21, the ministers have lost whatever little political significance they had. Sources said they have already stopped going to their offices."
An old Sanskrit saying tells that "A king is only appreciated inside a country - however, a wise person is appreciated all over the world." The present King could hardly claim either. The King's capitulation to the pro-democracy movement is for him really only a step back to the beginning, a restoration of the parliament he dissolved last year. All he's achieved is contempt for his political incompetence from interested parties - US India, China - and a much increased popular demand for a republic. The politicians returning to parliament are the same ones that Nepalis are generally cynical of after their 16 years of democratic rule, in which time little has improved for the poor; but they are still generally considered preferable to royal autocracy. On past form, the King seems too stubborn to settle down into the role of symbolic head of state. Members of the 7-party alliance are now openly calling for a republic; if they push for this the King and his army may make one last bloody stand, before exile beckons.
Events have a habit of repeating themselves in Nepalese politics - "the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce" etc. Since 1950, whenever faced with armed or other political opposition, the royal autocracy have repeatedly promised democratic reform, before abandoning the commitment with another wave of repression;
- King Tribhuvan failed to live up to his promise of constituent assembly elections in the 1950s
- then, King Mahendra dismissed the first democratically elected government in December 1960.
- King Birendra gave in to the demands of democracy only after bloody protests in 1990.
- In 2004, King Gyanendra sacked the elected government and in 2005 seized absolute power, jailed the political leaders and gagged the press.
This time could be different; the calls for a Republic are far louder than ever, the US and India are frustrated with the King's provoking and handling of the crisis and now probably see him as a liability. Neither wants a "failed state" in the region; such a lawless area could become a convenient base of operations/transit route for various nearby guerrilla groups in North India, Kashmir (and possibly Tibet) in the future.
The global chessboard
American policy advisers explain the real regional contest as between China and India; “The larger context for the U.S. is the ongoing contest for pre-eminence in the Eurasian land mass. Events from NE Asia, SE Asia, South Asia to the Middle East will be determined by who is the prime power in Central Asia. Nepal is one of many sideshows.” - Richard Fisher, Asian Security Studies Fellow at the Centre for Security Policy.
The US is now more stretched and fragmented militarily than at any time since the Vietnam war. The troop commitments to Iraq and Afghanistan mean that decisive US on-the-ground intervention in relatively minor regional insurgencies like Nepal are for now not a viable option. For the moment they are limited to offering military aid(9), advice and training on counter-insurgency techniques and applying diplomatic pressure. This is a practical weakening of America's function, global image and self-identity as geo-political military policeman of the world.
For the moment, the situation in Nepal might be classified as an unfinished bourgeois revolution. But then, perhaps one could have said that at any time since 1950. The once and for all decisive abolition of royal autocracy is the logical next historic step for the bourgeois forces - yet that is no guarantee they will finally take it.
Taking sides or making sides
And the consequences for the development of any autonomous movement of self-organised class struggle beyond and against bourgeois democracy? The industrial working class is a minority in a predominantly peasant population. We make no hierarchies of one sector of the poor being more important or radical than the other; but the industrial workers(10) have certain specific potential areas of struggle (transport, industry etc) that are unique to them and would be of crucial importance in any future movement. The rural and urban poor are dependent on an alliance with each other to affect any real change in their own mutual interests. So far they have only taken sides with one or other of the factions competing to rule over them. To go further than a more democratic management of continued poverty they will have to stop taking sides and start making sides. Despite the limits of the pro-democratic framework of recent events, many of the poor may have realised, through the flexing of their collective muscle, a sense of their own potential power to act more directly in their own class interests. Without wanting to be determinist, in the absence of an autonomous movement of the poor moving beyond demands for democracy, there will probably need to be a period of disillusionment with a new Kingless democracy system before any such autonomous movement will emerge.
Ret Marut for libcom.org news, late April 2006
- www.kantipuronline.com is a mainstream Kathmandu newspaper site and has probably the best up to date news from Nepal.
- www.himalmag.com in their Mar-Apr edition has good background info on the guerrillas.
RNA - Royal Nepalese Army - state forces
SPA - Seven Party Alliance - bourgeois democratic faction, including affiliated trade unions - now includes Maoist insurgents
PLA - People's Liberation Army - armed insurgency wing of Nepal Maoists, commonly known as 'maobadi'
Notes on this text
Please bear in mind that this is written at some distance from the events it discusses, relying mainly on what filters out through various medias and various biases. Consequently, it has plenty of ifs and buts; and there are bound to be some errors and limits, of both fact and interpretation. Nepal tends to normally be a bit off the radar of most people's knowledge and awareness, so this will hopefully fill in a few gaps.
The title refers to the Long March undertaken by Mao and the Chinese communist guerrillas in 1934-35 during the civil war. The March was quickly mythologised by the new 'communist' state as part of the intense cult of celebrity built around Chairman Mao. Recently, some researchers have written accounts, based on their meetings with eyewitnesses, claiming that the communist version of the Long March is literally a myth; that communist leaders, far from marching, were actually carried on couches or 'litters' by porters for most of the journey! True or not, the March has attained legendary status as an example of the supposed exemplary heroic revolutionary commitment and sacrifice of the 'Glorious Chairman' and the rest of the old ruling clique.
1. A thorough collection of statistics on Nepal (and other countries) can be found at the United Nations Population Fund site; www.unfpa.org/profile/nepal.cfm
2. The 7-party bourgeois alliance also includes the three national trade union confederations, the National Trade Union Congress (NTUC) claiming membership of 200,000, the General Federation of Trade Unions (GEFONT) 364,000, and the Democratic Confederation of Nepalese Trade Unions (DECONT) around 6000 (though these are all thought to be quite exaggerated or heavily fluctuating figures).The most leftist of these and closest to the parliamentary 'Communist' Party, GEFONT, supports the SPA bourgeois alliance and its democratic goals, and has, unsurprisingly, not even expressed a pretence at any broader revolutionary class agenda. There are also many more non-affiliated workers in the country.
