By Prateek pradhan
Editor , the Kathmandu Post
Pic by Narayan Wagle
Together with Narayan Wagle, editor of the Kantipur daily, I embarked on the journey to interview Prachanda alias Puspa Kamal Dahal.
We were neither nervous nor excited. We were only apprehensive that Prachanda, the supreme commander of the Communist Party of Nepal (CPN-Maoist), underground for over 30 years and leading the armed rebellion in Nepal for ten years, would really see us in person. We were not excited because we were not sure about publishing the interview; it would depend hugely on what he would have to say. More ominously we were worried about threats from both the armies if our movement was tracked.
On the set date and time, two people met us at a pre-destined location and escorted us to a simple house. A flight of stairs led to a small room where two people were already sitting. I recognized Dr Baburam Bhattarai, and it was not difficult to guess that the other person was Prachanda.
After shaking hands, we formally introduced ourselves. I mentioned that it would have been difficult to recognize Prachanda from the pictures that their party has so far released. I also reminded Dr Bhattarai that I had done his interview (along with Kantipur’s Guna Raj Luitel) when he was above ground for the second round of peace talks in Kathmandu in 2003.
During the peace talks, I (along with my colleague Ameet Dhakal) had done a life profile of Prachanda. I told Prachanda how we met all his family members at Devghat, when his youngest sister’s son’s chudakarma (a religious sanctity ceremony) was being performed.
In the meantime, Dr Bhattarai spoke about my article published in the Post on the 1st of February. He was not much satisfied. He said I had kept both the royal regime and the Maoist at equidistant. I told him that until the Maoists abandoned arms and came to the mainstream politics, we would never support them. However, both of us were not in a mood to accentuate the debate at the beginning of the interview. So, we tacitly avoided the issue.
It was a small room. A single bed, much higher than normal beds, was placed at a corner, and a sofa set was placed 90 degrees to the bed, leaving space for a small table between the bed and the sofa chairs at one side. The Maoist leader duo sat at one side and gestured us to sit on the other. When Baburam and I were discussing about my article, Prachanda climbed onto the bed.
“Baburamji, I will sit on the bed, it is easier for me from here, alright?” Prachanda addressed Bhattrai, as if seeking the latter’s consent. He then made himself more comfortable by placing a pillow on his lap (I remembered Mahara, another senior Maoist leader, who had sat exactly the same way, when I interviewed him during the ceasefire in 2003).
Once settled on the bed Prachanda asked why the current regime was totally against the media and Kantipur Publications in particular. We told him that it was because we support the people’s cause and flay the government for its inefficiency. Moreover, we were opposing this government because it was unconstitutional.
“We suffered when Koirala was prime minister; we suffered when Deuba was in the power. Now we are suffering during the royal regime, and we believe we will suffer even if your party comes to power,” we said. All of us laughed.
Then we started the formal interview and switched on the recorder. When Narayan started asking questions, I found Prachanda putting a bit extra effort in listening. Until he spoke, we did not know how he would react. However, when he spoke, we found him quite straightforward, uncomplicated, and he successfully showed his concerns to resolve the current crisis. He did not hesitate to answer any question, and not once did he ask to have the recorder switched off, throughout two hours of the interview. His simple Nokia mobile set (it was obviously not a sophisticated gadget or a satellite phone) rang quite a few times but he answered only once during the entire period. Interestingly, Baburam’s phone did not ring, maybe it was off.
“Demystified!” was the first word Narayan uttered after coming out from the interview venue. The interview would really demystify many, as we had been. The person was no longer a mystery, nor a phantom. He was a simple, unassuming middle-aged person with a passable look. The interview had also demystified many about his existence, and his party’s plans and programs. We were happy that the interview came out quite positive for peace and reconciliation, so we were both positive about publishing it.
I believe Prachanda provided interview to the Post and Kantipur to win the confidence of the middle class Nepali bourgeois with whom they have been unable to establish a rapport. They wanted to convince this mass that the Maoists are serious about peace, if the government shows seriousness. They also wanted to convince the political parties about their intention to go along with the 12-point agreement. They hinted to the parties that no single party should go it alone to hold talks with the king.
With the interview, Prachanda made maximum gains, as he successfully established his humanitarian, pro-peace and political image among the general public. They have also thrown the ball once again to the king’s court. They have given a clear choice to the king, either choose to reconcile or take the risk of pushing even democratic political parties to an armed revolution for a republican state. Now Nepali people are eagerly expecting the formal reaction to the insurgents’ peace bid.
UWB: This article originally appeared on the Post.
1. Editors’ Face To Face With Prachanda
18 responses to “A Rendezvous With Prachanda”
प्रत्यक्ष अन्तर्वार्ताको अन्तरकथा
“के तपाईंहरूलाई आँखामा पट्टी बाँधेर लगिएको थियो ?” एक जना सहकर्मीले सोझो मनले सोधे ।
“अज्ञातस्थलमा अन्तर्वार्ता लिएको भनेर लेख्नुभएको छ नि !” उनले भने ।
उनको जिज्ञासा सही थियो । खासमा त्यो अज्ञातस्थल थिएन । ठाउँको नाम नदिन डा बाबुराम भट्टराईले आग्रह गरेअनुसार हामी भूगोल उल्लेख नगरी भूमिगत देखिन पुग्यौँ । १० वर्षदेखि भूमिगत सङ्गठनको विद्रोहबारे दैनिकजसो समाचार छापिरहे पनि यस्तो अन्तर्वार्ताको अनुभव नहुनाले उपयुक्त शब्द तत्काल भेट्न नसक्नुको परण्िााम थियो त्यो ।
‘डेटलाइन’ नतोकी यस पङ्क्तिकारले १४ वर्ष लामो पत्रकारतिा अभ्यासमा लेखेको त्यो पहिलो समाचार र अन्तर्वार्ता थियो । स्वाभाविक रूपमा त्यसले व्यापक कौतुहल सिर्जना गर्यो । सुरुमा केहीबेर म आफू कसको अगाडि बस्दैछु भन्ने आत्मसात् गर्न असजिलो महसुस गर्दै थिएँ । मेरो असजिलोको मात्रा बढाउँदै प्रचण्ड आफैँ भन्दै थिए, “‘जनयुद्ध’ सुरु भएपछि कुनै नेपाली पत्रकारलाई प्रत्यक्ष अन्तर्वार्ता दिएको यो पहिलो हो ।”
‘माघ १९’ को पहिलो वाषिर्कीका अवसरमा प्रसारति शाही सम्बोधनले राजनीतिक निकास अस्वीकार गरेको थियो । के अर्को पक्षले पनि त्यसैगरी कुनै पनि निकासका उपाय बेवास्ता गर्ला ? भन्ने हाम्रो मुख्य चासो थियो । यस पङ्क्तिकार र दि काठमान्डू पोस्ट का सहकर्मी प्रतीक प्रधान त्यसतर्फ यात्रा गर्दै थियौँ, जहाँ हामी देशका ‘मस्ट वान्टेड’ व्यक्तिसँग भेट्दै थियौँ । हामी भेटप्रति धेरै निश्चिन्त पनि थिएनौँ । केही दिनदेखि डा भट्टराईसँग भइरहेको सूचना आदान-प्रदानका आधारमा हामी अन्तर्वार्ता लिन तयार भएका थियौँ । हामीलाई के विश्वास थियो भने भेट्न पाए शान्ति स्थापनाका पक्षमा उनका सकारात्मक धारणा तान्न सकिनेछ, कम्तीमा छलफल गर्न सकिनेछ । हिंसा जारी राख्ने माओवादी रणनीतिबारे आलोचनात्मक सुझाव दिन सकौँला भन्ने हाम्रो सुर थियो ।
माओवादी पटक्कै उदार र समझदार हुन सकेको छैन भने अन्तर्वार्ता छाप्न सकिँदैनथ्यो । विशेषगरी शाही सम्बोधनको प्रतिकारमा माओवादीले राजनीतिक समाधान देख्न छाडेको भए हामी निराश भई फर्किनुपर्ने हुन्थ्यो । अन्तर्वार्ता छापिनुअघि गृहमन्त्री कमल थापा हाम्रै पब्लिकेसन्सलाई लक्षित गर्दै ‘रमिोट कन्ट्रोल’ बाट सञ्चालित भन्ने सङ्गीन आरोप लगाउँदै थिए भने सूचना तथा सञ्चार राज्यमन्त्री श्रीषशमशेर राणा ‘अराजक सञ्चारमाध्यमलाई रोक्न अर्को कानुन’ ल्याउने घोषणा गर्दै थिए । अघिल्लो ‘माघ १९’ देखि सञ्चारमाध्यमलाई ‘कारबाही’ गर्ने सरकारको अनिवार्य लवज नियमित प्रकट हुने र ठाउँ-बेठाउँ अनेक दुःख दिने गरेकाले त्यसै पनि माओवादीसँगको अन्तर्वार्ता दिनु सहज थिएन । प्रेस काउन्सिलले एउटा अर्को कार्टुनमाथि फेर िस्पष्टीकरण सोधिरहेकै थियो । नारायणहिटी हत्याकाण्डपछि डा भट्टराईको लेख छापेबापत हाम्रा प्रकाशकहरू र तत्कालीन सम्पादक पक्राउ परी राजद्रोहको मुद्दा लागेको ताजै थियो ।
मन्त्रिपरष्िाद्का उपाध्यक्ष तुलसी गिरीले भन्न किन छाड्थे, “यस्तो अन्तर्वार्ता आउँदा पनि कान्तिपुर लाई कारबाही गर्न सकिएन ।”
शान्तिको कार्यसूची सरकारको प्राथमिकता होइन भन्ने प्रस्ट भएका हामीले यसको सम्भावनाप्रति माओवादी धारणा बुझ्नु उत्तिकै जरुरी थियो । हामी हिंसाका विरोधी भए पनि सैनिक समाधान असम्भव ठान्दै माओवादीलाई राजनीतिक मूलधारमा आकषिर्त गर्नुपर्छ भन्ने सम्पादकीय नीति भएकाले तिनको राजनीतिक अनुहार पहिचान गर्नु हाम्रो पेसागत कर्तव्य पनि थियो ।
“के सोध्ने भनेर छलफल नगर्ने ?” प्रतीकले सोधे ।
“मनमा खेलेका सबै प्रश्नको जवाफ खोजौँ,” मैले भनेँ । त्यसैअनुसार हामी कुनै खाका नकोरी ‘त्यहाँ’ पुगेका थियौँ ।
पहिला डा भट्टराईले कति समय चाहिन्छ भनी सोधी पठाएका थिए । मैले जान्ने टोपलिएर ‘दुई घण्टा’ भनिहालेँ । प्रायः कम्युनिस्ट नेताहरू लामो भूमिकासहित जवाफ दिने स्वभावले विषयवस्तुमा पुग्न समय लगाउँछन् । उनका वक्तव्य र लिखित अन्तर्वार्तामा परम्परागत र प्राविधिक शब्दावली, लम्बेतान भाषणबाजी पढ्ने गरेकाले त्यस्तो भान परेको थियो । सुरुमै त्यो शङ्का भुवाझैँ उड्यो, जब प्रचण्डले प्रसन्नचित्तसाथ हाँसेर स्वागत गर्दै हामीलाई सोझै प्रश्न गरे, “के छ काठमाडौँको स्थिति ?”
हामीलाई अन्तर्वार्तास्थलतिर डोर्याउने दुई तन्नेरी कार्यकर्ताले पहाडी पदयात्राको बुट लगाएका थिए । त्यहाँ जाडो थिएन, उनीहरू भने बाक्लो कपडामा थिए । हामीसँग खास कुरा गरेनन् । केहीबेरको हिँडाइपछि उनीहरूले एउटा घरको माथिल्लो तलामा उकाले, जहाँ केहीबेर पर्खिनुपर्ला भन्ने लागेको थियो । तर, ढोकाबाट छिर्नासाथ भित्रका दुई जना जुरुक्क उभिए ! डा भट्टराईलाई कसले नचिनोस् ? उनीभन्दा पछाडि उभिएका व्यक्ति भने हामीले कहिल्यै देखेका थिएनौँ । उनले हाम्रो नाम लिएर कसिलो हात मिलाए । त्यो एउटा साधारण कोठा थियो, जसको पूर्वपट्टकिा दुइटा कुर्सीमा हामी बस्यौँ । मैले टेबलमा झोला राखेँ । त्यसअघि हाम्रो शरीर जाँचिएला भन्ने लागेको थियो । तर, झोलासमेत वास्ता गरेनन् । आँखीभौँ र अनुहार आकृति भिन्न भएका, डा भट्टराईभन्दा अलि बाक्ला, मोटा र केही होचा व्यक्ति, जोसँग भर्खर हात मिलायौँ, तिनै प्रचण्ड हुन् भन्ने पक्का भयो । केही महिनाअघि रुकुमतिरको सांस्कृतिक कार्यक्रमको भिडियो दृश्यमा हाते रुमालले घरघिर िआँसु पुछ्दै गरेका तिनै व्यक्ति फरक देखिएका थिए !
“भिडियोमा त तपाईं अलि बेग्लै देखिनुभएको थियो,” हामीले भन्यौँ ।
“कति चाँडै साथीहरूले त्यो भिडियो कता-कता पुर्याएछन् !” उनले हाँस्दै भने ।
देशको राजनीतिक गञ्जागोल, माओवादीबारेका शङ्का-उपशङ्का, दलहरूको आन्दोलनको उतारचढाव र हिंसाचक्रले पारेको मनोवैज्ञानिक त्रासबारे हामीले सामान्य बेलीविस्तार गर्यौँ । डा भट्टराईले मलाई पल्पसा क्याफे का लागि बधाई दिए ।
मैले सोधेँ, “कस्तो लाग्यो तपाईंलाई ?”
