Since the day their Indian handlers forced the peace process upon them, Nepal's Maoists have been on a roller coaster ride. From the pinnacle of their popularity in the mid-nineties, the Maoists have plummeted to an all time low. This rock bottom status had the Maoist leadership worried, their fighting cadre demoralized and their detractors in high spirits. All this changed on August 20, 2007 with the unilateral Maoist imposition of 22 pre-conditions on Nepal's constituent assembly elections.
It is apparent that a looming electoral humiliation has forced the Maoist leadership back to the basics - "revolution." Nepal's "rebels with a losing cause" are poised to try and compensate for their inability to deliver by re-focusing their cadres' attention on what they do best - threaten, intimidate, coerce, terrorize and forward political goals through violent, undemocratic and uncivilized means.
Now that the Maoists have changed their colors once more, documenting the justifications that emanate from their hardest of hard core supporters in Nepal's civil society, sections of the media and human rights organizations, becomes extremely important. It also becomes necessary to closely monitor reactions from the plethora of electoral advisors, the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) and related parties whose mandate it is to execute on the Nepali peoples’ will – sustained peace and democracy – the starting point for which is free and fair elections. Will these forces attempt to moderate the Maoist threat or will they continue their tradition of hypocrisy?
As for the non-Maoist members of the eight party alliance (EPA), murmurs of discontent have already arisen from within their ranks. The focus of disillusionment with the Maoists’ 22 pre-conditions is primarily along two broad categories. First, there’s a stark contradiction between stated Maoist policy and Maoist intent (a long held tradition of double standards that find their origins in Maoist doctrine). And second, there’s an alarmed focus on the usage of the following phrase: “peoples’ action.” As if mention of this phrase wasn’t enough, the YCL’s front man, Ganesh Pun’s assertion (that “peoples’ action” could also imply physical action) has put everyone from student leaders to MPs on high alert.
Based on historical events, the mention of “peoples’ action” evokes a laundry list of unpleasant memories – none of which bode well for the on-going peace process or the planned November 22 polls. For example, the Maoist assassinations of former Chief of the Armed Police Force (IGP Mohan Krishna Shrestha and Mrs. Shrestha), the assassination of Brigadier General Kiran Basnyat, the kidnapping (and subsequent extortion attempt) of Mr. Sitaram Prasai, the murder of the former President and Vice President of the Maoist Victims’ organization, the assassinations of numerous electoral candidates during the King’s takeover, the gruesome murder of journalist Dekendra Thapa (and the list goes on and on), are a few atrocities that fall under the Maoist definition of “peoples’ action.”
If the allusion to “peoples’ action” (backed by an unequivocal confirmation of physical violence) does not elicit widespread condemnation from the remainder of the ruling coalition, the Nepali media, civil society, the human rights community or the “army” of individuals whose subsistence is currently derived from Nepal’s unfortunate circumstances, such activists may as well pack their bags, go home and “forever keep their peace.”
The Nepali people have stood by and watched the sham of a process that UNMIN’s arms verification has been; the Nepali people have continued to tolerate Maoist excesses in the form of extortion, kidnappings and physical violence; the Nepali people have remained patient despite the Maoist affiliated violence that has cost children their right to education, adults their right to earn a living and has cost Nepal over 13,000 lives.
The Nepali people have demonstrated extraordinary resilience in spite of provocation from various extremes, of failed governance, of broken promises and a state of general lawlessness. And the reason Nepalis have remained tolerant is because they see hope for a lasting peace and the prospect of a democratic way of life. But with less than three months to go to precedent-setting elections (and with the Nepali people’s aspirations for lasting peace and democracy under direct duress), the Maoist shenanigans of August 20 may cease to fall under the realm of what the Nepali people are prepared to tolerate.
At this juncture, the Maoists have two options: Either they play by the rules and go for elections or they don’t and they head back to the jungle. A possible third option would be an engineered vertical split but in this event, all Maoists (especially the leadership) are better off following their armed faction back into the jungles. Nepal’s peace process has no use for leaders who cannot lead.
Speaking of leadership, another brand of leaders (Nepal’s political pundits) legitimized the 12 Point Agreement in the following terms: A means to salvation for a terrorist organization, desperately trying to reform itself and wholeheartedly prepared to embrace the democratic mainstream. Such pundits claimed an alliance between Nepal’s legitimate political parties (imperfect as they still are) and the Maoists was necessary to overthrow an ambitious king and to mainstream the violent Maoists. Where are these pundits today and why do they shy away from criticizing the Maoists where criticism is long overdue?
The problem is that Nepal’s political pundits have a vested bias. They are on record for making claims that will never materialize and instead of modifying their visions to match ground realities, they continue to wish their way into irrelevance.
For example, such pundits are completely incapable of envisioning a Maoist return to war. However, an objective view of the current circumstances (for the Maoists) include the following: The Maoist leadership has been living in opulence for over a year while their fighting core haven’t received the funds the Nepali government has disbursed to Krishna Bahadur Mahara; Cantoned Maoist combatants still live in make-shift huts, although the funds to build infrastructure were disbursed to Hisila Yami; the Maoists thought they could continue their campaign of intimidation but had a rude awakening in the Madhes; the Maoist fought a war for 10 long years and have nothing to show for it – even if Nepal was declared a republic tomorrow, the Maoists would still take a serious licking at the polls. So why would the Maoists opt for elections over continuing the status quo interim government and why should the prospects of war seem unapplealing for a Maoist cadre-based (who have thrived on anarchy for 10 long years)?
Political observers are miscalculating the Maoist mood by interacting exclusively at the level of Pushpa Dahal, Krishna Mahara and Baburam Bhattarai. People need to wake up to the reality that rebellion, revolution and revolt (not peace, compromise and settlement) are the predominant values ingrained in the Maoist DNA. These values are the antitheses of democratic principles like rule of law, justice, peaceful protest and the right to private property. These two sets of values are just irreconcilable and in the face of adversity, become even more accentuated.
The Maoists have begun their final assault on the Nepali state. Every one of their 22 preconditions is a direct challenge to Nepal’s peace process. Their veiled public threats combined with UNMIN’s ineffective arms monitoring, represents a tangible risk. The fact that the Maoists’ hold the keys to their own armories (and have continued to train and recruit new combatants while slipping seasoned combatants into urban centers), represents another real risk. Add to this the fact that the Nepalese Army’s state of operational readiness is zilch and one may conclude that Nepal’s situation spells “clear and present danger.”
The question is, what are Nepal’s political pundits going to do to meet the Maoist challenge?
Courtesy: Nepali Perspectives....