Economic and Political Weekly (India) on “Nepal’s Maoist’s” lost compass, derailed

[Note from Frontlines: The author of the article below appears to assume that integration of the PLA would have “neutralized”
the Nepal Army, which was not even plausible.  The reverse was the case, and this is exactly what has happened with the integrated section (about 6,000) of the PLA that did not slowly leave the cantonments over the years or accept cash/retraining payments, who have been or are preparing to be consumed and digested by the NA.  Unfortunately, the unclarity on this issue led even Kiran and his allies in the newly-formed Communist Party of Nepal – Maoist to upheld integration until relatively recently.]
Vol – XLVII No. 38, September 22, 2012

With so many unfulfilled aspirations, the recent divide in the Maoist party in Nepal is depressing.

Tremendous hope coupled with so many unfulfilled aspirations had drawn the Nepali people to the Maoists, but their dreams now seem to be in the process of being prematurely shattered. Washington’s decision on 6 September to remove the Maoist party from its list of “terrorist organisations” had been on the anvil for the last two years, and it came just when the party seems no longer in a position to upset the status quo any further. The “two-line struggle”, underway within the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) [UCPN(M)], reached a point earlier this year when the party’s central committee reconciled itself to the reality of “one party with two lines” and it was only a matter of time when the faction led by the party’s erstwhile vice-chairperson Mohan Baidya “Kiran” would form a new party, which it did on 19 June. The new Maoist party, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) [CPN(M)], hopes to rekindle the aspiration of a people’s democracy – a democracy that takes into account the interests of the workers, the poor peasants, the oppressed nationalities and ethnic groups, women and dalits.

Expectations had run high ever since the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) of November 2006 and when the Maoist party emerged as the largest constituent in the April 2008 Constituent Assembly elections – mainly about integration of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) with the Nepal Army (NA) and the making of a people’s democratic, federal, republican constitution. Regarding the former, the prospect was of the integration of the PLA combatants with the chain of command intact, thus leading to “democratisation” in the leadership and structure of the NA. The combatants of the PLA had, after all, significantly contributed to the creation of the secular democratic republic that Nepal is today. The commanders should therefore have been treated on par with their counterparts in the NA, so also the soldiers; they should have been automatically absorbed into the NA without any process of selection. Was not integration supposed to have been a merger of the two armies? What has actually transpired is an insult to the dignity of the PLA’s commanders and other combatants. Indeed, it should not have surprised anyone that the 12 April 2012 military takeover of the PLA cantonments along with their weapons was the last straw for the veterans of people’s war period (1996-2006).

What of the promise of a people’s democratic, federal, republican constitution? To deal with this question politically, one needs to go back to the 2005 Chunbang meeting of the central committee of the Maoist party where a decision was taken to strive for a “democratic republic” in the immediate term. This was a significant tactical shift, a turning point as it soon became evident, but at that time it was merely seen as a transitional tactic in the path towards a people’s democratic republic. The 12-point agreement of 22 November 2005 with the seven parliamentary parties followed from this. From thereon to the 8-point agreement of 16 June 2006, the CPA, and the 18 June 2008 deal, all of which, taken together obliged the Maoist party to conclude the armed struggle and ultimately disarm. Its logic made them join the bandwagon of competitive multiparty politics, dissolve the people’s governments and the people’s courts that had been formed in the countryside and integrate the combatants of the PLA with the NA. From this followed the return of property, including land, of the landlords that had been confiscated as part of the radical land reform programme. In effect, the Maoists gave up the people’s war and the struggle for new democracy.

The UCPN(M) has thus become no more than a reformist left party. The tactical shift made at Chunbang in 2005, it was argued by its proponents in the Maoist party, would enable the creation of a strong revolutionary base in the cities, which would then make possible mass insurrection to seize political power at the centre. But without the PLA, the base areas, the people’s governments in the countryside, that is only a daydream now. The question being asked is whether the 12-point agreement, the 8-point deal, the CPA, and all the rest of the pacts that the Maoists entered into were part of a grand design on the part of Washington, Delhi’s South Block, Nepal’s seven parliamentary parties and the Prachanda-Bhattarai faction of the Maoist party to end the Nepali revolution.

The Baidya faction did try to reverse what seemed then to be the undoing of the revolution. When Kiran and C P Gajurel “Gaurav” were released from Indian prisons after the signing of the CPA, they protested at the “revisionist” line the party had taken. At the party plenum at Balaju in 2007, the Baidya faction is said to have pitched for urban insurrection; at the party convention at Kharipati in 2008, Kiran tried to correct the line taken at Chunbang, and at the Palungtar plenum in 2010, he again raised the question of urban insurrection, but the Prachanda-Bhattarai faction, which was in a majority, de facto won the day.

What about the question of federation? The Maoists were on dot in pitching for federalism in the widest sense of the term, giving the ethnic communities significant autonomy, and instituting the right to self-determination. But the Prachanda-Bhattarai faction had compromised on such matters too.

One can only be left wondering, if after all the sacrifices that Nepal’s most courageous youth have made, will the country get a people’s democratic constitution with a federal structure that takes cognisance of the society’s myriad oppressed ethnic and regional identities?

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