“विषयवस्तुप्रति तपाईंको आफ्नो दृष्टिकोण हो,” उनले संक्षिप्त जवाफ दिए ।
निकै पढैया मानिने ती कम्युनिस्ट नेताको खास मूल्याङ्कन मैले पाउन सकिनँ, त्यसका लागि जोड पनि गरनिँ । तर पछि अन्तर्वार्ताका क्रममा प्रचण्डले “तपाईंहरूले त गाउँ घुम्नुभएको छैन, गाउँघरमा यस्तो छ, उस्तो छ,” भनिरहेका बेला डा भट्टराईले हाँस्दै काटे, “उहाँको त त्यस उपन्यासमा पहाडका निकै कुरा छन्, -घुम्नुभएको छ) ।”
प्रचण्डले पटक-पटक हामीलाई ‘शहरयिा, मध्यमवर्गी, बुद्धिजीवीका प्रतिनिधि’ भने । कतिसम्म भने हाम्रा प्रश्न हाम्रो पृष्ठभूमि र हामीले प्रतिनिधित्व गर्ने ‘वर्ग’ को दृष्टिकोणमा आधारति भन्ने उनको धारणा खुल्ने गर्यो । जब हाम्रा प्रश्न माओवादीबारे शङ्का र हिंसाबारे हुन्थ्यो, तब उनी त्यो हाम्रो ‘वर्गीय चिन्ता’ भन्ने गर्थे । अन्तर्वार्ताको सन्देश भने मध्यमवर्गदेखि पुँजीपतिसम्मले स्वीकार्ने ‘सबभन्दा लोकतान्त्रिक विधि’ अर्थात् संविधानसभाको निर्वाचन थियो । पहिलोपल्ट उनले प्रस्ट गरेका थिए, “संविधानसभाले सक्रिय राजतन्त्र भने पनि मान्ने, संवैधानिक राजतन्त्र र बहुदलीय प्रजातन्त्र भने पनि मान्ने ।” तर, उनले त्यसमा जोड दिएका थिए, “हाम्रो विश्वासचाहिँ के हो भने लोकतान्त्रिक गणतन्त्रमा देश जान्छ ।” अर्थात् संविधानसभाले ‘गणतन्त्र’ स्थापना गर्छ ।
डा भट्टराईले प्रतीकको एउटा लेखको प्रसङ्ग उप्काउँदै “तपाईंले हामीलाई राजाको समदूरीमा राखेर टिप्पणी गर्नुभयो” भने !
“हो, मैले तपाईंहरूले ल्याउने व्यवस्था पनि अधिनायकवादी हुन्छ भन्ने लेखेको हुँ,” प्रतीकले जवाफ दिए, “तपाईंहरूले खोजेको व्यवस्थाप्रति हामीमा त्यस्तो धारणा छ । किनभने, तपाईंहरूसँग हतियार छ ।”
“कहाँ त्यस्तो हुन्छ ?” डा भट्टराईले ‘टोटलिटरयिन’ भन्ने टिप्पणीबारे असन्तोष जाहेर गर्दै भने । तर, पछि “यो आ-आफ्नो दृष्टिकोण हो” भन्नेमा त्यो टुङ्गियो । त्यसरी सोझै विषयवस्तुमा हामी प्रवेश गर्दै थियौँ ।
प्रचण्डले सोधे, “तपाईंहरूका पत्रिकालाई सत्ताले किन ‘टार्गेट’ बनाएको हो ?”
“कान्तिपुर लाई त सधैँ सत्ताले सकेसम्म सताउँछ,” हामीले भन्यौँ, “पार्टीको प्रधानमन्त्री हुँदा पनि आफ्नो पक्ष लिएन भने पत्रिकालाई विपक्षी देख्ने प्रवृत्ति छ, अन्धसमर्थन लिन खोज्ने चाहना प्रायः सबै नेतामा हामी पाउँछौँ । यत्ति हो ‘माघ १९’ पछि हस्तक्षेप व्यापक भयो ।”
उनले चाखपूर्वक सुने ।
“भोलि तपाईंहरू आउनुभयो भने पनि हाम्रो भूमिका त यस्तै हुन्छ,” हामीले थप्यौँ । उनको मन्द मुस्कान सेतिँदै गएको कलिलो दारीमा लुकेको थियो ।
“तपाईंहरूलाई अन्तर्वार्ता दिन हामी तयार भएको चैँ, तपाईंहरूको सर्कुलेसन सबभन्दा बढी छ भनेर मात्र होइन,” डा भट्टराईले भने, “जनताको अधिकारका पक्षमा तपाईंहरू हुनुहुन्छ ।”
धन्यवाद दिँदै हामीले माओवादीको खास उद्देश्य जान्न सुरु गर्यौँ । प्रचण्डले ‘कुनै पनि कम्युनिस्ट पार्टीको अधिकतम लक्ष्य समाजवाद, साम्यवाद’ अहिलेको ‘धरातलीय यथार्थ’ मा सम्भव नहुने
स्वीकारोक्ति जनाए । पार्टीले तीन वर्षअघि एक्काइसौँ शताब्दीको जनवाद भन्ने प्रस्ताव पारति गरेको र संविधानसभामार्फत लोकतन्त्रात्मक गणतन्त्र त्यसैपछिको नारा बनेको उनले खुलाए । विश्व कम्युनिस्ट आन्दोलनमा लेनिनको मृत्युपछि राज्ययन्त्र प्राविधिक र कम लोकतान्त्रिक भएको, जनता निरस हुन थालेको र नेता नमर्दासम्म पार्टी र सरकारी पद नछाड्ने अनुभवबाट पाठ सिक्नुपर्ने उनले जनाए । चीन र भारतबीचको ‘भूराजनीतिक स्थिति’ र जनताको ‘राजनीतिक, सामाजिक, आर्थिक शक्ति-सन्तुलन’ का आधारमा लोकतान्त्रिक राज्यव्यवस्थाका पक्षमा पार्टीको निचोड उनले व्याख्या गरे । राष्ट्रिय सङ्कट निकासको त्यो एउटा सकारात्मक लचकता थियो ।
प्रचण्डले आफूलाई व्यवहारवादी नेताका रूपमा प्रक्षेपित गरे । कट्टर सिद्धान्तवादी कोरा मायाजालको बोक्रा त्यागेपछि नरम व्यावहारकि अनुहार उजागर हुन्छ भन्ने चरतिार्थ उनी गर्न खोज्दै थिए । माओवादीमा आएको यो परविर्तन राजनीतिक समाधानका पक्षमा थियो । देशको भूराजनीति, जनताको शक्ति सन्तुलनका अतिरत्तिm उनीहरू आफूप्रति विश्वस्त पनि देखिए । विशेषगरी सात दलसँग १२ बुँदे समझदारी कायम गरेपछि ‘लोकतान्त्रिक गणतन्त्र’ मुलुकको कार्यदिशा निश्चित भएको तिनको मूल्याङ्कन थियो । संविधानसभा एउटा लोकतान्त्रिक प्रक्रियाका रूपमा कसैले विरोध गर्न सक्दैन, जसमार्फत जनताले दिने मतप्रति आफूहरू प्रतिबद्ध रहनेमा तिनले जोड गरे । दलहरूसँगको समझदारीपछि दलका आन्दोलन बल्ल आन्दोलनजस्तो हुन थालेको र आफ्नोतर्फबाट हरयिो सङ्केत बलेपछि ‘जनता ह्वारर्र आन्दोलनमा देखिन थालेको’ भन्ने टिप्पणीले प्रचण्ड भोलि खुला
प्रतिस्पर्धामा प्रवेश गर्दा पनि जनमत लिन सक्ने विश्वासमा पुगेको देखिन्थ्यो । खुला र शान्तिपूर्ण राजनीतिक जीवनप्रति आशा जाग्नु सकारात्मक विकासक्रम हो । सँगसँगै उनी सशस्त्र आन्दोलनले गाउँदेखि नै ‘सामन्तवादको जरा उखेलेको’ र ‘जनताको चेतनास्तर विश्वकै अग्रगामीमध्ये बनाएको’ सफलता वर्णन गर्न खोज्दै थिए, जसबाट उनी प्रतिस्पर्धी राजनीतिक पार्टीका रूपमा बहुदलीय लोकतान्त्रिक राज्यव्यवस्थामा सामेल हुनसक्ने अवस्थामा पुगेका देखिन्थे ।
उनले आफ्नो मानवीय अनुहार पनि प्रकट गरे, जब उनी भन्दै थिए, “रगत बगेको कसलाई मन पर्छ ? हामीलाई पनि मन परेको छैन । हामी यो रक्तपात रोक्न चाहन्छौँ ।” त्यसैगरी उनी विशेषगरी सात दल अझ प्रस्ट हुन नसकेको र माओवादीलाई शङ्का गर्न नछाडेकामा चित्त दुःखाउँदै थिए । “कहिलेकाहीँ बाबुरामजी, हामी कुरा पनि गर्छौं, केही गरे पनि सुख नपाइने भयो, धर्मसङ्कटमा परयिो,” उनी भन्दै थिए, “युद्धविराम बढाऊँ राजाले चुनाव गरछिाड्ने, नबढाऊँ फेर िमाओवादी हावी हुने भए भन्ने शङ्का पाल्ने !”
सरकारलाई राजनीतिक समाधानका सूत्रमा सहमत गराउन आन्दोलनको दबाब चाहिने निचोड उनको थियो । दलहरूले आफैँ आन्दोलन गर्दा दबाब नपुग्ने गरेको धारणा भएका प्रचण्डले आफ्नातर्फबाट सशस्त्र दबाब दिँदा दलहरूबाट उहीस्तरमा सराहना पाउन नसकेको गुनासो गरे । हिंसाको समर्थन अन्य दलले गर्न सक्दैनन् । तर, दलहरू आफैँ आन्दोलन उठाउन पनि सक्दैनन् भन्ने खुलासामार्फत माओवादी राजनीतिक समाधानका लागि व्यग्र देखिए । संविधानसभासम्म पुग्ने मार्गचित्रबारे दलहरूसँगको भिन्नता पनि उनले लुकाउन चाहेनन् । युद्धविराम गरेर राजालाई संयुक्त राष्ट्रसङ्घीय महासभामा सहभागी बन्नबाट रोक्ने वातावरण बनाउन सकेका माओवादीले चुनाव विफल पार्ने रणनीतिका लागि भने त्यही बाटो अख्तियार गर्न सकेनन् । उनीहरू दबाबमूलक कारबाही अहिलेको मूल लक्ष्य बनाइरहेका पाइए । साझा सेना बनाउने प्रस्ताव दलहरूका लागि सम्भव देखिँदैन भन्ने उनले बुझेकै हुनुपर्छ । साझा सेना र समानान्तर सरकार पनि राजालाई दबाब दिने रणनीति भन्ने छर्लङ्ग हुन्थ्यो । किनभने, “संविधानसभाले सक्रिय वा संवैधानिक राजतन्त्र भन्ने परण्िााम दिए त्यो पनि स्वीकार्छौं,
त्यस्तो परण्िााम आए शाही नेपाली सेना जस्ताको तस्तै रहनेछ” भनेर स्वीकार्न उनले हिच्किचाएनन् । सेनाको पुनर्गठन गर्नसके सीमित ठाउँ दिएर राखिएको राजसंस्थाबाट भविष्यमा राजनीतिक महत्त्वाकाङ्क्षा प्रकट हुने सम्भावना टार्न सकिन्छ भन्ने उनको मनसाय पनि व्याख्या गर्न सकिन्थ्यो ।
झन्डै तीन दशकदेखि भूमिगत जीवनमा अभ्यस्त प्रचण्ड सीधा प्रश्नोत्तरमै खुल्दै गए । सुरुमा उनी डा भट्टराईलाई सोध्दै कुर्सीबाट बुद्रुक्क खाटमा सरेका थिए, हाम्रो सम्मुख बस्न । सजिलोका लागि तकिया तानेर काखमा राखे । हातमा मोबाइल फोन थियो । दुई घण्टाभित्र त्यसमा चार-पाँचपटक फोन आयो । घण्टी बजे पनि उनी काट्दै जान्थे । एकपटक भने “एकछिन है” भनेर उनले मोबाइल उठाए । “ह…ह…,” भन्दै उनले सोधे, “अनि कार्यक्रम के भयो ?”
अन्तर्वार्ताक्रममा उनीहरूले कहिल्यै टेप रेकर्डर अफ गर्न भनेनन्, त्यतिबेला भने फोनवार्ता रेकर्ड नहोओस् भनेर डा भट्टराईले हामीलाई आग्रह गरे । काठमाडौँबाट कसैले सम्पर्क गरेको रहेछ । फोन सकिएपछि हामीले सोध्दा त्यसबारे पनि उनी खुलस्त हुन खोजे । अघि हामीलाई डोर्याउँदै ल्याउने दुई तन्नेरीले सिसाको गिलासमा कहिले कोक, कहिले चिया ल्याए ।
बिस्कुटका पुरयिा पनि खोले । छेउमा भान्छा थियो तर त्यो नेताद्वयको अस्थायी ‘सेल्टर’ हुनुपर्छ । किनभने, डा भट्टराईले एकपल्ट एक तन्नेरीलाई सोधेका थिए, “ट्वाइलेट कतापट्ट िहो ?”
सुरुमा प्रचण्ड र बाबुराम दुवै अन्तर्वार्तामा बस्लान् भन्ने हामीलाई शङ्कै थियो । किनभने, त्यस्तो मारकाट परेको एक वर्ष पनि बितेको छैन । तर, पार्टी अध्यक्षको अन्तर्वार्ता आयोजना गराउनेदेखि अन्तर्वार्ताक्रममा घरघिर िअध्यक्षलाई सहयोग गर्नेसम्म डा भट्टराई तत्पर भइरहे । अरूबेला भने सायद अत्यधिक थकानवशः उनी हाई काड्थे, खुट्टा हल्लाउँथे । कतै हाम्रा प्रश्न उनलाई झर्को लागेको त होइन भन्नेसम्म चिसो पस्थ्यो । तर, बेला-बेला चुसुक्क आफ्नो सानो टिप्पणी उनी घुसाउँथे ।
‘पार्टी हाइकमान्ड’ कहिल्यै पनि सत्ता र शक्तिमा नलाग्ने, ‘मोरल अथोरटिी’ का रूपमा रहने भनेर प्रचण्डले जवाफ दिएपछि हामीले त्यसबारे प्रस्ट गर्न आग्रह गर्दा डा भट्टराईले प्वाक्क थपे, “गान्धी बन्ने गान्धी !”
