Nepali Times Asian Paints
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How many more bodies?


SUDHIR SHARMA


When the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) held its second convention in Dang in February, the party announced a new Prachanda Path doctrine calling for a "mass uprising" in urban areas to take the revolution forward. At the vanguard would be Maoist front organisations of students, women and workers.

The royal massacre of 1 June prompted the party to accelerate its preparations for such a mass uprising which would prepare the ground for an interim peoples' government at the centre. Maoist leaders saw the street protests that followed the massacre and widespread public skepticism about the new king as an opportunity to cash in on the confusion.

They had banked on the street protests escalating, the anti-Gyanendra wave intensifying, and also on ingratiating themselves to Beijing. There are indications now that the party brass miscalculated. "They know they got it wrong," one source told us. There just wasn't enough critical mass in the protests for the Maoists to instigate an urban uprising by piggy-backing on the public anger and shock, and the spontaneous outpouring of public grief indicated that deep down Nepalis believed, even respected, the institution of monarchy. Then the five sympathetic moderate left parties did not entirely support the Maoists in their strategy.

The Maoists have therefore gone back on Plan B, which is to foment confusion in urban areas by using "banner bombs"-booby trapped explosives hanging from big banners denouncing the new king and the prime minister. The explosions in the capital this week are designed more to maintain a state of uncertainty and panic by media magnification than to create casualties, and they build up to the planned nationwide strike on 12 July.

Sources close to the Maoist hierarchy interviewed for this article say the party is planning to declare a "regional peoples' government" in the areas in midwest Nepal under their control this month. The next step soon after would be to leapfrog into the national stage by announcing a parallel national interim government like they have done in the districts under their control. This was already clear from an interview in the Revolutionary Worker (www.rwor.org) by Maoist leader, Prachanda, two years ago in which he said: "When Rolpa, Rukum, Jajarkot and Salyan become liberated zones, then we will declare the Peoples' Republic of Nepal. That government will be at the centre."

Helping the Maoists is the confusion and disunity among elected parties in parliament, which have not come together even after the royal tragedy. The Nepali Congress and the UML are close to a pact under which the budget session of the house will be allowed to carry on in return for Prime Minister Girija Koirala stepping down. The UML will brandish this as a victory, and a vindication of its anti-corruption crusade, but it is doubtful if Koirala's replacement will suddenly bring a unity of purpose in government or the opposition-especially in terms of a joint strategy on resolving the Maoist issue.

So, expect the Maoists to continue to flaunt their presence in Kathmandu, through booby traps, infiltration of protests against the public security regulations, torch processions-especially in the runup to next Thursday. In the countryside, expect widespread attacks on police posts.

The Maoists will also keep taunting the Army, try to infiltrate its ranks to bring down morale and stoke disunity. In the post-massacre scenario, the Maoists find themselves propelled to a period they were expecting five years from now. In a sense it has accelerated their revolution, but it also means that they are not yet prepared to take on the Army. "The Maoists have no illusions about it: they know that sooner or later they will have to take on the Army," admits one senior military source.

The sea-change in the balance of power within Nepal after the Naryanhiti mass murder has also begun a process of polarisation so that the Maoists can now pinpoint the "fascist Gyanendra-Girija clique" as their main target. "The party is extremely suspicious of a possible alliance between the king and prime minister to crush the movement, and it is trying its best to corner the two forces," said the Maoist source. Leader Baburam Bhatarai said in an article last week (translated on p. 15) that the Republic of Nepal has already been born, and he called for a broad alliance of political forces to form an interim government at the centre.

The other characteristic of the Prachanda Path doctrine, according to party literature published after the second convention in February is the fusion of the "mass uprising" in urban areas with the "peoples war" in the hinterland. The Maoists have declared eight districts in Bheri, Karnali and Rapti Zones as having "peoples' governments" and they appear to be consolidating their hold on districts on the periphery like Dang, Bajura and Dailekh. Analysts are expecting a major Maoist attack on vulnerable police stations in those areas. Instead of killing large numbers of policemen, Maoists are now also abducting scores of new recruits which brings them valuable manpower and weapons.

