By Zade 15
After attending the Maoist Mass Meeting in Khula Manch, Kathmandu.
…I see no reason for the crowd to get so excited. So the Maoists will be closer to our doorsteps, how happy should one feel? Who can you trust? The same applies to the SPA (Seven Party Alliance). The mass meetings in Khulamanch seem more of a fashion to me. I have been to all of them held after the 19-day movement (April). And on the stage speakers seem to lose their minds promising everything they can’t even make an attempt to think about. Big talk, always talk and petty actions. The monotony is killing me.
Jestha 19, 2063. The day is finally here. She calls me to come along. I am more than glad to accompany her. We get the Press Pass. The “Bepatta Pairwar Samaj” (Society of Disappeared Peoples’ Families) office is just across the office where we get the pass. A man there speaks in English. His elder brother “Deepak Neupane” disappeared one day after he went to Prithvi Narayan Campus, Pokhara. It was in 2061 B.S. Police in plain clothes arrested him as soon he stepped out of the campus premises.
It is very painful to live without any knowledge of the whereabouts of your dear ones he says. A woman behind him is asking for the picture of her younger son, she is already carrying the one of her elder son. Both of them have disappeared. Nepal has the highest number of disappearance cases, he informs, and we have 2000 recorded cases while an equal number are off the record.
“What do you do?” I ask.
“Teaching is my profession. I teach and get tortured,” he replies with a laugh.
Disappeared. A very easy thing to be told, a very difficult fact to accept. I am eager to know what the Maoist Biggies have to say about it.
The Maoists prevail in the Khulamanch (Open Air Theater) area. I meet a Maoist comrade. He wears a ‘Che Guevara’ T-shirt and sips the black tea. He tells me he is being trained as the photojournalist of the party, taking pictures of various party functions and other activities. I find that very amusing. He points out to a man outside the restaurant window. “Do you know the name of that photojournalist?” He asks me. I don’t.
“So do you think you will be back to the forests?” I question.
“That depends on how flexible the Seven Party Alliance is”, he answers.
The number of vehicles in the Bagbazar area is slowly decreasing. It is the supposed big day for most people out on the streets. She is heading for her work; she is a housemaid cum maize seller. I help her fill up the sheet of paper. Her message is for her daughter: “May you never have to work like me, may you be able to study a lot.” She herself is illiterate but can write her name. The slow movement of the pen up and down, the cautious writing, I can almost feel the effort she is putting into it. She tells us that she is just back from one house after completing the household chores there; she is heading to another place to do the same. She’ll be selling maize at two in the afternoon. Simple people, simple dreams. Life goes on, she has to work. Things cannot be averted to an alternative path like the Kathmandu traffic. I explain her that the sheet of paper will be exhibited in Japan. “Good,” she says and gives thumbs up sign. That makes for a fine picture!
Mahara speech is just toooo long. Constant talking isn’t always communicating. I take down notes just to keep myself from falling asleep! Another one of those blaming sessions. He says there are three roadmaps in front of the Nepalese people now: One is that of the King, the other of the SPA and the next of the Maoists. The latter represents the wish of the people.
The program begins exactly at one o’clock with a Sherpa dance. For me it’s like attending the annual function at school. Only this time I am the relaxed spectator rather than a fussing student who is to appear on the stage. Devendra Poudel is on the dais and he begins his speech by addressing everyone in Nepal: the so called intellectuals, the human rights monitors, journalists, women, the Tamangs, the disadvantaged, injured, families of the martyr, the ones who have disappeared and volunteers- the unarmed Maoist soldiers in a T-Shirt with a portrait of Prachanda, their supreme leader. It could be summed up as an inclusive address. He says the Maoist will continue leading the people until the movement results in the attainment of complete democracy. Central leader Agni Sapkota’s speech follows. A huge banner reading “Bishal Janasabha” [Huge Peoples’ Gathering] floats in the air above the stage. I wasn’t excited about the whole affair in the first place, I am not interested in another mere babble in the so-called historic event I am a part of either. Just then a branch of a tree overloaded with people breaks. There is a commotion.
Leknath Neupane, the student leader of the Maoist party, shows the signs of a typical youth leader. Energetic and Excited. His voice booms from the 14 speakers to my left and another 14 to my right. The Japanese journalist I am sitting next to closes her ears as he yells to stress on certain points.
“If the King hadn’t made the announcement on Baisakh 11 then this Shahid Manch and the Royal Palace would have been history!” He declares. It is followed by applause. “But things took a different turn so we had to move on with a new policy,” he adds.
