Nepal: Maoists chill out; Hindu backlash next?

Nepal’s Maoist rebels agreed June 16 to lay down arms and join the government, ending the 10-year guerilla insurgency. The accord, announced following a daylong meeting between Maoist leader Prachanda (“the fierce one”) and interim prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala, calls for the elected Parliament to be dissolved pending a new constitution and for the guerillas to dismantle their parallel government in the countryside. The guerillas will not disarm until after until after a vote is held for a constituent assembly to draft the new constitution. As interim measures, hundreds of guerilla fighters have been released from prison, the word “royal” has been officially dropped from the name for the country’s armed forces, and Nepal (heretofore the world’s only Hindu kingdom) has been declared a secular nation. Prachanda is now on a national tour, holding meetings with the leaders of the guerilla “Peoples’ Governments” and urging them to join the official political system. (Nepal News, June 18)

Since the accord’s announcement, Hindu groups organized rallies in town throughout Nepal, and forced the southern industrial town of Birgunj to close for two days. Hindu holy men in saffron robes have been taking to the streets in Kathmandu and other cities demanding the reversal of the declaration.

“How can a 250-member parliament decide on something as serious as this? A referendum would have been the best way to go about it,” Diwakar Chand, general secretary of the World Hindu Federation (WHF), UN-registered umbrella body of Hindu groups around the world, told the Christian Science Monitor.

Currently, the federation is headed by Bharat Keshari Singh, a top aide of King Gyanendra, who is held to be an incarnation of the god Vishnua.

Rajnath Singh, president of India’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), told a Nepali delegation in India just before the declaration: “The BJP would not appreciate a situation where Nepal loses its true identity and buckles under Maoist pressure.”

Hari Bhakta Neupane, president of Sanatan Dharma Sewa Samiti, the oldest Hindu group in Nepal, says that if people begin slaughtering cows in secular Nepal, communal riots will be inevitable.

“Imagine a day when people slaughter cows in front of Kathmandu’s temples. Hindus will be ready to give up their lives to stop it,” he warns. Also expressing concerns over conversion drives by other faiths, Neupane pledged a national campaign to prevent these “unpleasant eventualities.”

“Hinduism lies at the root of racial discrimination in Nepal for the last 238 years of dynastic rule,” argues Krishna Bhattachan, an anthropologist who leads a movement of ethnic minorities in Nepal. “One state religion has meant the dominance of one culture, one caste, and one language.”

According to the Nepalese government’s Central Bureau of Statistics, there are over 103 castes and ethnicities, at least 92 different languages, and over 10 different religions in Nepal.

Traditionally, those from the top two castes in the Hindu hierarchy—Brahmins and Chhetriyas—have shared power with the king. Even when Nepal exercised limited democracy for 12 years after 1990, most of the elected prime ministers were Brahmins. The parliament as well as the bureaucracy is overwhelming dominated by Brahmins and Chhetriyas.

“The declaration has given the minorities a feeling of ownership of the state,” said Raghu Ji Pant, parliamentarian and senior leader of Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist Leninist, the biggest party in the alliance of seven political parties that joined with the Maoists in the movement for a secular state. “The declaration has also ended the Hindu hegemony which legitimized the rule of autocratic Vishnu incarnations in the country.” (CSM, June 18)

See our last post on Nepal.

  1. Hold up, Bill… Dual power is afoot and the ground unsteady
    The Maoists have NOT agreed to unilateral disarmament, nor is Prachanda urging anyone at these mass rallies to “join” the existing political system.

    They are moving towards a constituent assembly that will draft a NEW political system, which if the mood throughout the country is as it appears, will result quite likely with Prachanda as the head of state and reconfiguration of the (formerly Royal) National Army. This has been discussed with some forthrightness by the Maoist leadership, and was all the talk at their recent, undeniably massive rallies throughout the country.

    The SPA is merely meeting the agreed upon “12-point Agreement” that launched the urban protests.

    There is a situation of dual power in Nepal, with the Maoists in a position of overwhelming strength throughout the vast majority of the countryside. Several members of the SPA, career politicians reknowned for their corruption, are angling to be the new intermediaries between the people and the ruling class/foreign powers. The Maoists will not allow this.

    The agreement for the protests which pushed the king from the center of power were clearly spelled out, and involve a constituent assembly “without condition.” This last part is key. They intend to restructure the very state, NOT just institute a new liberal-democratic order.

    Maoists, like communists in general, believe that power resides with the great mass of people — not a political class embedded in exploitative social relations. That Prachanda and the rest of the CPN(M)’s leadership uphold democracy is only shocking to anti-communists and other apologists for the status quo (and various forms of cynicism, cough).

    The CPN(M) has, in fact, agreed to keep their troops off the field for the duration of the constituent assembly — and to respect its decisions. They are the only party in Nepal who have agreed to such an unconditional, indeed revoluionary reconstitution of Nepalese society.