GEFONT seem to be organised in a typically bureaucratic and hierarchical structure, judging by their own descriptions. But it's unlikely that they could always be so centralised locally in practice. Given the nature of the terrain, and lack of access to phone lines in many rural areas, local branches are likely to be fairly autonomous outside of the towns. For example, they have a 'trekkers & rafters' branch; these are the guys who carry goods, often enormous loads on their backs and/or mule trains and river rafts, up and down the otherwise inaccessible mountain tracks and waterways. We would assume they would necessarily have to be organised quite autonomously in their day to day functions.
3. The Maoist party is called the 'Nepalese Communist Party (Maoist)' to distinguish itself from the parliamentary CP which is (Marxist-Leninist).
4. It's interesting to note that seemingly every major peasant insurgency, from authoritarian Maoism thru the Zapatistas (old and new versions) to the libertarian communism of the Makhnovists, has had a unifying charasmatic figurehead. The figureheads came to their positions largely in recognition of their skills in military strategy; but one can speculate if this is a diverting/recycling of the traditional role of peasant religious icons/mythical warriors for political goals? Prachanda is the Nepal Maoists' leader and his bog-standard Maoist ideology is known as 'Prachanda Path'.
5. See, for example, reports at the Human Rights News site; hrw.org - civilians are targeted from all sides in this war. The RNA mortar bombs rebel areas indiscriminately from heliocopters; due to their difficulty in maintaining a presence in these areas they have trained and armed vigilante groups. These vigilantes often become a brutal law unto themselves in the villages. "The Maoists shot at my house two nights ago. My family and I ran away into the fields, and we now spend the nights there. It was because I am a member of the vigilante group. There are forty to fifty vigilantes in this village. But we have to be part of the group. If we didn’t join, we’d be in trouble with [the leader of the local vigilante group]. If we do join, we face trouble from the Maoists. We are caught in the middle."
—Vigilante group member in Nawalparaisi district. 10 years of civil war has claimed 13,000 lives.
All sides, the Maoists as much as any, have been reported to use abductions, extortion, torture, murder etc of civilians in this war. The Maoists forcibly 'recruit' schoolchildren to their army. "I was fourteen. The Maoists came to my village saying one person from each family must join them. I don’t have any brothers, and my sister is just nine years old—it was either me or my mother.… When the two-month program was over, I wanted to leave, but they said they would shoot me if I tried. I was carrying bags and was given a grenade—the Maoists taught me how to use it and how to throw stones." —fifteen-year old “Parvati P." ... "the Asian Human Rights Commission (in its 2003 report “Children and the People’s War in Nepal”) estimated that children may comprise up to 30 percent of Maoist forces." "Data collected by Nepali human rights organizations INSEC and Advocacy Forum shows that during the ceasefire the Maoists abducted thousands of children. In its December 2005 report “Three Months of Ceasefire” INSEC suggested that from September to December 2005 the Maoists abducted 8777 persons, most of them students and teachers. Although most of the children were released after participating in political indoctrination programs, it is clear that a significant number joined the Maoist forces." (All quotes from hrw.org)
All independent political activity is obviously dangerous and banned in rebel-held areas.
6. This is despite the fact that Indian officers train the Nepalese Army. There is an uneasy feeling amongst many Nepalis that India sees Nepal as historically belonging proper to a greater India, and would ideally like to annex it. But this option seems very unlikely, considering that the Chinese would probably interpret such a move as more or less a declaration of war.
7. There is also a Maoist 'International'; the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement(RIM). The US Maoist Revolutionary 'Communist' Party - headed by the slavishly idolised Chairman Bob Avakian, and for a long time America's largest leftist group and guerrilla Maoism's biggest western cheerleaders - has a strong influence in RIM. But their website seems strangely muted about recent events; they say little except to complain that the US Ambassador is calling the Nepal Maoists "an illegitimate political force"; they don't comment on coming political choices. Presumably hedging their bets to see which way events unfold, and readying themselves to negoiate a sudden total change of the infallible political line if necessary, to justify Maoism's brightest light in the world entering parliament with their fellow bourgeois politicians. Alternatively, groupies that they are, the RCP may simply switch allegiance to some other 'hot' insurgency.
Note from the image, right, here that Stalin has been removed by the RCP from the great pantheon of Maoist icons. So Stalin himself is being airbrushed from history, finally. What ironic revisionism...!
8. KATHMANDU, April 26 - Chief of the Army Staff (CoAS) Pyar Jung Thapa has said the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA) is positive about the merging of Maoist troops with the national army.
Speaking to CNN following the Royal Proclamation, Thapa expressed optimism that dialogue with the outlawed rebels would usher peace in the country.
In his seven-minute interview, Thapa also stated that the RNA was willing to work with any government and that it would continue to be answerable to the Prime Minister and the Defense Minister of the country.
During his interview, he said the Maoists could be incorporated into the national army on the basis of their capability and qualification.
This is a curious public statement, coming immediately after the King's capitulation to the pro-democracy movement. There is more than one possible interpretation; that it is either a statement that the historically absolute loyalties of the RNA top brass are shifting away from the King to the democracy movement and its long term goals, or it is a double bluff to put the Maoists off their guard. Or both...?
9. Military aid from the US stands at $20m since 2002, and more is in the pipeline for 2006.
10. In a country like Nepal there is a much larger social and class division between white collar workers and blue collar manual workers, which corresponds to a much earlier period of class relationships in more 'advanced' capitalist countries. Literacy, caste and extended family business connections all have a strong influence on employment opportunities.