Maoist Maneuver of June 16
UWB received this article by Jabarjast who has not revealed his identity but beautifully pointed out few shortcomings of eight-point agreement between SPA government and Maoists on June 16.
(Pic via Kantipur)
Last week, the Maoist strongmen, Pushpa Dahal and Baburam Bhattarai, emerged triumphantly from daylong negotiations with SPA leaders. An 8-point agreement was declared that effectively placed a stamp of approval on 12 years of methodical murder, political cleansing and intolerance for anything that remotely resembles western-style, liberal democracy.
It was in the presence of thunderous applause that Nepal’s elected leaders traded their position of electoral legitimacy (and any remaining notion of liberty), in a desperate bid for peace – the attainment of which ironically, is now perceived as part of the Maoist agenda.
Among the first to enthusiastically laud the Nepalese Maoists’ victory, have been India’s left parties. These groups appear eager to omit the recent past of violence and bloodshed by focusing solely on their Nepali brethren’s “last mile” to power. India’s political left is keen on leveraging the Nepali Maoists as an example that political power need not “flow from the barrel of a gun.”
To the contrary, if Nepal’s Maoist movement serves any example at all, it shows that violent rebellion can succeed and that political power can “flow from the barrel of a gun.” In fact, the success of the Maoist insurrection categorically demonstrates how the consistent application (and now the threat) of force can ultimately be justified as a necessary evil to achieve power and make a complete mockery of democratic processes. Far from being a lesson on how entering mainstream politics can benefit the Naxalite movement, Nepal’s Maoist insurgency is a potent exhibition of how the mobilization of frustrated civil society elements, ideologically imprisoned intellectual capital and like-minded global elements can yield a position of strength from which to dictate terms.
The victory of Nepal’s Maoist insurgency could well be the 21st century’s first successful example of how societal tensions and inequities may be effectively exploited, to the ultimate benefit of a protracted armed campaign (launched behind the façade of progressive politics). To term the recent exchange between the Maoist and SPA leaders as “negotiations” would be a generous stretch of the imagination. Based on available information, what transpired between the Maoists and the SPA reads more like the state’s admission of defeat than a process of substantive give and take. The level of sophistication and finesse with which the Maoists have forwarded their agenda finds no intellectual counter-weight from either the political class or civil society in Nepal – clearly, a sign of healthy competitive politics.
Moving forward, the Maoist strategy appears to be based on three tactical pillars: the ascendancy to power through key positions (ministry of education, local development, land reform and agriculture), the forwarding of peace as a Maoist initiative, and the dismantling of the only effective deterrent to their final victory – the state’s military apparatus. Collectively, these elements could result in the unchallenged consolidation of overwhelming Maoist support, right before the constituent assembly convenes. From an election standpoint, such planning is brilliant. But given where the country currently is, some may interpret the Maoist maneuverings as continued and shameless exploitation of a fragile situation.
The Maoists seem to understand perfectly well, the fallacy of the political situation – the same forces wed to the Maoists by the 12-point agreement are expected to run the country and simultaneously, compete for seats in the upcoming constituent assembly. Given this glaring contradiction, it is the Maoists who are best positioned to be in full swing campaign mode. Not surprisingly, the SPA is way behind the 8 ball – again.
That the Maoist strongman was visibly perturbed by the resurrected parliament’s adoption of radical reforms was evident during his interview on Kantipur Television. Hence, this government’s haste to dissolve the parliament – the same parliament that only days before, the leader of the mainstream communists (the UML), had strong reservations over dismantling. More likely than not, this government will eventually yield to the Maoists, the most coveted ministerial portfolios that could be had during the run up to elections. This concession, at a juncture when the country’s future political outlook is up for grabs.
With the utility of riding (solely) on popular dissatisfaction with the King on the decline, the Maoist leadership has shifted its focus to harnessing Nepal’s thirst for peace. It is because the Maoists’ have swept yet another initiative from under the SPA’s “rug,” that the majority of SPA leaders are left with no room to maneuver. The same is true of a minority civil society element that believes in rational thought. Who in their right state of mind would question the Maoists’ motive at the risk of being branded a “war monger” or a “royalist?” Moreover, who would dare risk the prospect of peace and their lives, given the established precedent of repercussions for opposing the Maoists publicly? The former president and vice-president of the Maoist Victims’ Association could probably have expanded on this point a little better, god bless their souls.
Why else would silence prevail when Pushpa Dahal instigates the state’s security forces, claiming that they have exhibited proficiency in one thing alone – killing fellow Nepalis? Why do Nepal’s otherwise proficient intellectuals and capable leaders remain unperturbed at the thought of holding elections to a constituent assembly with an armed political competitor? Where are all the advocates and activists who battled so vehemently against the king, when the notion of liberal democracy that guided their recent struggle, is under threat once more?
The perversion of this situation is that Pushpa Dahal has no one to thank more than King Gyanendra himself. For had it not been for February-1, there would be no 12-point agreement, no 8-point understanding and no systematic erosion of the palace’s most potent utility – as an effective ideological counterweight to leftist extremism in Nepal.
As convoluted as this line of reasoning may be, it is on par with Pushpa Dahal’s (otherwise plausible) assertion that a country like Nepal does not need a standing army of 90,000, that both the state’s army and the Maoist army should be dissolved and that elections are possible under a security blanket provided jointly by the police and Maoist militia.
The probability of Pushpa Dahal praising the king for sacrificing the monarchy (in exchange for peace) is as high as the probability of his acknowledgement that the justification for the 90,000 strong army was the armed insurrection that Mr. Dahal himself, chose to wage. After all, his army is no less proficient at killing Nepalis in “human waves” and his militia is even better at slitting journalists’ throats, bleeding political opponents to death and blowing up buses full of innocent civilians.
Most troubling isn’t Mr. Dahal’s lack of self-admission, but the complete absence of logical “Q&A” coming from the ranks of the political elite, civil society and the international community. There’s a reason why the Maoists are intent on mobilizing their militia – it’s because there’s no distinction between the Maoist army and their militia; there’s a reason why the Maoists are so keen on involving the UN – especially when it’s abundantly clear who’s word carries real weight in Nepal’s politics. One can absorb the rationale the Maoists are applying because given the position they’re in, there’s no way to decipher truth from propaganda or reality from perception. There should be no conditions on giving the Maoists-at-large; the benefit of the doubt, for the desire to live in peace must be universal.
However, taking confidence-building steps is distinct from offering the Maoists a free-for-all opportunity to hold the state hostage, using the prospect of peace as leverage. Offering the Maoist leadership the luxury of overnight celebrity status is an insult to each and every victim of Maoist atrocities, their families and the families of hundreds of thousands of Nepalis that have suffered to pave the way for a handful of ultras to hold the reins of state power.
The only way to understand the Maoists’ intent with certainty is to ask them (and their representatives in Washington DC, Brussels and London), piercing questions in public. Questions, similar to those fielded by leaders in democratic societies the world over. The time to test the water is now. Not tomorrow, not after constituent assembly elections, but now.
It’s time for Nepal’s political masters (especially the Nepali Congress) to re-mobilize its global resource base, from New York to Washington, from London to New Delhi. For tyranny comes in many forms and must be checked every single time – not just when it irks misguided, class or caste-based pride. With all the exchanges taking place in Nepal, there’s just one thing to say: trading “apples” for “apples” would be optimal. Even trading “apples” for “oranges” is acceptable. But trading “apples” for “orange peels” just isn’t smart and pretending that “orange peels” is better than nothing at all, is plain and simple stupid.