    This constituent assembly promises to bring socialism to Nepal through the people themselves and not a putch. Maoists around the world are intent to learn from the the mistakes (and accomplishments) of 20th Century socialism. People’s War is a victory, fraudulent attempts at “unipolar” states were disastrous. The lack of either “democracy” (or open multipolarity outside the still unique Cultural Revolution) served to cover state capitalism in the former Soviet Union, Cuba and China from Mao’s death up to today.

    I think our intepid blogger is mistaking what is happening. The Maoists aren’t “chilling out” at all. They are on the verge of becoming the uncontested center of a new national mainstream, as part of a regional upsurge of revolutionary communism.

    At least I hope so. I gather my hope from reports of what is afoot, and careful reading of carefully worded agreements.

    Don’t confuse the spin of the mainstream press with what is acutally happening. They rarely leave Katmandu, they hear what they want. The Maoists have stated that this constituent assembly is to be unconditional or it will not happen at all. Quite an experiment in democracy (in the term’s popular meaning).

    Let’s see what they bring to THAT table. Let’s see how the millions of Nepalese who have sympathized, if not participated, in the People’s War and protests, line up. Let’s see who now does what.

    And if you’re going to follow it, please double-check attributions to the Maoists with their own releases.


    and there are a number of Nepal solidarity/watch sites out there that get this stuff out. The MSM reporting on this whole insurgency has been sophomoric.

    1. My cynicism (cough)…
      …is based on what Amnesty International and other bona fide human rights groups have to say about your Maoist pals.

      I know the US Revolutionary Communist Party and other stateside cheerleaders for Prachanda’s gang are bitterly disappointed by this development. They love nothing so much as salivating from afar over a bloody People’s War in some distant land. Now that the Khmer Rouge, Shining Path and PKK have all gone south, they were pinning thier hopes on Nepal. I predict they will remain in denial for a few months about the reality that Nepal’s Maoists have decided to do things the civilized way, and then move on to waving pom-poms for India’s Naxalites…

      1. Veracity has some link to integrity
        The RCP, USA never… not for a single day… supported Pol Pot. But hey, who cares about that, right? If you have a source for this “salivation,” I’d sure love to see it. One of the things that distinguished the RCP from other Maoist groups back in their formative days was their refusal to tow whatever international line was in vogue. So, for example, they never got the “China franchise” because they were critical of major areas of the Chinese government even while Mao was alive. But don’t let that stop you from repeating whatever rumor you hear (or just pull out of your butt).

        I don’t know about salivating, but I certainly support the rebels in Nepal along with any other progressive and popular force out there from the Zapatistas to even those forces who intend to do more than protest ad infinitum.

        Further, I don’t think you actually get what’s happening in Nepal. The demand for a democratic republic has LONG been the central plank in their struggle… one Marxists have long fought for, and despite the weary back-benching of various social-democrats who equate THEIR power with popular sovereignty.

        Maoists in the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, which includes the Communist Party of Peru, the CPN(M) and the RCP, USA — are involved in protracted arguments with the Communist Party of India (Maoist), popularly known as Naxalites, about the history of Stalin’s methods… and guess who is NOT the cheerleader for Stalin… But I digress.

        Nepal is in a situation of dual power. The communists insist that power must be transfered to a new authority, via an “unconditional” constituent assembly. Rather than launch a frontal assault on Katmandu, they have opted — against great resistance from not just the king et. al., but the so-called “democratic” political class.

        We shall see what happens. But I whole-heartedly support the revolutionary movement in South Asia, and unlike some (cough), don’t think shitting on revolutionary movements (while salivating over any “third camp” kumbaya force that renounces revolution) from “up here in the Global North” is where it’s at.

        Try to get your tangents correct, Bill.

        And by the way, the PKK and Communist Party of Peru “going south” was really some of the most brutal counter-insurgency the world has ever seen. Turkish Kurdistan continues to boil, with popular outbreaks (PKK-inspired) continuing in the face of scorched-earth massacres by the Turkish military. But I guess oceans of blood spilled by fascists are still the “responsibility” of those who resist it.

        Anyway, watch Nepal and let’s how long it takes you to figure out what’s happening.

        1. You left out the verb
          I assume you mean “let’s see.” Indeed we shall.

          RCP, PLP, CWP and other New Left Maoist formations started vying for the “China franchise” just as the Great Helmsman was enetering his dotage and Deng’s counter-revolution was looming. It was this, and not any lack of adherence to Maoist orthodoxy, which denied them all the franchise. RCP may have never supported Pol Pot, but their rivals (sometimes to the point of physical violence) the Communist Workers Party (CWP) did. (Ironically, today CWP has long since metamorphosed into the thoroughly domesticated Chinatown poverty-pimp group Asian Americans for Equality, a local pillar of NYC’s Democratic machine, which tells volumes about how ultimately feeble yahoo ultra-leftism is.) And RCP certainly salivated plenty over the butcherous, near-genocidal Shining Path.