सशस्त्र हिंसात्मक आन्दोलनलाई “सर्प पनि नमर्ने, लट्ठी पनि नभाँचिने कहाँ हुन्छ ?” भन्ने नेताले आजीवन अहिंसात्मक आन्दोलनका पर्याय बनेका महात्मा गान्धीको नाम लिँदा हाम्रो हाँसो छुट्नु अचम्म थिएन । “तपाईंहरू अहिले यसरी एकै ठाउँ मिलेर बस्नुभएको छ,” हामीले सोधेका थियौँ, “त्यत्रो कलह सार्वजनिक भएको थियो !”
“त्यो पनि माघ १९ सँगै,” हामीले थपेका थियौँ ।
प्रचण्ड त्यही कारण पनि बढी खुलस्त लाग्यो, जब उनले विवादको कारण खोतल्दै गए । “माघ १९ सँगै विवाद देखिनु त्यो एउटा दुर्भाग्य थियो,” उनले भने । त्यो विवादको चरण पार भइसकेको सावित गर्ने प्रयत्न उनले गरे ।
“बाबुरामले भारत सरकारसँग सम्बन्ध बनाएर मलाई पक्रिन लगाउँछन् भन्ने पार्टीमा परेको थियो” भन्दै उनले त्यसअघि मातृका यादव र सुरेश आलेमगर भारतीय प्रहरीले पक्रेर नेपाललाई सुपुर्दगी गर्दा “मलाई पक्राउ गर्न खोजेका थिए भन्ने परेको थियो” समेत भने । परस्पर षड्यन्त्रको आशङ्का चुलिँदै गएपछि एकले अर्कालाई ‘पार्टीहरूसँग र अरूसँग पनि वार्ता गर्न’ डा भट्टराईलाई भारत पठाएपछि आफू पनि त्यतै गएको -तर पक्राउ नपरेको), एकै ठाउँ बसेर सात दलका प्रतिनिधि नेताहरूसँग वार्ताकै क्रममा आफूहरूबीच छलफल हुँदै गएपछि शङ्का निवारण भएको उनले खुलस्त पारे ।
“त्यति हुँदा एउटा कम्युनिस्ट पार्टी फुटिसक्थ्यो” भन्ने प्रचण्डले आपसी विवाद मिलाएर हामीसँग अन्तर्वार्ता क्रममा केही महत्त्वपूर्ण बुँदामा टिप्पणी गर्नुपर्दा डा भट्टराईतिर हेर्ने गरेको देखियो । त्यसले उनीहरूबीच सम्बन्ध पुनः यथावत् राख्न सकेको जनाउँथ्यो ।
अन्तर्वार्तापछि मैले क्यामरा निकालेर तस्बिर खिच्न अनुमति माग्दा प्रचण्डले हत्तपत्त कुनै निधो गर्न सकेनन् । डा भट्टराईले भने, “होइन नखिचौँ, उहाँलाई -आवागमनमा) अप्ठ्यारो पर्छ ।” उहाँका यसअघि सार्वजनिक भएका तस्बिरभन्दा के फरक होला र भन्ने जिकिर गर्दै गर्यौँ । हामीले जोड पनि गर्यौँ, यस्तो पहिलो अन्तर्वार्ता फोटोबिना आकर्षक हुँदैन भनेर । प्रचण्डले अन्त्यमा सोधे, “के गर्ने त बाबुरामजी, ल भन्नोस् !”
डा भट्टराईले ‘हुन्छ त’ भनेपछि उनी क्यामरातिर हेर्न राजी भए । कुनैबेला माओवादी भन्नेबित्तिकै डा भट्टराई भन्ने गर्थे, “शहरयिा बुद्धिजीवीहरू” । माओवादी भन्दा “डा भट्टराईहरू…” भन्ने गरेको सुनिन्थ्यो । एसएलसी बोर्डफस्ट भएका, जवाहरलाल नेहरू विश्वविद्यालयबाट विद्यावारििध गरेका, आर्किटेक इन्जिनियरका रूपमा रामेछापको मन्थलीलगायतका शहरको रेखाङ्कन गरेका, पञ्चायतकालमा मानवअधिकार सङ्गठनमा समेत उपाध्यक्ष भएका, काठमाडौँ बसेर ०४६ साल र त्यसपछि ‘मसाल जुलुस’ र ‘नेपाल बन्द’ गर्ने गरेका, उसमाथि दुई वर्षअघि वार्ताटोलीको नेतृत्व गर्दै आएका उनको व्यक्तित्वको प्रभाव र प्रचार सधैँ भूमिगत रहेका प्रचण्डको तुलनामा अत्यधिक हुनु स्वाभाविक थियो । प्रसङ्गैप्रसङ्गमा एउटा जवाफका क्रममा आफू र आफ्नो पार्टीबारे हुने गरेका भ्रम खोतल्दै अध्यक्षले स्वीकारहिाले, “कस्तोसम्म भयो भने प्रचण्ड भनेको कोही पनि छैनजस्तो समेत भयो !”
प्रचण्ड र डा भट्टराईको मेलमिलापको गाँठीबारे भेउ पाउन त्यत्तिमा सम्भव थिएन । तर, उनले आफूलाई व्यावहारकि नेताका साथै दुवैको पार्टी फुटाउने नियत नभएकाले छलफलद्वारै विवाद टुङ्ग्याइएको बताउन जोड गरे । “तपाईंहरू ‘हाइकमान्ड’ कहिल्यै सत्तामा नजाने र पछि पार्टीको पद पनि नलिने सम्झौता त्यही विवाद मिलाउने कुरासँग सम्बन्धित हो ?” भन्ने प्रश्न गर्दा भने उनले त्यसलाई नकारे । तर, त्यो माओवादी पार्टीमा विकसित भइरहेको धेरैथरी स्वीकारोक्ति र लचकताको एउटा कडी हो भन्ने हामीलाई पर्यो ।
संविधानसभातिर पुग्दा जातीय, क्षेत्रीय अखण्डता र स्थायित्व चुनौतीपूर्ण नहोला भन्ने के भर भन्ने जिज्ञासा अन्तर्वार्ताको बिट मार्दै हामीले राख्यौँ । डा भट्टराई चित्त नबुझेको कुरा ट्वाक्कै भन्न चाहने रहेछन्, यस्तो पनि शङ्का राख्ने भन्ने शैलीमा प्याट्ट भनिहाले, “एक व्यक्तिबाट हुने स्थायित्व वा अखण्डता, भोलि जनताले गर्न नसक्ने कुरा आउँछ ?”
“तपाईंहरूले मेरो किताब पढ्नुभयो ?” केहीबेरअघि उनले सोधेका थिए ।
“छैन,” भनेपछि उनले दुई प्रति त्यहाँछेउ कतै बसिरहेका तन्नेरीसँग मागे । अनि, हामीलाई दिए, नयाँ दिल्लीमा छापिएको त्यो अङ्ग्रेजी लेखहरूको सँगालोको आवरणमा लेखिएको थियो, मोनार्की भर्सेज डेमोक्रेसी ।
प्रचण्ड भन्दै थिए, “मैले भनेका कतिपय शब्दहरू छाप्न तपाईंहरूलाई गाह्रो हुन्छ भन्ने हामीलाई थाहा छ ।”
त्यो ठीक हो तर हामीले पहिला सोचेभन्दा धेरै फरक अन्तर्वार्ता पाएका थियौँ, जसमा शब्दहरू मात्र मिलाए पुग्ने थियो । उनको राजनीतिक लक्ष्य अन्य शक्तिहरूभन्दा खासै भिन्न थिएन, केवल प्रक्रियागत मतभेदहरू थिए ।
UWB: This article originally appeared in Nepal Magazine. UWB posted it here.
Narayan and Prateek should accept that the interview took place in the neighbourhood of New Delhi.
Many sources tell that the ground level maoists are no more under the control of the top maoist leaders. Do you think that is true? If thats true, the maoist problem may becomes more difficult to solve and the leaders may not have much control over the direction in which the maoist movement is moving.
The both journalists had shown the guts to meet the great heroes and supreme commanders of Nepal. This interview have shown their great contribution to the country. Now other parties are accepting them and following their footsteps.
Great heroes and supreme commanders of Nepal? Well, we might have to call them with such titles if the Maoists come to power, just the way we call Prithvi Narayan Shah, the “badamaharaj dhiraj sarkar” now. Afterall, he was a mass murderer too. He, too, committed brutality against the people of Kathmandu Valley and diferent other places. But, he who has the power, gets all the respect !
The interview is fantastic! All should appreciate the journalistic skills and ethics exhibited by the two senior and the most popular journalists of Nepal. It all comes through commitment and hardwork and yes, they are an epitome of all these for the Nepali journalists…Good job at a crucial time…
I fear now the hypocrite royalists will brand these two journalists as “terrorist sympathizers”…and Kantipur publication will be the prime target of the government…already we have got hints from Mr.Giri and Mr.Shumsher (these ppl are nonsense ppl sucking the hard earned money of Nepalese people)…and the biggest sucker is their Chairman!
Here is the Prachanda Interview:
We want to stop bloodshed: Prachanda
The Kathmandu Post: What is your bottom line for restoring peace in the country?
Prachanda: The understanding we have reached with the seven political parties is the bottom line at the moment. The 12-point understanding is the minimum base that democratic powers all over the world can accept and the country’s crises can have an exit. After reaching the understanding, we extended the cease-fire by a month. Taking the people’s verdict is the best democratic process. Once all are committed to move forward with the outcomes of the people’s verdict, a political solution won’t be distant. The events and history are testimony to the fact that the king and the palace don’t want this.
Post: What about your goals?
Prachanda: Since we belong to a communist party, our maximum goals are socialism and communism. Those are the maximum goals of all those accepting Marxism, Leninism and Maoism as philosophical and ideological assumptions. Given the international power balance and the overall economic, political and social realities of the country, we can’t attain those goals at the moment. We must accept this ground reality. We have mentioned democratic republic and constituent assembly, with the understanding that we should be flexible given the balance in the class struggle and international situation. This is a policy, not tactics. This is a necessary process for the bourgeoisie and the national capitalists alike, let alone the middle-class.
Post: Constituent assembly?
Prachanda: Yes. Constituent assembly is not a demand of the communists. It’s a democratic process established by the capitalists a long time back.
We are not saying this as a tactic. We have adopted this policy due to today’s balance in class powers and today’s world situation so that the Nepali people won’t have to endure any more troubles. On the one hand, those elites in the feudal palace, despite knowing it, call our policy just a tactic.
On the other, the Maoist movement has become the main fear of foreign powers – especially American imperialism. [They] have termed us a “momentary challenge”. They have been looking at us strategically, saying that a “Maoist movement is flaring up in a land between giant countries
China and India, it can strike the whole world tomorrow.” They are cautiously trying to give out a wrong message in this regard.
Post: What is the process?
Prachanda: We are even ready to accept restoration of the dissolved House of Representatives if the seven parties say so. The only condition is: don’t try to restore the authoritarian power. There are also shadows in the Supreme Court, so don’t turn to that either. Restore the House by coming to the people, and we are ready to change the People’s Army in a jiffy.
Post: Changing the army?
Prachanda: We have told the seven parties, let’s form a common army by including your people. One of the bases of confusion about us is that we have an army, we have guns. There are confusions about to what extent we are committed to democracy. Let’s sit together with all including the seven parties; let’s decide together who should be commanders, commissars, chief of the army; let’s make a common army. Let’s make a national army. We have made this proposal to both Girija and Madhav, saying that this will make clear our understanding on democracy and constituent assembly. Maybe, on the one hand, we haven’t been able to clarify the depth and meaning of the issue; and on the other hand, the imperialists and palace elements have spread propaganda against us, thereby creating confusions.
Post: Isn’t this proposal of making a common army a ploy to push the parties into the “People’s War”?
Prachanda: [laughing…]. The parties always continued to be hopeful of the palace right since 2007 B.S. , they kept on making compromises with the palace. They should have more trust in the people, more trust in the people’s power, should have led a people’s decisive movement against feudal elements. We say, let’s make a common army for constituent assembly and a democratic republic. Let’s form a parallel government of the parties and the Maoists. You restore the House, we will support you; invite us for dialogue, we will come; let’s make the army common by including all; that will make for an official and legitimate government. That will represent the majority people – the government of the [seven] parties and a party that rebelled. After forming such a government, we can approach the United Nations and the international community, saying ‘this is the legitimate government of Nepal’. Since we have this kind of a proposal, how can it be about bringing the parties into the “People’s War”? Rather, it’s about us going for the parties’ politics. It’s about us going for a constituent assembly and a democratic republic. [It’s about] us going for bourgeois democracy.
Post: How will you manage your arms?
Prachanda: If all are ready to go for a constituent assembly, an interim government will be formed; the country will head towards elections for the constituent assembly; a ceasefire is undoubtedly attached to this; and it will create a climate for political debate. With the process of holding election by the interim government under way, there will be interaction with the parties and all the political forces in the country including the monarchists. As the election looms, let’s maintain reliable international vigil on the Royal Army and the People’s Liberation Army. The country will get a direction after the results of the election are out. Once it is clear, let’s change the army and the weapons into a national army and national weapons respectively. The weapons of both sides should be put together and both the armies should be transformed into one under the supervision of the United Nations or another reliable agency. That will result in the national army.
Post: Is it your proposal to keep both the armies under international supervision until the election to the constituent assembly and formation later of a common army?
Prachanda: The army will be formed according to the results of the election. This is what you should be clear about. We will accept it if the constituent assembly says we want monarchy. We are flexible even that far. We will accept it even if the people say we want an active monarch. If the people say ‘republic’, all should accept that. If the people go for, as has been said, a constitutional monarchy and multiparty democracy, we are ready for that. We value people’s votes, nobody else’s. The army will be reformed as per the people’s decision.
Post: So, you want to keep the conflict on to force the king to compromise?
Prachanda: Flexible words are not enough to pressure the king. If it is thought that the king would agree to revive the House, it is a thought of seeking the king’s mercy. What we want to tell the parties is let’s directly go for republic. A section of middle-class intellectuals still wants the king to remain in a ceremonial capacity. Even if you want the king to remain in such a capacity, only the call for a republic will create enough pressure for that. The king must come to that point.
Post: Have you received any conditional proposal for a constituent assembly from the government?