“Now it is not going to be us training people in the villages and bringing them to the cities,” he screams once again. “But we will train them in the cities and mobilize them here.” Another round of applause. I see no reason for the crowd to get so excited. So the Maoists will be closer to our doorsteps, how happy should one feel? Who can you trust? The same applies to the SPA (Seven Party Alliance). The mass meetings in Khulamanch seem more of a fashion to me. I have been to all of them held after the 19-day movement (April). And on the stage speakers seem to lose their minds promising everything they can’t even make an attempt to think about. Big talk, always talk and petty actions. The monotony is killing me.
Maoist Army Deputy Commander Prabhakar makes quite a few strong statements. “If the Nepal Army doesn’t obey your order,” he assures to the Prime Minister. “Oh Girijaji then the Peoples’ Army is ready to take your order.” The crowd is pleased. “We had two peace talks earlier but then we were accused of losing peoples’ support, of being tired of fighting back, lacking ammunition. We backfired by attacking Thankot. Remember this, we are not tired. It’s not only a matter of one or two years but we are ready to fight for 100 years if that is what the people want. But we are not here with the proposal of war but of peace. Peace, peace, peace is the need of the hour.”
It is natural for people to get swayed by emotions after being out after years of hiding! Everything is easier said than done. All we need to do is wait and watch what happens next.
40% of the Maoist cadres are women, Pampha Bhusal proudly informs. I look around at the women volunteers clad in red Prachanda t-shirts. I can’t tell if they are the Maoists or not but it feels pretty good to notice the air of confidence they carry around them. The way they walk, the tailored pants they wear, the way they shake hands with their male counterparts- everything looked different to me. They certainly reflected more confidence than many educated women I knew.
Krishna Bahadur Mahara, the Maoist spokesperson and chief negotiator, is finally on the dais. His speech is just toooo long. I scribble on my diary, “Constant talking isn’t always communicating.” I take down notes just to keep myself from falling asleep! Another one of those blaming sessions. He says there are three roadmaps in front of the Nepalese people now: One is that of the King, the other of the SPA and the next of the Maoists. The latter represents the wish of the people.
People, what do you mean by the people? Sometime ago I was a participant in a program where a journalist explained the vague term, so who can we call the people. The ones on the streets, the ones staying back at home flicking channels all day long, who are they? He asked. If representation is sought then the community forest users group members which accounts for around 20 lakh people should be called the people. It is the organization with the largest number of members, he said. But my confusion is not of who the people are but on the grounds do the Maoists proclaim to represent the people.
“The Maoist Party is in control of 70% of the country while the remaining 30% is under the SPA,” says Dinanath Sharma, another member in the Maoist negotiating team headed by Mahara. That isn’t convincing either.
A woman speaker finally, Pampha Bhusal. She advocates on how the Maoist party has helped prove that a woman is equally capable as a man. 40% of the Maoist cadres are women, she proudly informs. I look around at the women volunteers clad in red Prachanda t-shirts. I can’t tell if they are the Maoists or not but it feels pretty good to notice the air of confidence they carry around them. The way they walk, the tailored pants they wear, the way they shake hands with their male counterparts- everything looked different to me. They certainly reflected more confidence than many educated women I knew.
Nothing different I conclude. After all is said and done about women’s participation in the decision making level. Look at what we Nepalese women have been provided with. Not a single woman minister in the so-called democratic government. If not for the Ministry for Women, Children and Social Welfare no consideration for women would have been made either. And neither the SPA nor the Maoist have included one-woman member in the Peace talks committees too. How the all so concerned and know it all men want to decide everything for us women!! Things are still the same for us. Thank God! For the recent amendments, at least that is some solace for families with only daughters like mine. At least that provides me with more points to retort back at people when they express that “Oh only two sisters” to me or “no son?” to my parents.
Maoist Army Deputy Commander Prabhakar makes quite a few strong statements. “If the Nepal Army doesn’t obey your order,” he assures to the Prime Minister. “Oh Girijaji then the Peoples’ Army is ready to take your order.” The crowd is pleased.
Pampha receives a thundering applause after her speech. What good is it? Some 20 people are on the stage; only two of them are women. I sit amongst hundreds of journalists around me; there are only ten or twelve women. Guff… mere meaningless babble..
Enough of the crap. She is hungry. So am I. We head for Thamel.
“Want to try Japanese food?” She asks.
“I am ready for anything to fill my tummy.”
The food arrives. Meso soup, tempura, dipping sauce made of egg plant.
“For my lover, for my lover…” Tracy Chapman sings in the background.