          The Zapatistas, unlike Nepal’s Maoists, do not engage in torture or political assassinations, and do not aspire to acheive state power, through either armed or electoral means. A very poor comparison. Funny you should say you support them while implying they constitute a “‘third camp’ kumbaya force that [has] renounce[d] revolution.” Did you grow up in an impoverished jungle zone terrorized by paramilitary death squads? If so, I concede your right to such condescension. Otherwise, stuff it.

          No, the oceans of blood spilled by the Turkish and Peruvian states are not the “resposnsibility” of the Maoist insurgencies they were attempting to put down. Are you arguing the opposite: that the seas (if not quite “oceans”) of blood spilled by the Maoists are really the “responsibility” of the repressive state forces? That the isolated Amazon indigenous groups that were ethnically cleansed and enslaved by the Shining Path were somehow pawns of the Peruvian state? The perverse logic you attribute to others actually applies better to your own disingenuous arguments.

          The question of what will happen to Nepal’s guerilla zones in the new order is a very interesting one, which we shall be watching closely. I fervently hope elements of local autonomy can be preserved, and the paramilitary groups, caste system and quasi-theocracy effectively challenged, while still denying stateside Maoist ideologues the opportunity to salivate over seas of blood.

          1. that’s funny, Bill
            I’m a stateside Maoist. While I’ve encountered plenty of violence in my life, and dished out some from time to time (adolescent brawling and a few dust-ups as an adult), my whole political motivation is to engage people and bring them into conscious life… particularly from among the most oppressed and disenfranchised.

            Contrary to your cariacture, we’re often a fairly sensitive and romantic lot. The idea of salivating over blood is kind of gross, and actually insulting… so much so that you have to go off and dredge up some group that disbanded decades ago to attack what’s actually happening now.

            Your point about the CWP, whose most intense brush with violence to my knowledge was being massacred by Klan members in cahoots with the FBI down south, where they were organizing textile workers at the time, is the kind of mendacity you’ve perfected in your anti-communist diatribes. But go on,

            I’m sure my earnestness is nothing but fodder for your weird idea of what motivates other people, and what it is they do. And I’m shocked, really, that there’s gambling at Rick’s. People die in wars. No doubt your semi-pacifism feels righteous, but how’s it doing for the PLANTATIONS of Chiapas?

            1. The politics of salivation
              I never said you weren’t romantic. Nobody romanticizes bloody “Peoples Wars” more than stateside Maoists. Especially those of middle class origins.

              Of course you guys salivate over blood, metaphorically (and not only just metaphorically) speaking. The only reason I brought up CWP is because you implied RCP’s supposed principles and independence cost them the “China franchise,” remember? The “China franchise” has not been an issue since well before the CWP disbanded. And alas, the CWP’s salivatory tendencies are alive and well in the RCP, MIM, etc.

              The CWP-Klan incident in Greensboro, NC, was a real political eye-opener for me. (Look, it has its own Wikipedia entry!). I was in high school at the time, and my best buddy was a CWP fellow treveler, so I heard all about it. (He is today a conservative petit-bourgeois type, natch.) But I was also privvy to the CWP’s thuggish attacks on RCP, and vice versa, as well as their near-suicidal adventurist charge on the NYPD at the 1980 Democratic Convention. I think this was their last bang before the hardliners got isolated and the organization was taken over by opportunists as opposed to fanatics.

              “People die in wars.” Charming line. Look buster, there are laws of war, and if your buds in Nepal and Peru are going to claim to be legitimate belligerents they had better adhere to them. When the Zapatistas took up arms in 1994, the first thing they did was announce their intention to adhere to the laws of war, and called upon the international community to monitor the conflict. In stark contrast, the Shining Path massacred and enslaved indigenous communities that would not follow them. For all that, the Zapatistas (who have not fired a shot in anger since January 1994!) have affected greater improvements for the peasantry of Chiapas than the Shining Path, with their embrace of unrestrained brutality, have for the peasantry of Peru. Chiapas is still a pretty oppressive place, but the Zapatistas, maintaining the moral high ground, have managed to redistribute land and liberate territory throughout much of the state. The Shining Path, in contrast, blew it with the very people they were supposed to be fighting for, and are today reduced to a few bands on the run deep in the jungle.

              “People die in wars” is the same vile line that the Slobodan Milosevic fan club uses. Hilariously transparent that you bait anyone who balks at mass murder as a “semi-pacifist” or “‘third camp’ kumbaya force that renounces revolution.” Your politics are not about “revolution” at all. They are about lefter-than-thou sanctimony.

              1. off to salivate
                Well, Bill. I guess you’ve got it all figured out.

                The Zaptatista “moral high ground” is fascinating, no doubt.

                Good luck.

                PS — when you invoke the priv of the north, always remember you find the fault in others you fear in yourself.