Excerpts from an interview with Dipta Prakash Shah, MP, Upper House
You say it was meaningless for the Maoists to forsake their demand for a republic. Perhaps if the government had been more flexible, they may not have gone back to war.
They said they were forsaking the issue of a republic, but were instead demanding a constituent assembly. It was their demand that a constituent assembly be elected for the formation of a republic. From my analysis, I think their attack is on the present multiparty system of democracy also, not only on the monarchy. This is why they have been attacking the foundations of the present political system. So even though they say they were dropping thier demand for a republic, by asking for a constituent assembly they were attacking the multiparty democracy and monarchy. This is why the dialogue could not reach a solution. I feel there was no way the dialogue could have been fruitful.
Being a former army man, how strong do you think the Maoist forces are?
Rather than guess, let me tell you what we have heard so far-the size of the force is put at 5,000 to 6,000. I have also heard that some foreign nationals provide the cadre training and support. Every time their people are killed in an encounter, the Maoists cut off the heads of their fallen colleagues and take them away so the government can't identify their foreign supporters, trainers and advisors. Whatever their numbers, 6-10,000 they are not trained the way our army is. If they do not have support lines, there is no question of them being able to fight our army. Wars are fought on the basis of principles and belifs. A French philosopher once said: "We can resist the force of an army, but we can never, never resist the force of ideas." I find that very few principled people have joined the Maoists, or any political force for that matter. Because of the breakdown in the present political system, most people may have gone on their side for fear. I was in Dailekh sometime ago. It is at some distance from the district headquarters. The army and police are all concentrated in the district headquarters. In the villages there is no police, no army. The Maoists are still continuing with their activities. All the people I spoke with said they only follow the Maoists to survive. UML and Congress activists, all are in the same situation.
Is there a way out after the army is mobilised? Can we hope the Maoists will be controlled in this way?
Army action is only temporary. For a long-term solution, all political parties must display their political commitment and find a way out. That is the only way out. Absolute rule is not possible in thepresent context. A single-party system cannot be put into place. Everyone supports the democratic framework, from the monarch to the common man. But everyone is also complaining that today's leaders give democracy a bad name. If the people had been given their rights, there would have been no Maoists. Mobilising the army is a short-term solution. The political parties and the system will have to provide a long-term solution.