Nepali Times Asian Paints
PUSKAR GAUTAM
Guest Column
Prachanda’s new path


PUSKAR GAUTAM


It has become fashionable to say that the last 12 years of democracy stank to high heavens. Depends what you liken it to. Compared to the previous 30 years of Panchayat, it was a rose garden. We breathed free and there was a palpable feeling of having our destiny in our own hands. The leadership sometimes went astray, but the beauty of democracy is that it is resilient enough to correct itself as it goes along. Autocracy is too brittle, it breaks easily.

The king has chosen to lead in the old Panchayat way, and if this continues we can foresee an emerging alliance between the parliamentary powers and the Maoists. Comrade Prachanda's communique on Sunday in which he calls on the public to raise its voice against "a conspiracy to derail peace process" can be seen in this light. "Without massive people's pressure, it has almost become impossible for the peace talks to move ahead," the chief said.

The Maoists made a mistake in thinking that the king could offer solutions that the democratic parties could not, and gave recognition to the Lokendra Bahadur Chand government by negotiating with it. Their reasoning must have been that they have an army, the king has an army and the political parties don't. But the parties have the public mandate on their side and represent the democratic gains of the 1990 movement.

The only factors hindering an alliance between the Maoists and the parties is their recognition of the palace post-October Fourth, and the campaign of assassinations and torture against grassroots political leaders in the past years which is still fresh in everyone's minds.

With Surya Bahadur Thapa, the palace has made a classic Panchayat change-over and bought time. How long can it drag on like this? Thapa's appointment may have finally taught the Maoists that they cannot trust the palace on everything, and may need to keep the option of joining with the parties to push for the resumption of peace negotiations.

The Maoists are stretched to the limit trying to maintain their militia and cadre morale. The longer this uncertainty drags on, the greater will be the danger of impatient followers doing things on their own. That may be precisely why the palace-army combine wants to delay the process, hoping that something somewhere will give. But this is a dangerous game, it risks plunging the country back to a war even more virulent than the one that was suspended on 29 January.

By staging a 'unity rally', exerting national and international pressure and reiterating their commitment to the peace process, the Maoists are presenting themselves to the public as a party genuinely for peace. The Nepali public is forgiving, and for all the killings of the past, recent public opinion polls show that the people are sick of the same old faces and would consider voting for a Maoist party that abandons violence.

It is a misconception to say that the Maoists agreed to a truce because of military pressure. From the Dunai attack to IGP Krishna Mohan Shrestha's murder, the Maoists had achieved extraordinary military successes. The exceptions to the rule were Maoist defeats during the emergency (in Rumjatar airport for example) and the counter-insurgency successes in the central region. Elsewhere, out of the 5,000 people they killed, human rights group estimate that only 10 percent were real Maoists. One cannot fight a guerrilla war with such statistics and expect to win.

How things have changed: the same force that watched as police were butchered in Holeri and Dunai because they had "not received orders to leave the barrack" are today reluctant to remain within 5km of their barracks as supposedly agreed in the second round of talks.

It is pretty clear now that the real reason for the Maoists agreeing to a truce was American pressure on India to deprive them of a safe haven. It was a different time and a different context, but BP Koirala returning to Nepal from exile in India in 1976 (only to be locked up at Sundarijal by King Birendra) and the Maoists agreeing to a ceasefire in 2003 both happened for the same reason.

It is not difficult to see why the Maoists are suddenly so anti-American. Just about every statement or speech they make these days is a tirade against 'American imperialism'. They may be trying to exploit the concern in defence establishments in New Delhi and Beijing of American hegemony in their backyard. Maoist leaders are openly calling for Indian and Chinese help. By strategically not opting to abuse the Indians, the Maoists hope to ensure the presence of their supreme leader there, as well as future refuge if talks fail.

Even so, the Maoists have realised that after seven long years of fighting to implement Mao's 'peoples rule', it would be unacceptable to our neighbours and impossible to sustain. So, they are looking for a way to slip into the mainstream. This transition is precarious for the country as well as for the Maoists themselves.

Thus, their frequent references to 'new model democrac&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;', 'liberal societ&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;', 'competitive people's movement', 'equipoise government', and even 'a free market economic policy'. They cannot suddenly abandon the Prachanda Path, but the Maoists appear to have decided that Deng Xiaoping wasn't such a bad guy after all and that Stalin's single-party ideology was misguided. In Nepal, history repeats itself as a farce, and just as Madan Bhandari launched a 'multiparty people's rule' Prachanda Path is metamorphosing into a 'multiparty peoples' movement'.

About time, too, since it is better to understand a nation's reality before undertaking a costly war. Most other guerrilla wars in the world have failed for that reason. The Chinese today are happy under the one country two systems, and their greatest fear is another cultural revolution. Lenin said imperialism was in its death-throes, but even after 100 years new shoots are still sprouting. It is this same imperialism that has compelled the Maoists to look for a new people's democracy for the 21st century.

Have they now realised that conflict is a dead-end street? Are they shedding conventional Marxism for a truly genuine new model democracy? It does seem so. That is why whoever it is in the palace that is deciding these things has to take the Maoists' pressure for a resumption of talks seriously and resume the process with rapid movement towards de-escalation, dis-armament, and a return to an extortion-free environment devoid of threats so that elections can be held. The Maoists may just find that war-weary Nepalis may be willing to go along with them if they are not forced to.

Puskar Gautam is a former Maoist commander and has now joined the UML. This article was translated from the Nepali original.


LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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