What’s changed? I wonder…
Zade 15 maintains her personal blog. She wrote this piece upon UWB request.
31 responses to “Maoist Mass Meeting: City Girl’s Perspective”
Of course, I also see no reason for the crowd to get so excited when Lekhnath Paudel ‘screams,’ “we will train people in the villages in the cities and mobilize them here.” Why, if the villagers come to the cities, who will live in the villages? Who will produce mushrooms, carrot, and egg plant and so on, without which my favorite cuisine Japanese meso soup can not be prepared.
Oh, well, I can have imported ones, but again, hey, what if all these village folks come to cities, get good education, better jobs, and do not want to work as waiters? Who will serve me my favorite Japanese meso soup, while I listen to Tracy Chapman? No wonder, I fear the ‘Maoists will be closer to our doorsteps’. I shouldn’t have been there, especially since ‘I wasn’t excited about the whole affair in the first place’.
khula manch3 , it might be you and the urban people who have to to go to the villages and plant vegetables
When Maoists leaders say people,it means which people ? When SPA said people, which people ? And King was always saying people ? which and how many ?
If you have any answer on the above questions, please tell me something.
I think many people are “dollar” farming in the capital in the name of poor people.They are most of the INGOs and NGOs. Their accounts are not transparent. Govt should be vigilent against these instituions.
They must go to serve the people in the villages. New generation particularly should take interest for village development.
laxmi, u didn’t get what i was trying to say.i’m just being sarcastic, just to convey how some city people might think.
Maoist in khullamanch. People were just eager to see and hear them coz most people in ktm have’t seen them but wait most people were brought from village (one person from every house forcefully). I didn’t went to khulla manch but i was in main bazaar area of Ason, Indrachowk, Newroad. I will tell what was the secnario out there. From day time like 2 Pm. to 5 Pm. more than 50% of the shops were already closed. I was surprised there was only one rally of maoist(of 20- 30 people). Most people closed their shops because they were afraid if maoists will come and ask for same old “Chandas” no one wanted to give them. Scenes were more like in NepalBandh.
This just shows people are just afraid of maoists coz they have guns.
If free and fair elections are conducted, Maoists will not get even 20 percent of votes. So it is only through the threat of guns. If you don’t believe, they are still abducting and killing. I pesonally think that the SPA should no so lenient towards them.
The mass meeting was spectacular no doubt with massive people involvement. However, we all know that CPN-M actually “strongly” instructed villagers to send members from their household to this gathering. If it was left to the ordinary villager in the country to to make a choice about attending or not attending without the threat of force, wonder if the gathering would have been as spectacular? The maoists need to think about this as they prepare to come to mainstream politics.
Many reluctant villagers were forced to attend the mass rally, would it be the same situation in the future elections as to whom should they vote for?
Pol Pot did the same thing quarter century ago. Sent city dwellers to villages to live there. Around 3 million of them died.
Though your sarcasm fits no where,no need to be frighten of the name of Maoists. Royalists did the same for centuries and failed. Communist dictatorship did not stood even a century. Soviet Union is its example.
so surprised to sere those maobadi daju and didis working as the volunteers on the roads of ktm city……
yes raj but when communist dictator leaves it will destroy all things and it will take years to rebuilt. just look at our villages.
Your article on the Mass Meeting at the Khula Munch was very good. I have just a few observations to make, and I hope that you will take them in the right spirit.
The present political situation in Nepal is the outcome of the triangular conflict between the King, the political parties, and the Maoists. Now the King has been sidelined and he has no one to blame but himself for this. The real moves and counter moves will now begin. The situation may move so rapidly from now on that it will be difficult to keep track of the events.
We are all agreed on the need for lasting peace in Nepal. Whether the ongoing negotiations will result in peace or become just another interlude will depend on the stand taken by the two negotiating groups. Peace must be given a chance, but freedom must not be sacrificed in the process. The Maoists demonstrated to the people of Kathmandu that they have the capacity to mobilise huge masses if needed in the future. This rally was in itself a well thought out psychological move aimed at coercing the Seven Political Alliance as well.
I work with the Independent Media Center in the USA. Most of our reporting is “first person” like this report, and they are always my favortite.
The thing that stands out to me is skepticism towards the Maoists, because their demands are just, and weariness with the vascillation and lies of the “democratic” parties.
Here’s my question: if you are skeptical of the Maoists but agree with their program, why don’t you join them?
If the SPA is talking more gassy air, why do you expect anything different?
What would be wrong with social revolution? Isn’t that what is needed?