Prachanda: Since February 1 last, we have had no contact whatsoever with the palace or the palace people, hence we haven’t received any proposal. We have gotten an indication, through the UN people or other international agencies, that they [government] are trying to propose in a roundabout way a conditional constituent assembly. We reject it outright because “conditional” means “compromise”, which is not a constituent assembly. A constituent assembly is without any conditions. Before February 1, we had said we would talk to the king, not the parties. We had said we wanted to talk [with him] for progress. After he started to go towards regression with all the powers, there was no room for holding talks with him.
Post: Isn’t it self-contradictory to say ‘we will talk only with the real power, not with the parties and their government’, and later to say ‘we won’t talk with the king after he announced taking over power’?
Prachanda: The power of the old regime rested in the king because the main organ of the regime, the army, was under him. He termed us “deviated” and “terrorists” when he staged the February 1 coup. It was proven that he didn’t want to solve the problems even after taking absolute powers, by telling the parties off. The doors for talks were closed.
Bhattarai: He should have said ‘okay I have come, let’s solve the problems together’! He started saying ‘I won’t give you the rights you enjoyed till yesterday’.
Prachanda: That’s the logic. The situation would have altered had he said ‘Nobody did really work out, now the Maoists also come for dialogue, I want to give a try for a way out’.
Post: But, don’t you think you have been aiding the king’s “war against terror” in the name of “entering the city”?
Prachanda: America has been saying this. The biggest terrorist of the world today is America, and its ruling class. They gave birth to Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. Iraq is in the making of another Vietnam, Afghanistan is on the way. They call us terrorist? They have been giving impetus to the purely traditional force of calling the people subjects. You must have met [US Ambassador] Moriarty several times. He exaggerates while talking about us. As if the Maoists will take over, as if they will surround Kathmandu when we are not in that position. What they have been saying in a roundabout way is that the army is nice, but the king didn’t understand. Has America tried to make the people sovereign anywhere? Why is America afraid of us? Because it is in an ideological crisis.
Post: Isn’t there an ideological crisis within your party?
Prachanda: We are investigating what mistakes our classes have made in the 20th century. We reviewed three years ago that the mechanism of running the state was not that democratic, was more mechanical, the people started to become monotonous in the 20th century communist movement, especially after the demise of Lenin. We passed a decision that we will go for a new people’s democracy consistent with the 21st century. We aren’t just saying democratic republic. The think tanks of American imperialism have well understood, though Nepal is a small country they have been forced to say, that this is the most successful revolution of the 21st century. If it’s successful in Nepal, it has and will have direct impact on the one billion people of India, and it will also spill over into China. When it affects two or two and a half billion people, it means it will have impact all over the world. American intellectuals have understood this. That’s why, they are of the opinion that the Maoists shouldn’t prevail, rather it’s alright to have an autocratic regime. Don’t we know who made Marcos? Who brought Pinochet forward in Chile?
Post: Do you mean to say America is the real support behind the king?
Prachanda: We think so. Facts substantiate that. Even the parties are in confusion about whether we will prevail. Sometimes, we feel sad. We have told the parties, you take the leadership role, we don’t need it. The only thing is that the country should find a way out. We have said that the party leaders can lead the democracy. We are not in a hurry to lead the nation.
Post: You want international mediation. Don’t you think Nepal can solve the problems itself?
Prachanda: On the one hand, the political forces within the country are not able to convince one another. Secondly, it is the geopolitics between two giant countries – China and India. International mediation is essential due to these reasons. We think that the UN is the best option, but we don’t stick to that alone. The UN or any other reliable organization will work. It should be agreeable to China, India and the United States. We want no bloodshed. We want the bloodshed to stop and go for a solution, but if we don’t take action, he won’t give us the rights. Obviously the three-month cease-fire was for finding an exit. The king has said that the “momentary cease-fire” was a ploy to intensify violence. We didn’t have that intention. The cease-fire was a pressure for a peaceful way out, not a tactic. Later, we added one more month so as to further pressurize the king for a peaceful way out. He thought – their backbone has been broken, they have announced cease-fire for power accumulation!
Post: Will you go for talks if the government declares a unilateral cease-fire now?
Prachanda: We can’t go for talks only with a ceasefire. We should look into the intention behind the truce. If the ceasefire comes as a card with the intention of defusing the movement, we won’t accept it.
Post: Then, what should happen?
Prachanda: We are open to holding unconditional discussions on all issues including constituent assembly. We will reciprocate positively if the ceasefire seems to be leading to meaningful dialogue. But, we don’t see that possibility.
Post: When will this series of violence end?
Prachanda: I can’t answer this question like an astrologer. If things go as we have said, it should end in two to three months. We want to see things crystal clear by April 6. We have been trying to see the civil war has an outlet.
Post: Your armed insurgency is close to reaching 10 years. Have you spotted your mistakes in this period?
Prachanda: The base of feudalism has been uprooted in the villages. The people are in the forefront of the world population when it comes to political consciousness. When we started the movement, there were not more than 70 full-time members in the party. Our movement grew in multiples wherever there was suppression. Within five years, it became a big power at the national level. So many people came to join us that it became like a people’s movement.
Post: Lack of discipline was also a big issue?
Prachanda: Yes, that’s absolutely true. People of all kinds came to join us. A little bit of freedom, anarchy and conservativeness started to become visible. Militarily, after we successfully carried out big operations in Dang, Gam, Achham, Arghakhanchi, Jumla, Satbariya, we had thought the army would lose faster than the police, maybe within a year or two. There was increase in multiples in the military prowess in preparation for capturing Kathmandu. Before that, the rulers of America and India got too serious. Weapons came from America, training from America, American fortification came and American money came. All the things came from America and India. They got strong fortifications. On the one hand, the war got prolonged. There was too much propaganda against us, which we couldn’t stop. On the other, we couldn’t provide ideological and political training to the new recruits. They came as they were. When we were getting over all these shortcomings, you saw internal rift within us.
Post: Internal rift within your party surfaced around the time February One happened?
Prachanda: Yes, along with February One, which was the irony.
Post: Have you seen any policy shift by India towards the Maoists?
Prachanda: We have thought there are certain changes post-February 1. But, India and America don’t want to finish the monarchy off. They want the monarchy to come to a compromise. Maybe they are bargaining.
Here is Prachanda’s latest interview to BBC’s Charles Haviland
Chairman Prachanda – your war is 10 years old now. The economy is in ruins. Tourism is way down. Rural poor have fled their homes and live in terror. And 13,000 people are dead. It’s been a disaster hasn’t it?
We’ve certainly never said it was good.
When we started a people’s revolution, we tried to advance the Nepali people’s needs and the society’s needs in a peaceful way.
Everyone knows when we were in parliament, following its processes, we put forward 40 demands so that the problems of Nepalis would be solved in a peaceful way.
But, when the ruling classes and the feudalists were not ready to solve the problems of Nepalis peacefully, and instead started victimising our party workers and people who supported us in a brutal and illegitimate fashion, they compelled us and the Nepali people to take up arms.
That doesn’t mean we are happy about 13,000 people being killed. For sure, we are saddened by it.
But the responsibility doesn’t lie with us. It lies with a small clique of privileged class who want to keep Nepal as a medieval feudal state. That is our belief, and that, I think, is the truth.
Let’s talk about the “feudals and aristocrats”. You say that they are your biggest enemies. Fine, they are sitting safe, mainly in Kathmandu and the other cities. But people who suffered are the poor people in the rural areas. Isn’t that true?
It is not true. In history, wherever there has been a revolutionary movement, when people’s movement moves forward – in the process of revolution, a clique of feudal elements will be staying within the fortification of the army. They will stay in there until their end comes but in the end, revolution will, as seen by history, destroy the feudal elements and in the end, these elements will have to come to the people’s court and be tried.
We believe that in the near future, these elements will be in the people’s court and will be tried by the people. When the revolution begins, they will be staying within the army barracks and army protection and so they will not be the ones caught at the beginning.
History has always shown this.
One reason that people including the Americans are scared of you is that they have a nightmare vision – a Maoist takeover, conquering and entering Kathmandu with bloodshed.
Is that your aim – to conquer Kathmandu militarily?
What America is thinking, I think they are thinking wrong.
It is the Americans who have that level of bloodthirstiness. They have been killing and attacking innocent civilians. We are not like that. We certainly want to capture Kathmandu for Nepali people, for democracy and for peace, it is important that the Nepali people have to conquer and we want to go to Kathmandu. It is not like the American vision where there would be a river of blood. We want to conquer Kathmandu with the people’s rebellion.
So you think you can conquer Kathmandu militarily?
We are not only talking about militarily. I believe we can, and we have to conquer Kathmandu both militarily and politically. That’s why we have not thought about it in a purely military way.
As you know, we have made an agreement with the parliamentary political parties and we want to get to Kathmandu militarily too. This is certain. We are not thinking of this in a purely military fashion and that is why we are talking about democracy and peace, and for this we have made agreements with the political parties. This proves that we do not want to get to Kathmandu in a purely military way but also in a political and military way.
You say politically. Does that mean in fact you don’t really expect to be able to conquer the capital militarily?
When we started the people’s revolution and when we first attacked the feudal elements’ Royal Army, we believed that we could conquer Kathmandu militarily.
But later, when countries like the US, the UK and India started supporting the Royal Army militarily – against our people’s war and the revolt of Nepali people – that has posed some difficulties.
That is why we believe that in today’s world it’s not possible only to move forward militarily.
Today’s reality is to move forward both politically and militarily, with a balance of the two.
Only with this balance can we gain something for the people and the people’s democracy.
That’s why we are organising on both fronts, political and military.
So you’re saying that in today’s world you don’t think it would possible to take the capital city militarily?
It is possible.
But in today’s situation it would cause a lot of harm to the Nepali people.
That’s why we like the political solution better. And we are working towards it.
You signed an agreement in India last November with the mainstream political parties, the main opposition parties. That agreement talked about you, the Maoists, “moving along a peaceful political stream”. Are you preparing for peace?
We are always ready for peace, and when we started the people’s war, after a while we said that if the ruling classes would want to peacefully solve the problems of Nepali people, we were ready.
Now, in the agreement with the parties, we are still saying that if there is an environment where people can give their own verdict, through an election of a constituent assembly, where people have a voice on the kind of governance that they want, if that right is with the people, then we are ready to have a political competition with the parties. And this is the truth.
This in fact your main political demand – an elected assembly to draw up a new constitution. If that elected assembly drew up a constitution that kept Nepal as a kingdom, with a king, would you be happy?
We have said that there should be a democratic republic in Nepal. Our struggle is for a democratic republic.
But we have said that people should be harmed to the minimum extent possible. And if the problem is solved in a peaceful and democratic way, we are ready for it, and that’s why we have called for a constituent assembly.
We believe that with the election of a constituent assembly, a democratic republic will be formed in Nepal. And this will solve the problems of Nepalis and lead the country into a more progressive path.
And since we have said that we’d go for a peaceful election of the constituent assembly, we’re ready to follow whatever the verdict of the people is.
We have stated this over and over again. We’ll accept the people’s verdict. Whatever decision the people should give, we will be ready to accept this.
Does that mean you would theoretically be able to accept a people’s verdict of keeping the monarchy?
Yes, theoretically it is like that. But we believe that people would not give that kind of verdict in the current situation. That is our faith and belief and whatever you can say, we are ready to follow the people’s verdict.
That would mean that ideologically if the people want that, we will follow that.
But we believe that the people’s version will be for a democratic republic.
Does that mean you could imagine yourself or someone from your party actually serving as prime minister under King Gyanendra?
If such a situation arises, if you ask me personally I am not ready. But personal choice is not the main thing.
The main thing is following what the people’s verdict is.
Personally, we might not be ready in situations like this, because we have been fighting for a republic.
But since we have already said that we will agree with the verdict of a constituent assembly, we will surely agree to that.
Now we are talking all about the future. But violence is still escalating in Nepal. When is this peaceful future going to happen?
I believe that the total responsibility for the escalating violence falls on the King and the royal army – on Gyanendra and his royal army. To ensure that the minimum bloodshed is inflicted on Nepali people, we had a four-month-long cease-fire. We have also been saying that we would agree to whatever the verdict is of the constituent assembly. And we have committed to accept multi-party competition. That’s why, the way violence is escalating in this country, the total responsibility falls on Gyanendra and his royal army.
The Nepali people understand this and the world has seen those who want peace and democracy clearly. In the near future, this situation is not going to remain. Nepali people are going to triumph and democracy is going to triumph. Gyanendra-ism and his feudalistic clique will certainly be destroyed. He is responsible. We also want to appeal to all everyone in the world who believes in peace and democracy to speak out and stand up against the one who has been shedding blood and killing people every day.
Now you declared a ceasefire for four months. If you were to repeat that but on a permanent basis, laying down your arms tomorrow, this war would stop. Why not do that?
We are fighting for the rights of Nepali people. As long as the royal army interferes with Nepali people’s rights, as long as they keep killing Nepali people, I mean, the feudal privileged class, and that too an army loyal to a medieval royalty – are an obstacle to the Nepali people.
It is important that they be dismantled – not us. Nepali people are rebelling for their rights. In us saying that we are ready, we mean, the royal army, who have been oppressing Nepali people for 237 years, and are loyal to a small clique, who have no loyalty to respect for democratic ideology – that army has to be dismantled. Then only can the problem be solved. We are not the power that gave birth to this problem. It is the King, his clique and his royal army. For a peaceful solution of this problem, what we are saying is that both the armies should be monitored by the UN or a similar organization and go to the people; and that later they can be re-organized into a new Nepali army and that we are ready for. That is why we are not the problem.
We are not standing in the way of a peaceful solution. It is the King and his royal army. Even within the royal army, we do not believe that the lower cadres and officials of the army want the war to go on. It is a small clique of generals who belong to the feudalistic privileged class, the Rana and Shah clans of Nepal; they want this war to go on. If they want the war to go on, we do not want to surrender to them. If they say that we should surrender, if US imperialists say that we should surrender, we are not ready for it. We are ready to fight and die but we are not ready to surrender to this feudalistic clique. That is why we are clearing the path for peace.
For Nepal to rebuild itself in the future, it’s going to need help. The most powerful nation in the world that might be able to help is the United States of America. Are you ready to work with America?