On the international front, the Maoists have joined forces with South Asian organisations to set up a Coordination Committee of Maoist Parties and Organisation of South Asia (CCOMPOSA) with member groups from India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, including the MCC and Peoples' War Group in India. The MCC, which is active in Bihar, is reported to have moved its bases to Darbhanga near the Nepal border. A CCOMPOSA press release in Patna said this week the "groups will unify and coordinate the activities of the Maoist parties and organisations in South Asia". A senior police official in Patna is quoted by an Indian internet journal as saying: "This is a matter of grave concern for the entire nation. The security and integrity of the nation is threatened by this trans-border Naxalite confederation."

The Maoists have been closely monitoring the post massacre developments and have adjusted their strategy accordingly. Prachanda issued his first statement on 2 June, denouncing the murder as a "political conspiracy" against a "liberal" and "nationalist" king who did not want to use the army to fight Maoists. His next statement on 5 June named Indian intelligence agencies and Girija Koirala as conspirators. Then in a 6 June write-up, Maoist ideologue Babu Ram Bhattarai, said the other conspirator was King Gyanendra and made his first call on the army to revolt to join the "nationalist" forces.

"The early statements were being made by the leaders individually, based on reports they were getting on the street protests," a Maoist source told us. "The idea was to keep the protests going." Then the party politburo sat down to assess the situation. Its 10 June statement endorsed the arguments forwarded by Prachanda and Babu Ram and announced the birth of a new republic. It also broadened its analysis explaining the existing theory on the murders: a conspiracy by US and Indian intelligence agencies to encircle and isolate China.

"Earlier our reading was that the king was on our side, now we have reason to believe he could side with government," the Maoist source told us. "We're watching the emerging political alliances, and naming CPN Unity Centre as an ally was to show others who want to join us in the interim government where they can come." This move appears to be the result of the Maoists' reasoning that before 1 June, the people either supported the Maoists or the monarchy. Now, they feel, the king is dead the new king is not popular so they can convert the monarchists as well.

Seen in this light, targetting King Gyanendra appears to be a strategic move rather than a conviction that he was a conspirator. Yubaraj Gyawali, a senior UML member of the Upper House sees this as proof that the Maoists were all along being supported by some palace elements. He told us: "Now we know that a faction of the palace was providing them some protection and that is why their morale was high. The threats against the king may either be posturing to try and get the same support, or it could be they are running scared."

The fact that the Maoists' tactics have changed so frequently is seen by some as confusion and differences in the ranks. Prachanda's statement on Sunday that only supporters of the "fascist Gyanendra-Girija clique will be attacked" is taken by some as an indication of such confusion. Earlier the Maoists' collection of taxes and donations were aimed at medium and large businesses and their targetting corrupt local officials were populist. Lately, however, the extortion is getting indiscriminate and hurting the not-so-well-off, and many popular local figures and elected officials have been brutally killed just for daring to oppose local Maoists.

But Maoist sources deny there is confusion, saying the party's response shows flexibility to changing circumstances. He told us the party could ultimately regard Gyanendra as a Sihanouk-type figure, or even the founding president of a new republic led by an interim government.

Essentially the palace killings have eclipsed the need for talks-for the time being at least. Independent analyst Pitamber Sharma says that by declaring Gyanendra and Girija as fair game, they've eliminated the need for a government to pursue talks. He adds: "I think the Maoists are now trying to prepare for a big confrontation, the recent incidents may be aimed at gauging government response."