If the current situation is unbearable for the vast majority of people, and the Maoists are speaking to that — shouldn’t they be supported?
burningman-The only problem with the Maoists is there unfortunate tendency to torture and kill those who do not agree with them.
Your questions on why there should be any skepticism towards the Maoists is simply because they believe and practice in the use of force, violence, terror, and coercion to achieve their socio-politico-economic goals.
They believe that “political power comes only out of the barrell of a gun”. Freedom, Liberty, and Equality has no place in their idelogical vision. They believe that if you are not with them, you are against them.
Social change or, as you put it, revolution is not bad by itself. But when that is the outcome of brutal extermination of all those who don’t agree to them, then there is a problem. It is not social change that they are after, it will be social engineering when they take over.
Your observation that the present situation is unbearable for the vast majority of the people and that the Maoists are addressing that particular segment of the population is correct only in so far as the need for peace. Nepalese people are fed up with the violence of the past twelve years and would like to get on with their lives.
Just as you point out that the leaders of the seven political parties are only capable of talking gassy air, so too are the Maoist leaders building castles in the air. Their vision of making Nepal the launch pad for further revolutionary offensives into India, and Bangladesh will consume many more Nepalese youths before they are brought down to the stark realities of the world we all live in.
The maoists should not be taken lightly as history has shown that they are capable of holding their own- but here’s the catch- now that we the Nepali people are sovereign once again (or at least well in the process), would we vote for the maoists based on their doctrine of using violent means to attain their goals? Or for that matter getting rid of opponents to establish their own government? Do we accept the declaration of election to constituent assembly with maoist participation IF the maoists do not lay down their weapons under UN supervision? It’s difficult not to be skeptical about the maoists and also to agree with their programme.
I agree with you completly. If the Maoists do not lay down their arms before the elections to the Constituent Assembly, there is a real danger that the other political parties will also begin to toy with the idea of creating their own armed wings within their parties. This will be the begining of the end for Nepal as a viable, sovereign, independent state. I hope we never come to that stage, but the future is not very rosy.
if the current round of talks fail, historic oppurtunity for peace will be lost. expect more of private militias, more heavily armed security forces and an unsolvable case like columbia or LTTE. Nepalese will have to learn to live in constant fear and in the scene of constant violence just like in Sri Lanka.
THe Maoists have repeatedly stated their desire for an unconditional constituent assembly, and that they would put their arms under international supervision (via the UN) should the (R)NA do the same.
For all the talk about Maoists using guns, let’s not pretend that they were the first army in Nepal. And, further, let’s not act like the SPA didn’t play their role in the counter-insurgency for many years in order to defend their own petty privileges.
Political power does grow out of the barrel of a gun. That’s the truth, even if it’s not pretty. The question is, in my mind, “who controls the gun?” What political force, with what social base, towards what ends?
The CPN(M) is a political party, not an army. They are hardly militarists. And in comparison to the (R)NA, they are saints.
Have the Maoists opened fire on live demonstrations of any kind? No.
Have the Maoists unleashed rape as a policy like the (R)NA? No.
Do the Maoists see themselves as citizens of the world and not just Nepal? Yes.
Everyone obviously doesn’t want to “get back to normal.” For millions, “normal” was oppression, backwardness, national oppression, and so on.
Those who want to “get back to normal” are those who this unequal system has benefited. The same people who weren’t willing to fight the autocracy, and who think the masses of people are simply ignorant fools…
But no more… exactly because of those Maoist guns.
You face a choice, it would seem. The attempt to graft the SPA onto the existing state in order to defend it is a betrayal of the 12-point agreement that the Maoists have upheld in the eyes of the world. Those who say the people’s army should dissolve understand nothing of either military science OR politics.
If the (R)NA is deployed against the people, it will be ugly… and they will lose.
So the only choice is to proceed towards the UNCONDITIONAL constituent assembly to see what the sovereign people choose.
The Maoists know that they will not win using just their armed wing and so the call for an unconditional Constituent Assembly. For them armed and unarmed conflict are just two sides of the same coin. The objective remains the same – capture of power by any means. The SPA is aware of this aspect in their strategy.
It is very interesting to hear that the Maoists are saints and the (R)NA devils! The problem is that we are neither saints nor devils, but just ordinary people who want to live free from fear, and free to make our own choices. The track record of the Maoists of the past twelve years does not inspire confidence on anyone. What you ascribe as a matter of policy for the (R)NA is infact a matter of policy of the Maoists. In any conflict situation, excesses will be committed, casulaties will occur, and as long as the State Forces stay within the law and take extra precautions to minimise collateral damage, all is fair in war!