We believe that once the Nepali people’s desire for a democracy is fulfilled, once there is peace and democracy in the country, we will be ready to develop diplomatic relations with all nations of the world – for the development of Nepali people, we are ready to receive their support and we will be ready. But what we feel till now, and what experience has shown us, is that America does not work for the improvement of people anywhere. It works only for itself. It works for the benefit of the ruling class, the capitalists within America. We don’t believe that it will work to benefit the people from a poor country. Still, once there is democracy and peace in Nepal, we are ready to develop a diplomatic relationship with any country and work with any country around the world.
So you could work with America even though it has provided arms for the present government?
We are not talking within the context of the present government. If the so-called current government sitting in Kathmandu, the clique of feudal, privileged class – as long as they exist, there is no question of us working with America or any other country. After this clique is dismantled, once there is people’s government – a democratic and progressive government – that government will be ready to work with any country around the world. That is what I was trying to say.
I want to ask you about India. It has its own Maoists in rural areas called the Naxalites.Are you working with them, supporting them?
We do not have a working relationship with the Maoists [in India]. Since they are communists and we are communists, we have an ideological relationship.
But movement and revolution is not about export and import.
So what they want to do in India is their own business.
And what we are going to do in Nepal is our own business.
So we do not have a direct functional or working relationship [with them].
At an ideological level, we meet from time to time and we have our meetings debates and discussions.
So what they do in India is their business and what we do in Nepal is our business.
And we do not see it as something to be imported or exported.
Some people have felt that you are probably trying to export revolution throughout the subcontinent. Are you saying that you are not?
Ideologically we want to move the global revolution forward.
We want to take the lessons from the positive and the negative experiences of the 20th Century; from revolutions and counter-revolutions of the 20th Century.
Globally the suppressed classes should get their rights, and that’s what we want.
But in practical terms we do not believe that one country’s army should go to the other country and fight for it.
Ideologically we do want there to be a revolution in the USA and even in your UK, and that the working classes should rule.
That does not mean that once we conquer in Nepal we will go and spread revolution in other countries.
But we will give ideological support, for sure.
We are a part of a global revolution but we do not believe that revolution is something to be exported.
Fighting a war is very expensive. If your supporters are mainly in poor rural parts of Nepal, where are you getting your money from?
We are certainly fighting for the rights of poor people in Nepal. We are the children of Nepali citizens. The main source of our income is the same people we are fighting for. As a secondary source, we used to extract from our enemies; but now, our main source is the support from the people.
What about money from elsewhere in the South Asian region? Whether governments or individuals, maybe in your neighbouring countries?
It’s been well established that no government anywhere has financially supported our revolution and nor have they supported us in material or military ways.
This revolution has been supported purely by Nepali people.
So we have not been supported by anyone in terms of military equipment or financially.
This is a pure self-reliant revolution of the Nepali people. This has been seen by the world and the world understands this. We are proud that we are not in the hands of any international group.
We are free to make decisions for the betterment of the Nepali people, because we have taken neither money nor arms from anyone.
I want to ask you about your vision of a future Nepali society.
You have declared war on alcohol and gambling. There have been reports of someone being shot for playing cards. You want to outlaw “vulgar Hindi films”.
It sounds very puritanical.
We have experimented with different things. But the vision that we see of the future Nepal is to be free of class exploitation that exists in Nepal; that all classes should be free from feudal exploitation.
Nepal also has caste exploitation. Nepal should be free from the exploitation of the suppressed castes. The suppressed castes have been exploited by feudal castes. And we want them to be free of that.
We also have regional exploitation, like Karnali, a remote region – the ruling class of Kathmandu have never looked into the betterment of these people.
People from zones like Seti, Mahakali and Karnali [in Far West and Mid-West Nepal] should also get their rights. That’s what we want.
Similarly the two- or three-fold exploitation of women – they are exploited by the feudal class and by the men. They should also be free of this exploitation. Women should have equal rights and equal participation on the social, political and economic fronts.
What we are saying is, our future is going to be free from caste, class, regional and gender exploitation.
Nepal should be a common platform for all groups. At the same time, the cultural, political and economic affairs of the country should be decided by the people.
The right to make decisions should be exercised by everyone. And it should be progressive. It should move towards a progressive culture.
That’s what we believe. We certainly have said that dirty and vulgar materials and literature from America or cheap and dirty literature from India should be banned.
We believed that and we still believe that. We also definitely want to eliminate bad habits like alcohol and gambling from the villages. What we believe is that in the 10 years of “People’s Revolution”, the roots of feudalism have been cut off and there is a situation of freedom.
Because of the war, people have suffered.
But if you go and look into the hearts of people in the villages, they don’t feel as exploited as they did yesterday. They feel self-respect.
A poor woman in a village with a gun, moving forward to build a new society, feels her life as a woman has been elevated.
In a village, there is respect even for the poor. And the suppressed feel that they have a new life as human beings. We are building new lives in these villages.
You won’t find exploitation and injustice in villages, such as discrimination against dalits [the lowest castes]. And the practice of “untouchability” has ended.
There is a great feeling that all people are equal. In this way we have been bringing sweeping changes to the villages.
And once the war is over, we believe that we can move forward and develop economically or otherwise at a very fast pace.
If you had such great support, why would you need to use such violence? For example, you declared a strike last week, forcing people to shut their businesses, not drive their vehicles, etc.
Your people in Kathmandu shot dead a taxi driver for disobeying that order. What does it mean when people only obey out of fear, pure and simple?
The first thing is that we did not start the violence. When we were in the parliament, in the district where we had the maximum support, violence was used on the people by the royal army and the police. They made the people compelled to revolt against it.
When do we become violent? Only when the rulers use violence on the people. Certainly, because we have maximum support from people, we have been able to rebel against this. Because we have vision, we have been able to rebel against it. As long as the feudal autocrats do not stop killing the people, there will be a rebellion against it. That rebellion is the right of the people. What we are saying is that in the current situation of Nepal, the right to rebellion by the oppressed is a human right. There are no greater human rights than the people’s right to fight for their rights.
As far as what you have said about the taxi driver, I do not know if it was done by our people or someone else. Right now, people are against the King and his so-called elections, and the rebellion could come from anyone. I do not know that it was us who killed the taxi driver. We are investigating this – we are looking for who killed him. There is no proof that we killed him.
In this conflict your side, the Maoists, have killed more children than the other side. Your bombs have killed and maimed children. You have recruited children under 12. Isn’t this something to be ashamed of – the treatment of children?
In our party’s central policy, we do not have a policy of recruiting children. We do not even train children below 16 years old as militia. Accidentally children have been killed, and we are saddened by that.
But the situation does not match the account that the ruling classes and the feudals have propagated. Children whose parents have been killed in the war – taking care of them is the responsibility of the party.
That’s why we are compelled to take care of, educate and provide work for hundreds of children, even those who are 12 to 15 years old.
This is a compulsion born out of the war. This compulsion has been falsely portrayed by the feudal elements as forced recruitment of children.
As for children who have been accidentally killed, we are deeply sad about it.
We are trying our very best to ensure that such accidents do not happen.
We are doing our best, and this is the truth.
But it’s well known – anyone who has seen the Maoist army knows that there are certainly children under 16 there. That’s the case, isn’t it?
In village militias it might be true but in the People’s Liberation Army that’s not the situation.
You are a married man. You have four children yourself, I imagine grown up by now. They had a schooling. Yet, the Maoists have closed schools – not only private ones but community ones as well. Would you have wanted your children to have been deprived of education in that kind of way?
Where have we closed down schools? Schools are running and even with our own efforts, we are trying to open schools and educate children. My children went to school when they were young and are now in the movement.
But I’ve been and visited people who are no longer being educated because their schools have been closed down.
A Since we are in a state of war, certainly things have not moved the way that they should have been. That is why we need to end the war and for this we need to defeat Gyanendra-ism, feudalism and the royal army.
When all people get together and triumph over the autocracy, then only education could be provided in an organized way. As long as the autocratic rule is committing atrocities on the people, till then war is going to escalate and it would be difficult to systematize the education. Yet, even in the situation of war, we are trying to ensure that schools are running and education is possible.
I’ve met families of people who have been killed by the Maoists for allegedly supporting the army. Yet you know very well that both sides force them to help them, to feed them. Isn’t it wrong to kill them on the basis of that so-called “evidence”?
The statement that we have forced people to support us is not true. Because before we did not have an army and nor did we have any weapons. We came forth because of people’s support and help. It is not possible therefore that we would use force on people.
As for our enemies, the feudal elements and the autocrats, after the rebellion started, there are numerous incidents where they have raped women, torched houses and villages; where the army has surrounded them and forced them to carry their luggage. All these have been carried out by the feudalistic autocratic elements, not our army.
You might have heard this being propagated but the reality is different. If you look at the villages, when there is a cessation of war, our People’s Liberation Army works in the fields of people, they work as labourers to build roads for people – they have been doing all this work. That is why, to say that our army uses force on people is totally untrue.
In times of war, in difficult circumstances, things might not work as planned and at times, even though we might have wanted, we might not have managed to organize things the right way. But in general, from our side, there has been and there will be no force on people.
I’m not sure you understood my question. As I say, I’ve met families of people who have been killed by the Maoists for allegedly supporting the army. That’s what I want to ask about – killing people on completely unjustified grounds.
We have not killed people or anyone when army surrounds the village and forces people to support and help them. The policy of our party is that informants of the army, the ones who work as spies, and have committed the crime of killing people, then there would be action against them. There is a policy to act against them. But there is no policy that we kill people generally on the basis that they have helped the royal army.
Unfortunately, if such an incident does happen, we have been admitting to this and publicly apologized for it. Whenever such a mistake is made and someone loses their life outside of our policy, we have asked for a pardon from the people.
You’ve said, for instance after an atrocity last June when Maoists bombed a bus, killing nearly 40 civilians and a few soldiers – you said you were “sad and hurt” about that.
Yet the UN office in Nepal says it never gets evidence that you have punished the perpetrators of such acts. Why can’t you give such evidence?
I think you probably don’t know this, but after that incident at Madi when there was an explosion on the bus, we were shocked beyond words.
Our party workers who were involved in it, they were expelled from the party and the army, and the report on how this expulsion was carried out was given to the UN.
We informed them about who was sentenced, who had committed what crime, the nature of the crime, and the kinds of punishment given to them.
All this information was given.
Sometimes you seem to say one thing and do another. For instance, you told the UN that you would not attack candidates from last week’s municipal elections, but you did. Two of them got killed. How can people believe you?
When we talked about it. I mean, there is no difference is what we have been saying and what we have been doing. In the circumstance, when we were in ceasefire, we had said that and even later, we did not have a policy of physically harming any candidate.
But there has been only one incident – not two – according to the report that was given to our central [committee] – in Janakpur – where a local worker of the party took responsibility for the killing. We are investigating this.
If we had wanted, we could have killed many candidates. Because we did not have the policy of killing them, they were not killed. Our party did not have a policy of killing them because they are candidates. We are investigating on the incident of Janakpur and this has been informed to the United Nations Human Rights office. That is why there is no difference between what we say and what we do.
As for an informer of the royal army being a candidate, we might have a process of capturing them and trying them in the people’s court. As a candidate and an informer of the royal army, if he has been responsible for killing people, the party policy is to take action against him. It is important to understand these two things correctly.
What kind of action?
Our policy is that if he is an informer, we’d capture him, stand him in front of the people’s court, and take action as per the verdict of the court.
Considering the degree of the crime, he could be given a labour punishment for a certain time, or for a while kept under the custody of people, and if the crime is big, he could even be executed. The party policy is to follow this process.
Do you have a timetable to lay down your arms? Or a planned timetable?
We do not look at it in terms of a time line. We see it in terms of policy. As soon as the people are given the right to decide of their own fate and of their own future, we will be ready to lay down our arms. But if the people are not given their rights, we are committed to and are ready to fight till the end.
That’s why we cannot give a timetable on when we can lay down our arms and when we would use them. As soon as people get their rights, as soon as there is a possibility for a democracy, as soon as people can make decisions on their own lives, then there is a possibility of laying down our arms.
More concretely, what needs to happen for you to give up your arms? What’s the bottom line, the minimum, that you need to give up your arms struggle?
We have already clearly said in our 12-point agreement with the parliamentary political parties, as soon as there is a possibility of preparing a new constitution through a constituent assembly, and form a new army, we are ready to call off the war. For now, the bottom line is the agreement with the seven political parties.
Do you believe in the multi-party system or would you like your party to be the one party ruling Nepal at some point in the future?
I am going to address this question very seriously. Three years ago, at a Central Committee meeting of our party, analyzing the experiences from 20th century communist states, we put forward a proposal for the development of democracy.
In the 21st century we cannot have a state like those of the 20th century.
That’s why our Central Committee unanimously passed this paper on the development of democracy in the 21st century.
The spirit of this paper is that there should be peaceful competition between all political parties against feudalism and foreign imperialist forces.
And that there should be multi-party competition. Since then we have said that within a certain constitutional provision multi-party competition [should exist] as long as it’s against feudalism, against foreign imperialistic interference and all political parties can compete against each other.
And this document was unanimously passed three years ago in very clear terms.
In the agreement that we recently made with the political parties, we have clearly stated that we agree to multi-party competition.
What we have seen from the 20th century, and the lessons that we have learnt from the experiences of the 20th century, a very important question was – to understand the subject of democracy and dictatorship we need to develop a new consciousness for this.
And we have passed this.
Our opponents have understood us in a dogmatic way. We are not dogmatic but our opponents are. They are looking at us with 20th Century glasses. But we are already moving into the 21st Century.
[We are looking at] the kind of state that is possible in the 21st Century, how to give people the maximum possible rights; how to organize competition; and how to guarantee that this competition does not lead to oppression and suppression.
In short, democracy and dictatorship….How to make use of this conflict between them – we are developing on this.
And from this process of development, we have termed, development of democracy. People think that our commitment to the multi-party competition is purely a tactic and that we are trying to cheat someone.
But in reality we have taken the experience of an entire century, discussed it, analyzed it in our party, and we’ve come to a conclusion that the development of democracy is necessary in the 21st Century.
That’s why we take multi-party competition very seriously.
We want to move forward. Even in our understanding with the parties, we have said that we don’t want autocracy; that we have to crush the feudal autocracy that exists today.
It will never propagate multi-party competition.
Events have proved this.
Not only now – four years ago, when the royal massacre happened, we saw that the feudal autocracy was snatching away the rights that we gained in the 1990 democracy movement.