The other characteristic of the Prachanda Path doctrine, according to party literature published after the second convention in February is the fusion of the "mass uprising" in urban areas with the "peoples war" in the hinterland. The Maoists have declared eight districts in Bheri, Karnali and Rapti Zones as having "peoples' governments" and they appear to be consolidating their hold on districts on the periphery like Dang, Bajura and Dailekh. Analysts are expecting a major Maoist attack on vulnerable police stations in those areas. Instead of killing large numbers of policemen, Maoists are now also abducting scores of new recruits which brings them valuable manpower and weapons.

On the international front, the Maoists have joined forces with South Asian organisations to set up a Coordination Committee of Maoist Parties and Organisation of South Asia (CCOMPOSA) with member groups from India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, including the MCC and Peoples' War Group in India. The MCC, which is active in Bihar, is reported to have moved its bases to Darbhanga near the Nepal border. A CCOMPOSA press release in Patna said this week the "groups will unify and coordinate the activities of the Maoist parties and organisations in South Asia". A senior police official in Patna is quoted by an Indian internet journal as saying: "This is a matter of grave concern for the entire nation. The security and integrity of the nation is threatened by this trans-border Naxalite confederation."

The Maoists have been closely monitoring the post massacre developments and have adjusted their strategy accordingly. Prachanda issued his first statement on 2 June, denouncing the murder as a "political conspiracy" against a "liberal" and "nationalist" king who did not want to use the army to fight Maoists. His next statement on 5 June named Indian intelligence agencies and Girija Koirala as conspirators. Then in a 6 June write-up, Maoist ideologue Babu Ram Bhattarai, said the other conspirator was King Gyanendra and made his first call on the army to revolt to join the "nationalist" forces.

"The early statements were being made by the leaders individually, based on reports they were getting on the street protests," a Maoist source told us. "The idea was to keep the protests going." Then the party politburo sat down to assess the situation. Its 10 June statement endorsed the arguments forwarded by Prachanda and Babu Ram and announced the birth of a new republic. It also broadened its analysis explaining the existing theory on the murders: a conspiracy by US and Indian intelligence agencies to encircle and isolate China.

"Earlier our reading was that the king was on our side, now we have reason to believe he could side with government," the Maoist source told us. "We're watching the emerging political alliances, and naming CPN Unity Centre as an ally was to show others who want to join us in the interim government where they can come." This move appears to be the result of the Maoists' reasoning that before 1 June, the people either supported the Maoists or the monarchy. Now, they feel, the king is dead the new king is not popular so they can convert the monarchists as well.

Seen in this light, targetting King Gyanendra appears to be a strategic move rather than a conviction that he was a conspirator. Yubaraj Gyawali, a senior UML member of the Upper House sees this as proof that the Maoists were all along being supported by some palace elements. He told us: "Now we know that a faction of the palace was providing them some protection and that is why their morale was high. The threats against the king may either be posturing to try and get the same support, or it could be they are running scared."

The fact that the Maoists' tactics have changed so frequently is seen by some as confusion and differences in the ranks. Prachanda's statement on Sunday that only supporters of the "fascist Gyanendra-Girija clique will be attacked" is taken by some as an indication of such confusion. Earlier the Maoists' collection of taxes and donations were aimed at medium and large businesses and their targetting corrupt local officials were populist. Lately, however, the extortion is getting indiscriminate and hurting the not-so-well-off, and many popular local figures and elected officials have been brutally killed just for daring to oppose local Maoists.

But Maoist sources deny there is confusion, saying the party's response shows flexibility to changing circumstances. He told us the party could ultimately regard Gyanendra as a Sihanouk-type figure, or even the founding president of a new republic led by an interim government.

Essentially the palace killings have eclipsed the need for talks-for the time being at least. Independent analyst Pitamber Sharma says that by declaring Gyanendra and Girija as fair game, they've eliminated the need for a government to pursue talks. He adds: "I think the Maoists are now trying to prepare for a big confrontation, the recent incidents may be aimed at gauging government response."

How much longer?