The question on who controls the gun is a very valid observation. Lenin and Stalin controlled the guns in the USSR, Mao controlled the guns in the PRC, Pol Pot controlled the guns in Cambodia. If these were saints, I have no arguments to make.
The 12 point agreement which you speak of was only an invitation by the Maoists to draw the SPA into violence. It is only due to the insistence of the SPA that a peaceful movement occured in Nepal. If the continuing extortions, kidnappings, murders, threats, and coercions by the Maoists are expamles of upholding the 12 point agreement, then I have no arguments.
The SPA will move towards the CA but the Maoists must demonstrate their sincerity and honesty by also creating an environment where mutual trust and confidence can be built. This is a great opportunity to the Maoist learership also to join peaceful politics. If they instead choose to go back to the jungles, it will be unfortunate not only for the people of Nepal but also for the Maoists because they will never win by violent means.
Deva, the anger against the (R)NA is because this corrupt, inefficient army was too incompetent to deal militarily with Maoists. If they could have dealt some substantial blow to the Maoists, the Maoist would have sought peace more earnestly and earlier.
burningman, the Maoists have been equally bad as the (R)NA in killing and abusing people. In the areas they control they enforce their writs with the gun. In terms freedom of the press or freedom of speech and opinion they have a worse track record than the vile KG.
I agree that if the (R)NA had been more effective in dealing with the Maoist insurgency, things would have been simpler for the negotiating team. But we must understand that both the war-fighting sides will try to win the hearts and minds of the people. Winning the minds is always easier than winning the hearts; and this is where the Maoists have been very successful by their use of threats, torture, kidnappings, murders and so on. The (R)NA may have also attempted to follow the same tactic only to realise now that it has backfired on them.
It isn’t just Maoists who use guns, you know.
The demand is that the liberation army disband, not that ALL armed forces disband. That is political, and about ensuring the continuity of the EXISTING state, that obviously serves not the people, but the upper classes and their SOCIAL SYSTEM.
That’s what a revolution is: the end of the old order and the beginning of a new. If the old state has continuity, then the basic conditions of the people will not change.
That’s why the Maoists argue clearly, openly and without reservation for the convention of a constituent assembly WITHOUT LIMITATION.
“Limits” are the last ditch effort of the upper classes to maintain a peace of the graveyard. It is showing for the illusion it is.
burningman, what a lame excuse! So the Maoists ruthlessness with the opposition is justified because some other organisation is also ruthless? I guess we can all be murderers for our beliefs then.
An election to the constitution assembly without limitation will be a farce. burningman, you seem more like an anarchist then anything else.
Jail inmates recently held a sit in or call it an andolan if you like. Their protest:
” If murderers of innocent people (not armed personell) can be released citing that they are maoists, why is the state locking up petty criminals like thieves for instance (or even other murderers for that matter)? How can a capital crime be pardonable no matter what the reason, while petty crimes are punished?”
A very, very good question indeed!
I agree that there is a need for change, that all the genuine concerns of the less fortunate segments of our society need to be addressed quickly and effectively, but I disagree that such changes can only be achieved through a bloody and violent revolution. Such ideas are not only dangerous but outdated. The collapse of the Soviet Union, the changes which took place in Eastern Europe, and the radical change in the policy direction underway in China are proofs that such ideas will not work. Force will be met by force to impress on the Maoists that they will not win and that the the military road to their objective is totally blocked.
Now coming to the absolute bottom line of the Maoists, i.e. an unconditional election to a Constituent Assembly; and if they really desire a fair, open, unrestricted election to the Constituent Assembly, then that is quite another thing. If such is their bottom line, then they too must abide by this spirit and not prevent other poltical parties from going to the population in areas under their control. They too must give up their ongoing threats, coercion, kidnappings, murders, and intimidations and work to build mutual trust with the other political parties.
The SPA on the other hand would do well to discard any excess baggage thay may have with them till now. They must not repeat their past mistakes, but go the the elections with a genuine and sincere objective of addressing all the genuine concerns of all the Nepalese People.
Not to mention the people of Nepal’s bottom line : Lay down arms!
Excellent. I am so glad to read a woman’s perspective on all this. Looking forward to your Blog.
Caroline in Kathmandu
“Not to mention the people of Nepal’s bottom line: Lay down Arms!”
Yes, the (Royal) Nepal Army should immediately disband. It is a relic of an earlier age of despotism and oppression.
Let the people’s army, the only army not funded by foreigners, become the national army.
Let nothing obstruct the unconditional constitutent assembly.
Who fears the people?
That is becoming all too clear.
(Hint: It’s not the Maoists.)