The parliamentary parties were also against the royal massacre.
That’s why we appealed to the political parties to join us and build a platform, and [we said] we are ready to compete with you, and the feudal autocracy was a common enemy of ours and we should fight against it.
And we have been talking about multi-party competition since then.
I strongly believe we need to understand this clearly.
Do you want to be leader of this country? Head of state?
It depends on this political movement and how the events proceed.
Our movement is not for me to be the head of state.
This movement is to grant democratic rights to Nepali people and secure a better future for them. It’s not for me to be a head of state.
If this movement goes on and if the situation arises, then if need be, and if necessary for the Nepali people, I am of course ready for it.
But I also want to clarify that – from the lessons of the 20th Century communist states – we want to move to a new plane in terms of leadership – where one person doesn’t remain the party leader or the head of state.
This discussion is going on within our party, on the subject of leadership, how the leadership should develop; even after the state is captured, how to institutionalize the subject of leadership and how to prepare new leaders, how to prepare lakhs [hundreds of thousands] of successors to them.
What were the negative experiences of the 20th Century in which people who should have been more powerful and should have had more rights, could not get them?
We are studying this.
Why it could not happen during Stalin’s time, how much of this happened in Mao’s time – we are studying this and we are in the process of developing a new system of thought.
The question of being head of state is not a major question.
The major question is the development of ideology which would globally uplift and give rights to the working class – our focus is on developing that ideology.
That’s why people might have a difficult time understanding us.
Those who see us with 20th Century eyes would not understand us because we are talking about democracy.
In the 20th Century, totalitarianism was widely propagated.
People might find it surprising.
The main difference in us is when we talk about Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and their ideology, we believe that it has to be developed.
Just practising it is not enough.
To protect it, practice it and develop it is necessary.
The responsibility of developing it falls on every scientific thinking person.
After the 10 years of our struggle for people, we believe this responsibility falls on us, and we are thinking about it.
You’ve been living an underground existence for 25 years. What’s it been like for you and for your family?
Underground – one needs to understand it clearly. I have not been underground from the people. I am only underground from the feudalistic elements and its royal army. In villages where people are free, I stay freely too. I meet my family, my children and my wife.
Where do you think Nepal will be in five years’ time?
I think it will be a republican state. I believe that it will be a republic state in less than five years. I believe that in a short while, Nepal will be a democratic republic.
People’s resistance exists. With the unity that has developed between the seven political parties, us and the civic society, and the way that the autocratic monarchy and the royal army have been cornered, with this very shortly Nepal will become a republic.
And even in the international community, the way that the feudal elements have been cornered and their dramas have been exposed – in such a situation we believe that the Nepali people will go for a republic and in a peaceful way the process of rebuilding Nepal will go forward.
In five years’ time Nepal will move towards being a beautiful, peaceful and progressive nation.
In five years’ time the millions of Nepalis will already be moving ahead with a mission to make a beautiful future, and Nepal will truly start becoming a heaven on earth.
Where will the king be?
He will be crushed. The king I think will either be executed by the people’s court or he might be exiled. For the king, today’s Nepal has no future.
We don’t see a future for him and the Nepali people don’t either. The king might be finished or he might flee.
To build a new future for this country you will have to compromise on some areas. What might those areas be?
If you are talking about compromise, compromise with whom?
If you are talking about compromise with the king, we don’t see that happening.
The only point of compromise, as we have clearly said, is that all political powers in Nepal should be ready to follow the people’s wishes, that there should be free and fair elections for the new constitution, and the compromise would happen when everyone is ready to follow the verdict of this election.
But time has moved forward.
The king doesn’t have that space now.
The steps the king has taken, like the drama of the so-called municipal elections – the whole world saw it as the eighth wonder of the world.
And now the path the king has taken, there is no space for compromise with him.
There was a possibility for compromise before 1 February last year.
But after the steps he has taken between 1 February and now, we don’t see any space for compromise, and the Nepali people do not see space for compromise either.
We can have an understanding with the political parties and the international community for the development of Nepali people, for peace, for progress – that we are ready for.
A few minutes ago you said theoretically it would be possible to keep the monarchy. Now you are saying a likely future for the king is exile or he might even be killed and there is no compromise.
If you talk in those absolute terms how are you going to reach any agreement with the powers that be in this country?
What I’m trying to say is that the king has taken steps that do not give any room for compromise.
It would be correct to say that the path that he has taken is the road to hell.
If he has chosen the path of no compromise, there is no way that we are going to see a compromise.
Theoretically as I said there was a possibility. But that has now turned into hypothesis. What I mean is: the agenda that the king is moving with, he is negating the possibility of compromise.
In the second stage, I was saying that the king himself has finished this possibility and has taken the path to hell.
He is not trying to give the rights to people or even the parliamentary parties.
And in such a situation there is no question of seeing a point of compromise with him. This is what I was trying to say.
Dear UWB team,
Do you people really care for Nepal? Do you? Is your publication of interviews with Barbaric Terrorist just because you think this government is autocratic justifiable.Do you think any journalist in the US or its alies publish interviews with Bin Laden.
Please dont encourage terrorist.It will do no good for any of us. Barbarians are just trying to play some tricks and get to the power.If they really cared for the nation and people they would not have slitting peoples throats and raping our nepalese sisters.
We all know that the Kantipur Publication is very unhappy with the present government not just because of Kantipur’s affilations with the 7 parties but also because the government, so as to break the monopoly of any media houses, is bringing up a law(which would very much affect kantipur). But that doesnt give kantipur the freedom to publish interviews with terrorist.
I strongly urge the government to take strong actions against the Kantipur publication.
The Royal Nepal Army has killed more innocent people than the Maobadi.
So who’s the bigger terrorist?
The Hindu. Online edition of India’s National Newspaper
Exclusive interview with Prachanda, Maoist leader
This is a complete verbatim transcript of Nepali Maoist leader Prachanda’s interview with Siddharth Varadarajan of The Hindu, conducted at an undisclosed location in the first week of February 2006. Highlights and excerpts from the interview were published in the print edition of The Hindu of February 8, 9, and 10, 2006.
Varadarajan: Your party has waged a “people’s war” in Nepal for 10 years and the anniversary is now coming up. There are some who say that this war – and the Royal Nepal Army’s counter-insurgency campaign – has cost the country dearly in terms of the violence and bloodshed that has accompanied it. In your estimation, what has been the main accomplishment of these 10 years?
Prachanda: For 250 years, our peoples have been exploited under the oppression of feudal lords. The people’s war has helped crush the feudal structure in the rural areas. We think this is the main achievement. Also, in the overall sense we feel that in Nepal there is going to be a great leap forward in the socio-economic condition because we are going to lead the country to a democratic republican structure. A political situation has been developed through this process, and we feel this is also a very big achievement of the people’s war.
Varadarajan: In your party plenum last August in Rolpa, you took a momentous decision – to strive for and participate in multiparty democracy. If you were going to accept multiparty democracy after 10 years of war, why go about this in a roundabout way?
Prachanda: I want to answer your question in two parts. There is the whole theoretical and ideological question that we are trying to develop, because we want to analyse the experience of revolution and counter-revolution in the 20th century on a new basis. Three years ago we took a decision in which we said how are we going to develop democracy is the key question in the 21st century. This meant the negative and positive lessons of the 20th century have to be synthesised in order for us to move ahead. And three years ago we decided we must go in for political competition. Without political competition, a mechanical or metaphysical attitude will be there. So this time, what we decided is not so new. In August, we took serious decisions on how practically to build unity with the parliamentary political parties. We don’t believe that the people’s war we initiated was against, or mainly against, multiparty democracy. It was mainly against feudal autocracy, against the feudal structure.
Varadarajan: How difficult was it for your party to come to this decision? How difficult was it to build consensus on the need for multiparty democracy within the leadership and cadres?
Prachanda: An agenda was first presented to the Central Committee on democracy. Then there was an internal debate within the party rank and file for a whole year. After that, the CC plenum unanimously decided that within a definite constitutional framework we have to go in for competition. Without competition, we will not be able to go forward. This was a unanimous decision.
Varadarajan: Is this decision a recognition by you of the impossibility of seizing power through armed struggle? That because of the strength of the RNA and the opposition of the international community, a new form of struggle is needed in order to overthrow the monarchy?
Prachanda: Here again there is not only one question. There is a specificity to the political and military balance in today’s world. This has to be seen. The second thing to be seen is the experience of the 20th century. Third, there is the particular situation in the country – the class, political and power balance. It is by taking these three together that we came to our conclusion. We are talking of multiparty democracy in a specific sense, within a specific constitutional framework. We are not talking about bourgeois parliamentary democracy. This multiparty democracy will be anti-imperialist and anti-feudal. In other words, only within an anti-feudal, anti-imperialist constitutional framework is multiparty democracy possible. That is why armed struggle is also necessary, and unity in action with the other political parties against the monarchy is also a necessity. The socio-economic change we are fighting for is against feudalism and imperialism and it is within the context of that struggle that we are talking of multiparty democracy.
Road map to democratic republic
Varadarajan: So if the king announces tomorrow that the steps he took last year were wrong and allows free and fair elections under the present Constitution, the Maoists will not take part? Is a new constitutional framework a pre-condition for taking part in elections?
Prachanda: Yes, you can put it that way. If the king says that I was wrong to have done what I did last year, now come on, let us sit across the table, and then he talks of a free and fair election to a constituent assembly, then we will be ready. Our minimum, bottom line is the election of a constituent assembly, that too under international supervision, either by the United Nations or some other international mediation acceptable to all. Under those circumstances, we will go in for elections and accept whatever the peoples’ verdict is. This is our bottom line. But if the king says, come on, make an interim government and hold elections, we will not come forward.
Varadarajan: But will you oppose the parties doing that? If the parties agree to go ahead on this interim basis, what will happen to your alliance or agreement with the parties?
Prachanda: If the king asks them to form a government and the parties go in for parliamentary elections without looking at the demands we have been making for the past 10 years, it would be difficult for us to go along with the parties. Because this is what you had before. The king and the parties were together for 7-8 years. That was the situation. And still there was struggle, because the demand for a constituent assembly is a longstanding one. It is not a demand that came up only today.
Varadarajan: How crucial was the August plenum decision on multiparty democracy to paving the way for the 12-point agreement with the parties?
Prachanda: After the Royal Palace massacre itself, we had made an appeal to the parliamentary parties. There was a general understanding and some meetings were also held because the 2001 royal massacre was against democracy. In the 1990 movement, we were together with the Congress and UML [Unified Marxists-Leninists]. We felt the change that was needed in Nepal was against feudalism but the parliamentary parties were not ready for this. For three years we struggled inside Parliament. For three years we were there. Our 40-point demands were placed but there was not even any discussion on this. So the seeds of our armed struggle were sown inside Parliament, in a manner of speaking. This is a very big difference between us and, say, those in India who say they are waging a people’s war. They didn’t begin from inside Parliament. We were inside Parliament, so we had good relations with the parliamentary parties for a long time.
The 1990 movement produced limited gains. We could have taken more but got less from the palace because of a compromise. At the time we said the Nepali peoples have been cheated. We said this compromise was bad and that there was a danger of the palace grabbing power again, as had happened in Mahendra’s time. We said this from the rostrum of Parliament but the other parties did not have the courage even to act against those elements from the panchayat system that the Malik commission had identified as criminals. And gradually a situation arose where those elements were able to enter the parties, the government.
After the palace massacre, we said that what we had predicted in 1990 had come to pass, that diehard elements have hatched a conspiracy and come forward. And we appealed to the parties to unite together as we had done in 1990. The parties were in government so it was not possible for them to understand our appeal. But slowly, the king’s designs became clearer: he dissolved Parliament, dismissed the government and took direct power. This is when I think the parties realised they had been taken for a ride all this time. This is also when our plenum took concrete steps on the question of multiparty democracy. And our statement stressed that the time had come for all the parliamentary parties to join hands with our movement and civil society to fight against autocracy and monarchy.
At the plenum, we decided we needed to show more flexibility, that it was our duty to do this. So we took concrete steps and declared to the parties, ‘You lead, we will support you.’ This so-called king – he is not a traditional king and the Nepali people do not accept him as king. He and his group are well-known goons and people see them as a regicidal-fratricidal clique. He is not even a person who is capable of thinking politically. So we told the parties, come on, we want to help you. Before the plenum, we contacted the Nepali Congress and UML leaders and tried to bring them to Rolpa. But this was not possible.
Commitment to democracy not a tactic
Varadarajan: Nowadays, we hear the phrase ‘The Maoists will sit on the shoulders and hit on the head.’ Does this mean your alliance with the parties is tactical rather than strategic, that when the head – the monarchy – is weakened or defeated, you might then start hitting the shoulder?
Prachanda: It is not like this. Our decision on multiparty democracy is a strategically, theoretically developed position, that in a communist state, democracy is a necessity. This is one part. Second, our decision within the situation today is not tactical. It is a serious policy. We are telling the parties that we should end not only the autocratic monarchy but monarchy itself. This is not even a monarchy in the traditional way it was in Birendra’s time, so we have to finish it. After that, in the multiparty democracy which comes – interim government, constitutional assembly and democratic republic – we are ready to have peaceful competition with you all. Of course, people still have a doubt about us because we have an army. And they ask whether after the constitutional assembly we will abandon our arms. This is a question. We have said we are ready to reorganise our army and we are ready to make a new Nepal army also. So this is not a tactical question.
Varadarajan: The 12-point agreement suggests you and the political parties have met each other half-way. They have agreed to a constitutional assembly and you have dropped your insistence on a republic.
Prachanda: We have not dropped our demand for a democratic republic. But to achieve that minimum political slogan, we have said we are prepared to go through free and fair elections to a constituent assembly. There shouldn’t be any confusion that we have now agreed to a ceremonial monarchy. Some people have tried to draw this conclusion from the 12-point agreement but even at the time we explained to the parties that our slogan is a democratic republic. Earlier, we were saying people’s democratic republic but this does not mean we have dropped that goal either. It’s just that according to today’s power balance, seeing the whole situation and the expectation of the masses, and that there [should] not be bloodshed, we also responsibly believe that to get there too we will do so through peaceful means.
Varadarajan: So the struggle for “people’s democracy” will also be peaceful?