The other characteristic of the Prachanda Path doctrine, according to party literature published after the second convention in February is the fusion of the "mass uprising" in urban areas with the "peoples war" in the hinterland. The Maoists have declared eight districts in Bheri, Karnali and Rapti Zones as having "peoples' governments" and they appear to be consolidating their hold on districts on the periphery like Dang, Bajura and Dailekh. Analysts are expecting a major Maoist attack on vulnerable police stations in those areas. Instead of killing large numbers of policemen, Maoists are now also abducting scores of new recruits which brings them valuable manpower and weapons.

On the international front, the Maoists have joined forces with South Asian organisations to set up a Coordination Committee of Maoist Parties and Organisation of South Asia (CCOMPOSA) with member groups from India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, including the MCC and Peoples' War Group in India. The MCC, which is active in Bihar, is reported to have moved its bases to Darbhanga near the Nepal border. A CCOMPOSA press release in Patna said this week the "groups will unify and coordinate the activities of the Maoist parties and organisations in South Asia". A senior police official in Patna is quoted by an Indian internet journal as saying: "This is a matter of grave concern for the entire nation. The security and integrity of the nation is threatened by this trans-border Naxalite confederation."

The Maoists have been closely monitoring the post massacre developments and have adjusted their strategy accordingly. Prachanda issued his first statement on 2 June, denouncing the murder as a "political conspiracy" against a "liberal" and "nationalist" king who did not want to use the army to fight Maoists. His next statement on 5 June named Indian intelligence agencies and Girija Koirala as conspirators. Then in a 6 June write-up, Maoist ideologue Babu Ram Bhattarai, said the other conspirator was King Gyanendra and made his first call on the army to revolt to join the "nationalist" forces.

"The early statements were being made by the leaders individually, based on reports they were getting on the street protests," a Maoist source told us. "The idea was to keep the protests going." Then the party politburo sat down to assess the situation. Its 10 June statement endorsed the arguments forwarded by Prachanda and Babu Ram and announced the birth of a new republic. It also broadened its analysis explaining the existing theory on the murders: a conspiracy by US and Indian intelligence agencies to encircle and isolate China.

"Earlier our reading was that the king was on our side, now we have reason to believe he could side with government," the Maoist source told us. "We're watching the emerging political alliances, and naming CPN Unity Centre as an ally was to show others who want to join us in the interim government where they can come." This move appears to be the result of the Maoists' reasoning that before 1 June, the people either supported the Maoists or the monarchy. Now, they feel, the king is dead the new king is not popular so they can convert the monarchists as well.

Seen in this light, targetting King Gyanendra appears to be a strategic move rather than a conviction that he was a conspirator. Yubaraj Gyawali, a senior UML member of the Upper House sees this as proof that the Maoists were all along being supported by some palace elements. He told us: "Now we know that a faction of the palace was providing them some protection and that is why their morale was high. The threats against the king may either be posturing to try and get the same support, or it could be they are running scared."

The fact that the Maoists' tactics have changed so frequently is seen by some as confusion and differences in the ranks. Prachanda's statement on Sunday that only supporters of the "fascist Gyanendra-Girija clique will be attacked" is taken by some as an indication of such confusion. Earlier the Maoists' collection of taxes and donations were aimed at medium and large businesses and their targetting corrupt local officials were populist. Lately, however, the extortion is getting indiscriminate and hurting the not-so-well-off, and many popular local figures and elected officials have been brutally killed just for daring to oppose local Maoists.
But Maoist sources deny there is confusion, saying the party's response shows flexibility to changing circumstances. He told us the party could ultimately regard Gyanendra as a Sihanouk-type figure, or even the founding president of a new republic led by an interim government.

Essentially the palace killings have eclipsed the need for talks-for the time being at least. Independent analyst Pitamber Sharma says that by declaring Gyanendra and Girija as fair game, they've eliminated the need for a government to pursue talks. He adds: "I think the Maoists are now trying to prepare for a big confrontation, the recent incidents may be aimed at gauging government response.


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


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