Prachanda: We will go for the goal of the people’s democracy through peaceful means. Today, we are talking of a democratic republic and our understanding with the parties is that the way to realise this is the constituent assembly. At that time, any other party would be free to call for a ceremonial monarchy, some may be for constitutional monarchy – such a thing is possible with the seven parties.
Varadarajan: But whatever the outcome, you are ready to accept it.
Prachanda: We are ready to accept whatever is the outcome. This we are saying in clear-cut language.
Logic of ceasefire
Varadarajan: Your three-month ceasefire, and then the one month extension, did a lot to improve the profile and image of the Maoists, which had been damaged by certain incidents like the Madi bus blast. What was the logic behind that ceasefire and what are the roadblocks in the way of declaring another ceasefire in the near future?
Prachanda: When we called our ceasefire, there was no 12-point agreement with the parties nor was there any particular political or moral pressure on us from them or civil society. But we acted based on the whole political situation, because on our side too, some mistakes were increasing, from below, in the implementation of our policy and plan. At the lower level, some mistakes were happening such as the Madi bomb blast. So with the middle class our relationship was getting worse. Earlier, there was an upward trend in that relationship but we felt there was a danger of the graph falling. We were saying things from the top but still this was not being implemented. So we wanted the middle classes to be with us, and put out our political message to the broad masses in a new way. We also wanted to tell the international community that Gyanendra is not a monarch, these are autocratic, fascist elements who are more keen on bloodshed and violence than anybody else. We wanted to demonstrate this, and rehabilitate our image with the masses. So for these reasons we decided to go for a ceasefire.
As for the specific timing, there were two factors. The UN General Assembly was going to be held and the so-called king was going to go there. There he would have said he was for peace and democracy. Such a notorious element was going to go and create confusion over there. This possibility also needed to be crushed. This was a question. So we thought of a ceasefire as one way politically to hit out at him.
It was only after the ceasefire that the dialogue with the political parties began. And then a conducive atmosphere got created for the 12-point agreement. We also wanted to send a message to the international community that we were different from the way we were being projected ideologically. For example, right now we are having discussions with the European Union and with others, but among all the international forces, U.S. imperialism is the most dogmatic and sectarian element. The U.S. ruling classes are dogmatic. They don’t understand what is happening. We are trying to look at the world in a new way, to change in a new way, and we wanted to send out this message. And in this regard, during the ceasefire, we were quite successful.
Right from the outset, we knew the monarch wanted us to abandon the ceasefire immediately. He was under so much pressure, he had to cancel his programme of going to the U.N. He was so politically isolated that he was desperate to provoke us to break the ceasefire. We knew that we had to sacrifice and ensure that for three months at least it was upheld because there were festivals, and we wanted to develop our psychological relations, spiritual relations with the masses. When we extended the ceasefire by a month, it became clearly established that this so-called monarch does not want a political solution, does not want peace. He is a bloodthirsty element, a fascist and autocrat. And when we finally ended the ceasefire, we clearly stated that if a forward-looking atmosphere for a political solution emerges, and all the political forces are ready for peace and democracy, then in that situation at any time we can again announce a ceasefire, and sit down for negotiations. But now, that situation does not obtain.
Nature of alliance with parties
Varadarajan: As a first step, are you prepared to join together with the parliamentary parties, with Mr. Koirala and Madhav Nepal, and go and talk face-to-face with the king to discuss the future of Nepal?
Prachanda: Immediately after the 12-point agreement, I had clearly said that if there is a unanimous understanding with the parties that we should go and talk to the king, then we will go. We are not prepared to meet the king alone, and we are also requesting the parties that they should also not go alone. Nothing will come of it. Only if we act collectively can we achieve anything. The alliance has to be strengthened and taken forward. For example, right now we have this huge drama of municipal elections. More than two-thirds of the seats will be vacant, and still he is trying to stage a drama.
Varadarajan: But rather than the Maoists calling a seven-day bandh, wouldn’t it have been better as a tactic for you and the parties to have given a united call for the political boycott of the elections. That way, the king would not get the opportunity to claim the elections were a farce because of Maoist threats.
Prachanda: Yes. I agree with what you are saying. That would have been better. When the 12-point agreement was reached, there was a second understanding that within a week or two, we eight parties – the seven party alliance and the Maoists – would issue a joint statement appealing to the masses to boycott elections and stage mass demonstrations. But that has not proved possible.
Prachanda: Because the parties’ leadership is a little hesitant. They are perhaps a little afraid that if they join with the Maoists and issue a joint statement for boycott, there could be greater repression on them. I think this could be a factor, though we have not had face-to-face discussions on this with them.
Varadarajan: Some feel that the Maoists’ military actions are reducing the political space for the parties. For example, a few days before the parties were planning a big demonstration in Kathmandu, the Maoists attacked a police station in Thankot and the king got the opportunity to impose curfew, thereby ensuring the demonstration failed. Have you considered what actions you need to take so that your political space also increases but the parties don’t feel squeezed between the king and you?
Prachanda: I agree a way has to be found. This is a serious and complicated question. When the 12-point agreement was reached, there was a need for continuous interaction between us and them. There was need for several meetings. Only then could we establish some synchronicity between their movement and ours. This did not happen. Despite this, we told the parties through other mediums that whether we stage actions or not, the king is still going to move against you. This is the same king, the same goons – he is also a very big smuggler – who made sure we couldn’t peacefully demonstrate. When we went for negotiations in Kathmandu and our team was there, we decided to have a big meeting there. Sher Bahadur Deuba was the Prime Minister at the time. But the RNA and Gyanendra insisted we could not have such a rally and threatened curfew. They compelled us to move the meeting to Chitwan. So we told Girija and Madhav that even if we had done nothing in Thankot, they would not have allowed any big demonstration. Curfew would have been imposed anyway. Instead, Thankot has put Gyanendra under greater pressure.
Nature of monarch
Varadarajan: You mentioned the RNA and I would like your assessment: Does the king control the RNA or does the RNA control the king?
Prachanda: This is a very interesting question. Right now, in fact, this is precisely what we are discussing within our party and outside. Until now, it seemed the balance was 50-50. Sometimes the RNA runs the king, and sometimes the king runs the RNA. But it seems as if we are now going towards a situation where the RNA is in the driving seat. It seems as if power in the hands of Gyanendra is decreasing and he is doing what the RNA dictates. This seems to be the emerging situation but we cannot say this with facts. But looking at the overall situation, it seems that Gyanendra is going down the path laid out by the RNA. One thing is clear. He became king after the royal massacre – and it is clear that without the RNA, that massacre could never have happened, the Army core team was in the Narayanhiti palace and they are the ones who engineered the massacre. So he was made king in the same way as before, during the Rana days, when Tribhuvan fled and came to India and Gyanendra as a small boy was put on the throne. So there is no question of his going beyond the script dictated by the RNA. And this small clique of feudal aristocrats designed the royal massacre and is dominant. The manner in which he became king obliges Gyanendra to follow their direction.
Varadarajan: I too was in Kathmandu immediately after the palace massacre to cover the story. Like many reporters, I was initially suspicious of the Dipendra theory but later, after managing to meet some of the closest relatives of those who died, who spoke to actual survivors like Ketaki Chester and others who cannot really be termed as people connected to any monarchical faction with a particular agenda. And they all said it was Dipendra who committed the crime.
Prachanda: This is impossible. Of course, the clique has managed to establish the story amongst its own circles, among people who may be neutral as you say. They have established it in their class but that is not the reality. You know how different stories were put out immediately. First that the guns went off automatically, then another story was made. There was even an effort to suggest the Maoists had made a surprise attack. In the end, they pinned it on Dipendra. So the question arises, if it was so clear-cut, why didn’t this story come out in the beginning? But my main logic is not this. If you look at the whole history of [crown prince] Paras – he was there at the time – now the whole history of Paras is well-known. Second, the role of Gyanendra in the 1990 movement. He had a big role then – he wanted to shoot down 2,000 people in Kathmandu and control the movement through force, he was a die-hard element. Even Surya Bahadur Thapa used to call them the bhoomigat giroh, an underground clique, and their leader was Gyanendra.What kind of goon Paras was – this is also known. For more than a month, the massacre was planned and Gyanendra based himself outside. So I don’t think for even a moment that it was Dipendra. And in any case, the Nepali people simply refuse to believe this story.
Reorganisation of PLA and RNA
Varadarajan: Let us say a situation is created for a constituent assembly. In the run-up to that, the People’s Liberation Army is not going to lay down its arms. Is it not possible that the parliamentary parties will feel themselves threatened by your dependence on arms? What kind of guarantees can you give in the run-up to any election that there will be no obstacle placed by you or the PLA in the political mobilisation by the parties?
Prachanda: When we had discussions and had an agreement last year – and we hope to meet again and take things forward after these municipal elections – we said we understand you have doubts and reservations about us and our army. We want a political solution to Nepal’s problems, a democratic solution. So we made a proposal that you rehabilitate Parliament, we will support you. A two-thirds majority of MPs is with the Nepali Congress, UML and smaller parties. Call a meeting and declare that Parliament has been reinstated, that this is the legitimate parliament and that what Gyanendra is doing is illegitimate and illegal. Do this and then set up a multiparty government. We will not be part of it but will support it. And then you invite us for negotiations and we will come forward. After that, there will be a move to set up an interim government, and the main aim of that government will be to have elections for a constituent assembly.
In this rehabilitation and restoration of Parliament, there is no need to have anything to do with the king. He would have become illegal anyway. He has violated the constitution and also people’s expectations for peace and democracy. So he would be illegal, your parliament would be legal and we would fully accept the legality of your parliament. We will come for negotiations with your leadership. Under your leadership, we will be in the interim government.
As for the RNA, you should appeal to the democratic elements within it by saying the king has violated the constitution, and the expectations of the masses, you come over to this side, this is the legal government and it is your responsibility to support it. And then the king should be given an ultimatum of a week or two weeks – that he should move back to the status quo ante before February 1, 2005 and agree to elections for a constituent assembly. If he doesn’t agree, we would then abolish the monarchy. And we would tell the international community, this is the legitimate government, please stop recognising or supporting him. Ours is a legitimate government and this should be under the leadership of Girija Prasad Koirala. We are ready to support this.
Under such a situation, the democratic elements of RNA will be there, and so will the PLA, so we will organise the army as a new Nepal army. At that point, the problem will not be our weapons. The problem of arms and weapons is with the RNA which for 250 years has been loyal to the feudal lords. That is the problem. Our army has only been around for 10 years. This is not a problem. If there is a political solution, we are prepared to change that too. This is the first proposal that we have put forward. We will abolish the monarchy, there will be an insurrection (bidroh), the kingship will be over and then we will have the peaceful reorganisation of the army.
This is one way to deal with this problem and we are seriously putting it forward. It is revolutionary, it is viable, it is possible. It is precisely in this way that it is necessary to end the monarchy in Nepal. This is our first proposal and I feel the parties are not ready for this.
Varadarajan: What you are proposing is that the parliamentary parties stage a revolution!
Prachanda: Yes, but we feel their role can be a historic one. But they are not ready. The second way is also what we have been discussing, that the U.N. or some other credible body will supervise things. The RNA will be in the barracks and the PLA will also be under supervision. Both armies and arms will be under international supervision and will not enter the fray. Then there will be elections for a constitutional assembly. Our army will not interfere in the process.
Varadarajan: But what form will this international supervision take? Will it include foreign troops?
Prachanda: No troops. There can be a militia or police, which we create only for election purposes.
Varadarajan: Who will be part of this militia?
Prachanda: We have not gone into such details – there can be the cadres of the different parties, but all without firearms, to manage security for the elections. So there will be elections for the assembly and whatever verdict of the masses comes, it is on that basis that the army has to be reorganised. If the republic result comes, then the RNA’s generals and commanders will have to go and the interim government would appoint as generals officers who are loyal to democratic values. If a constitutional monarchy wins, then there is the danger that the old generals will remain. So my point is that the army can be changed. This is the underlying idea behind the 12-point agreement and the parties also agree with this.
Varadarajan: So you are saying the problem of the PLA and its arms is not a big problem.
Prachanda: It is certainly not a problem the way people outside believe. If there is political will on our side and the parties, it can be solved.
Varadarajan: But you concede there is a history, which is why the parties are suspicious.
Prachanda: Yes there is, but we are talking about this too. There have been attacks by us on them, and we had seized property. Whatever had been taken from the Congress leadership has been returned – land and property – UML leadership too. So we are trying to build an understanding. If the parties’ leaders say that in the past the Maoists attacked us, then we can also say that the RNA army was deployed against us when you were in government and so many of our comrades were killed. Whatever we may have done, the other side did so much more and this also has to be accounted for. But if we start talking like this, we will not be able to solve the major problem. If we have to make a breakthrough, then we should both review our history. We have to review our mistakes but you have to as well, because we have a common enemy – feudal aristocracy. We have to defeat this enemy and in consonance with democratic values we have to reorganise the army and state.
Role of India, China, and U.S.
Varadarajan: How do you see the role of India today? Last year, when the King seized power, India took a tough stand against him which surprised many. Today, this policy has its critics but the bottom line is that the Indian Government does not seem to regard the Nepal Maoists as illegitimate in the way that the king and the U.S. regard them.
Prachanda: In the past, India’s role was not good. It was a policy of total alignment with the king. Last year, after February 1, when the situation changed in a big way, the role of the Indian authorities strikes us as positive. There is now a tough stand against autocracy. Still, the two-pillar theory [that Nepal’s stability rests equally on constitutional monarchy and multiparty democracy] persists and the Indian authorities have not officially abandoned this theory. They haven’t said there is need for only one pillar. So officially, India is still sticking to the two-pillar theory and we want the Indian authorities to change this theory. They are right to support the democratic movement, but sticking to the two-pillar theory causes confusion.
Varadarajan: But if India abandons it, wouldn’t the King accuse the Indians of interfering in Nepal’s affairs, and then he will accuse the Maoists of being agents of India.
Prachanda: We do not think such a thing is possible. During the 1990 movement, when Rajiv Gandhi imposed a blockade on Nepal, the Nepali people did not oppose the blockade because it was in the context of the blockade that the democratic movement picked up speed and advanced very fast. If India is in favour of the democratic movement and a forward-looking political solution, then it will not be considered intervention. But if India supports regressive forces, this would be called intervention. Exertion of external pressure in favour of the masses is never regarded as interference. This is how it seems to us. The people of Nepal will not see this as intervention.
For example, some political leaders came from India recently to show solidarity with the movement. Gyanendra tried illegally to detain them at the airport, calling it intervention. But more than 99 per cent of Nepali people did not regard that as intervention. They saw it as fraternal assistance. Of course, when Hindu fundamentalists like this Singhal comes to Nepal, the King welcomes him. When they crown him ‘King of the Hindus’, he doesn’t call it interference, but when political leaders come and say there should be democracy, he says this is interference. So the anger of people has grown against the King, not India. This is why we feel it is time for India to abandon the two-pillar theory.
Varadarajan: If tomorrow you were to meet Manmohan Singh, what would you ask him to do?
Prachanda: First, change this two-pillar theory. The Nepali people are trying to end the monarchy and you should end your relationship with it. Second, release all our comrades who are in prison in India. We are fighting for genuine multiparty democracy but they are imprisoned there, in Patna, Siliguri, Chennai. If you release them all, a message will go out. And if you feel the Naxalite movement in India is a problem for you, we feel we are trying to deal with the problems in Nepal in a new way, so if you release our comrades and we are successful in establishing multiparty democracy in Nepal, then this will be a very big message for the Naxalite movement in India. In other words, the ground will be readied for them to think in a new political way. Words are not enough, we need to validate what we are saying by establishing that democracy. Third, once a democratic republic is established in Nepal, then the historical doubts that have existed in the relations between Nepal and India can be ended once and for all. So for all these reasons, you should strongly support the movement for democracy.
Varadarajan: In many ways, the United States has emerged as the king’s strongest backer. How do you evaluate Washington’s role?
Prachanda: Their role has not been good. After February 1, India’s role has been positive – for example the agreement we were able to reach with the political parties, I do not think it is likely that the Indian authorities knew nothing about this. But the U.S. role from the beginning has been negative and they are still trying to effect a compromise between the monarch and the political parties against the Maoists. Despite the fact that we are talking of pushing multiparty democracy, the U.S. has decided our movement and alliance has to be crushed. So they have a negative role.
Varadarajan: What is the American interest in being soft on the king?
Prachanda: It is not that they are afraid of what might happen in Nepal. Rather, their strategy is against the Indian and Chinese masses and also, I think, against the Indian and Chinese authorities. The U.S. has a grand strategy, and Bush is talking of China and India as big economic powers and even as threats. Perhaps they see Nepal as a country that is between these two countries and believe that if the situation here does not give rise to forces which are in step with themselves, then there could be a problem. So the U.S. is looking at Nepal from the strategic point of view. It is not that they have any economic interest here. Political control is the key, so they want to strengthen the king.
Varadarajan: What about the attitude of China? Some people in India argue that if India continues to take a tough stand against the king, he will turn to China for help and Beijing will benefit.
Prachanda: Earlier, we had a doubt, that perhaps China might be behind the king, that China would try and take advantage. But then we analysed the situation and came to the conclusion that China would not play this role. China’s relations with India are improving and China will not want to jeopardise such a big interest by backing the Nepal king. And in the end, I think our analysis has been proved correct. Recently, when the Indian Foreign Secretary, Shyam Saran, went to Beijing, he had talks, and a few days later, for the first time, the Chinese authorities issued a statement that they are worried about the situation inside Nepal and that it needs a careful resolution. Until then, Beijing had always maintained that what was happening inside Nepal was an internal problem. Today, China has no interest in antagonising India to build a relationship with the king. This is our analysis. And it looks like India and China could have a common approach towards Nepal. Certainly, a common approach is needed. If China and India do not work together, there will be a big problem not only for now but the future. So they need to have an understanding in favour of democracy, in favour of the people of Nepal. As far as U.S. interests are concerned, they are neither in favour of Indian or Chinese masses. So at the political level, all of us must come together to counter them, we should not fall under their trap.
Varadarajan: How do you explain for the contradictory nature of some of U.S. Ambassador Moriarty’s statements? Last year, he did use tough language against the king in his speech to the Institute of Foreign Affairs.
Prachanda: The U.S. from the start believes the Maoists are a more immediate threat than the king. Even in the most recent statement from the State Department, they said the king should immediately open talks with the parties to deal with the Maoists. And this is the product of their vested interest. If the Bush administration’s intentions were good, there is no reason to regard us as a threat. If its intention is in favour of democracy and solving Nepal’s political problems, then there is no reason to see us as a threat especially when we are saying we are for multiparty democracy and are willing to accept the verdict of a constituent assembly.
We are glad with the new situation that is emerging after Shyam Saran went to China, it seems the situation can change. Our movement is also going forward and I think in 2-3 months, if the struggle continues, then there is a real chance of ending the kingship once and for all and making a democratic republic in Nepal. This is the best outcome for China and India, and everyone else. The U.S. does not want this. They want to maintain the monarchy at all costs.
Moriarty consistently has been speaking against the Maoists. He is connected to the Asia-Pacific military command of the U.S. He is not a political man. And we know that although his views are different from some in the U.S. establishment like, say, Senator Leahy, but overall, the position of the U.S. authorities is not in favour of democracy and Nepal people.
Leadership question and inner party life
Varadarajan: Has your party put behind it the differences which emerged last year between yourself and Baburam Bhattarai?
Prachanda: There was a problem and we solved it so well that the unity in our party is stronger than ever before. Our problems were not of the kind the media wrote about. We had an ideological debate about how to evaluate the 20th century. Why did the communist movement suffer such an enormous setback? Why did the Russian revolution get overcome by counter-revolution? Why did China also go down that path? This was a debate within the central committee for many years. There were other problems linked to shades of opinion within the party – like the Madi blast – but the purpose was to sort out our future plan. This was the purpose of the debate. But the timing was such that these things happened after February 1. If the timing had not been so bad, there wouldn’t have been that much propaganda. But the time the king took over was also the time the debate in our party sharpened.
Varadarajan: The question was raised of a cult of personality in the party. As you know, any objective evaluation of the experience of the 20th century communist movement has to consider the cult of personality as certainly one of the factors in the reversals.
Prachanda: That is correct. But I want to clarify one thing. Between Dr. Bhattarai and me, there was never any debate on the issue of leadership. He has never challenged my leadership. On the issue of leadership personally, there has never been a difference. There were differences on ideological questions, about what we should do now, and there was a debate. And this debate we solved in the Rolpa plenum in August. We took it to a higher level and our unity has become stronger.
On the issue of leadership I want to say that our party will be the first communist party in the 21st century which has picked up on a clue from the 20th century – where it had got stuck – and we are going to open it. At our plenum, we placed a resolution on the question of political power and leadership. That when we go for state power and are in power, then we will not do what Stalin or Mao did. Lenin did not have time to deal with issues of power. Although Stalin was a revolutionary, his approach, was not as scientific as it should have been, it was a little metaphysical, and then problems came. We also evaluated Mao in the plenum. If you look at his leadership from 1935 to 1976 – from when he was young to when he was old and even speaking was difficult – must he remain Chairman and handle everything? What is this? So we decided that when we are in power, the whole team of our leadership will not be part of day-to-day power. Not just me but our team. Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, Badal, Mohra, others, we have a leadership team which arose from the midst of the struggle. When we go to Kathmandu, we will not be involved in power struggles or day-to-day power. That will be for the new generation, and we will train that generation. This is a more scientific approach to the question of leadership. If we don’t do this, then we will have a situation where as long as Stalin is alive, revolution is alive, as long as Mao is alive, revolution is alive.
This will be a big sacrifice for our leadership. Of course it does not mean we will be inactive or retire from politics. Our leadership team will go into statesmanship. We are hoping that by doing this we will solve a very big ideological problem of the communist movement. This is not only a technical question but a big ideological question. There can be no question of concentrating power in the hands of any individual or group. When we placed this resolution before the plenum, then our entire leadership team gained confidence in themselves, the movement and the line. Our unity has become much stronger. Now we are in an offensive mood.
We feel we have contributed to the ideological development of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. Traditionally, in the international communist movement there are two types of revisionism – right revisionism of class collaboration, and the other, dogmato-revisionism, of turning certain ideas into a dogma and getting stuck to them. This is more among the Maoists. Those who call themselves Maoists are more prone to dogmato-revisionism, and we have to fight against this too.
Varadarajan: To what extent do you think the logic of your line on multiparty democracy applies also to the Maoist movements in India?
Prachanda: We believe it applies to them too. We want to debate this. They have to understand this and go down this route. Both on the questions of leadership and on multiparty democracy, or rather multiparty competition, those who call themselves revolutionaries in India need to think about these issues. And there is a need to go in the direction of that practice. We wish to debate with them on this. If revolutionaries are not going to look at the need for ideological development, then they will not go anywhere.
Varadarajan: The Indian police agencies say you are providing weapons and training to the Indian Maoists but here you are saying they should go in for multiparty competition.
Prachanda: There is no question of us giving anything. They blame us for Madhubani, Jehanabad, but we have no relationship of this kind with them.
Varadarajan: What is your evaluation of the recent political developments in Latin America – with what is happening in Venezuela with the Bolivarian movement, in Chile, Bolivia?
Prachanda: We feel there is a new wave of revolution on the horizon. The first wave began with the Russian revolution and ended with the Cultural Revolution but now it looks like the second wave could be starting. Dogmatism and ideological stagnation is evident in the U.S. Bush is in league with Christian fundamentalists. Throughout Latin America there is resentment and hatred against imperialism, from Venezuela, Brazil, Bolivia and Chile, and an explosion can come at any time. The encirclement of America has begun. But I also believe this explosion can start from South Asia. Nepal and India have a big role to play. The U.S. will not be able to control things. And the developments in Latin America are a good augury.
Varadarajan: In conclusion, tell us a little about yourself. How old are you now? When did you join the movement? Where did you study?
Prachanda: I am 52 and have been in the movement full time for the past 34 years. I drew close to communism when I was 16, as a student in high school, and became a whole-timer when I was 28. I did a B.Sc. at the Chitwan agriculture university and was studying for a Masters in Public Administration when there was a big movement around the time of the referendum Birendra was organising. That is when I joined the movement, and couldn’t complete my course. Since then I have been active, most of the time underground.
Varadarajan: And family life? Are you married?
Prachanda: Yes. My family, of course, is also in the movement.
Varadarajan: Thank you very much for this interview.
Prachanda: Thank you.
Newton’s law states that in every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction. In the case of our bloody war, action was initially started by Maoists. They always provoked the military and killed other party cadres and innocent villagers. Only after that military reacted with its force. In the course of reaction, there might be some unwanted casualties and damages which is difficult to stop. So, now tell me, who is more terrorist? ACTOR( nihu khojne= Maobadi) or REACTOR ( pratirodh garne= RNA)?
Do you think the Maoists came out of the blue? No, they were also reacting to something–they were reacting to the abject poverty and misery in which the vast majority of the Nepali population live. They were reacting to the inability of the corrupt political system to respond to this. They were reacting against exploitation by landlords, moneylenders, bribe takers and givers, corrupt merchants, etc. Who started this? It cannot be said that one party or group started this. It is a legacy of poverty and destitution going back centuries. The Maoists reacted to this because the King and the political parties failed to react.
Poverty is a greater killer than war has ever been.
Prateek wrote somewhere in the article “… I told him that until the Maoists abandoned arms and came to the mainstream politics, we would never support them. However, both of us were not in a mood to accentuate the debate at the beginning of the interview. So, we tacitly avoided the issue. …”
Well, Prateek ji, Who will listen to Baburam, Kaluram, or RamBahadurBadal or any other Rams if they give up arms? Gun is the source of power for both the monarch and the maoists. Until 7 parties didn’t have any strategic alliance with the maoists, no one were paying any attention to the sporadic protests of the 7 parties– a very hard to shallow realty.
What we have to see once the monarchy is toppled is whether there will be a “Communist Republic” or “Democratic Republic”.
As I have been knowing you for long and Narayan, you guys did a good job. I know that neither Maoists nor the Royalists can prevail, but we Nepalese have to endure and we have that power.
Of course Prateek and Narayan ji have done wonderful jobs. But, it is irrelevant to associate ‘natabad-kripabad’ by saying ‘i know falana and dhiskana’. They are the residual of feudal elements in nepal. To move the country forward, one must relinquish that kind of mentality.
It seems that Prachanda succeeded in convincing middle class Prateek Pradhan that their party is concerned about peace. It is often that those who accuse others of dogmatism and rigidity are rigid and dogmatic about their own views.
It is good that Prateek Pradhan is so honest.
Hope he remains open to different ideas always, as a good journalist is meant to.
My comments….lets question the integrity of Prateek Pradhan…
1. The bloke cannot speak PROPER AND CORRECT ENGLISH.
2. POSES AS THE EDITOR OF A ENGLISH NEWSPAPER.
3. THE NEWSPAPER CLAIMS TO BE THE LARGEST SELLING “ENGLISH BEWSPAPER” IN NEPAL….
4. ACTUALLY THE KATHMANDU POST(TKP) DOESNT EVEN SELL 2,000 COPIES SPREAD ALL OVER NEPAL – THE HIMALAYN TIMES HAS A READERSHIP BASE OF 60,000
5. MY POINT IS – EVERYBODY KNOWS THAT THE HIMALAYAN TIMES IS A BETTER AND THE NO.1 NEWSPAPER IN NEPAL.
6. IF THE EDITOR OF TKP CAN CLAIM THAT TKP IS ‘THE LARGEST SELLING NEWSPAPER IN NEPAL’, WHICH IS A BLATANT LIE -WHICH EVEN THE SATAN WOULD HAVE BEEN PROUD TO FABRICATE – AND SELL IT EVERYDAY…..WHAT ABOUT THE NEWS AND THE CONTENTS THAT IT PUBLISHES????? ARE THE NEWS FABRICATIONS??? LIES?????? OR JUST CLAIMS???? (IN CASE PRATEEK WOULD LIKE TO POINT OUT THAT TKP JUST CLAIMS TO BE THE THE LARGEST SELLING NEWSPAPER).
7. MY QUESTION FOLK – HOW MUCH DO YOU BELIEVE AND RESPECT THE INTEGRITY OF SUCH AN ORGANISATION THAT MAKES SUCH A CLAIM EVERYDAY?