Nepal Talks: An Interview With A Local Maoist Leader

By Neil Horning

The following is a translation of an interview conducted with Com. Karan, the Maoists District Secretary of Kaski, in the Maoists district office on February 22. The first part of the interview consists of questions devised by me, and the second consists of questions submitted to me online and from friends in Pokhara. Special thanks to Mahesh Bandari for serving as my translator.

Part 1:
The Medheshi People’s Rights Forum (MPRF) has raised many of the same issues that you have historically, and has recently said that they will contest the constituent assembly elections. What type of challenge do you believe this will pose to you?

It won’t effect the election because these are the same issues that we had years before. Now just before the constituent assembly the Medheshi Peoples Rights Forum has stolen our ideas. They are just trying to benefit from the Maoist work in the past. They are opportunists. It may reflect some weakness on our part that people were manipulated into supporting the MJF. We were going to raise all of those issues that they did during the constituent assembly. However, it is telling that while the MJF raises many of our issues, they do not talk about land redistribution or empowerment of marginalized casts. This indicates they are actually a Hindu fundamentalist organization in the Pocket of the King and the BJP.

Would you say they represent the ruling class of the Terai?

Yes

It has been reported often in the News that you are seizing voter roles, because the Electoral Commission is excluding migratory workers, people in rented houses and political activists who currently reside outside their district. Now that there are Maoist lawmakers in Parliament, aren’t efforts at the central level enough?

We are not doing that in on all locations, but only some, and only to put pressure on the Government. The government must provide a fair way for all people to vote peacefully.

What will you do if the government does not do this?

I am confident that the central deliberations will go our way. We will continue to apply pressure. It is unacceptable that someone would not be able to vote simply because they have a reason they can’t be at home, and there are too many people affected. The government must accept this.

Are you doing anything to ensure that people who are give donations to you do so out of genuine support rather than feelings of intimidation?

What the press says about intimidation is very partial. There are a quite a few people who believe that those who give us money do so out fear. However the majority of people are highly attracted to Maoist politics and that is why they are giving us donations.

What type of Maoist policies and programs are being conducted in this district/area?

We are doing the same types of policies and programs that are conducted in other districts, as per the direction of our party.

Can you give an example?

First we are coordinating with other political parties. We want to implement all of the social programs though the other political parties in a cooperative manner. Second, we are doing development work. For instance, the path from Nayapul to Gandruk needs to be maintained periodically. The last time this happened it cost 20 lakh. This time we did it and it cost 5 to 7 lakh (1 lakh = aprox. $1400 US).

How does the concept of the “Dictatorship of the proletariat” interface with multiparty democracy? Are you abandoning the “Dictatorship of the Proletariat,” postponing it, or redefining it?

We haven’t abandoned it, but we are redefining it. We are fighting for a people’s republic; a republic of all peoples who can stand up to America and the King.

It seems that now instead of a dictatorship over the bourgeoisie, it is a dictatorship over royalists…

We want to have dictatorship over the Bourgeoisie. But now this is a very important tactical step that we have to take. It is a beginning. Now we have to go against royalists together.

The Maoists are going to be entering the interim government next week. Do you have your eye on any particular programs or ministries? Does the U.S. decision to cut aid to these programs effect your decision?

The U.S. can make any kind of decision that they want. We will not beg from them. It does not affect our entry into certain programs. There will come a point after the constituent assembly that we will have the right to claim certain programs, but does not mean that we entered the government in order to fight over ministerial posts.

Do you know which ones you want?

Not at this time.

American Ambassador James F. Moriarty has recently been claiming that you are buying crumby weapons in Bihar. The Indian intelligence agency is claiming that you are buying weapons from Let, and Com. Gaurav recently claimed that “Since entering mainstream politics, we have increased our military strength from 10,000 to a 37,000-strong PLA.” These claims combined may lead people to wonder about your commitment to arms management. Do you have anything to say that would alleviate their worries?

I don’t like to say anything about Moriarty says. America is the proudest and most unilateral country. They like to say “If any other country doesn’t do what we say, then blah, blah, blah…” The report from India is a matter of sadness, but it has not been confirmed officially, so I cannot comment on it. The troop levels of our army have remained constant, so Com. Gaurav was probably talking about an increase in activists. On the issue of acquiring arms, we have three strategies of decreasing priority. First, we make them ourselves. Next, we steal them from the enemy. Last, we buy them. We had sufficient arms captured from the Army, so we didn’t buy many.

However, now is the time to be in the government. If we stay in the government, soon we will have all the arms, so it is not necessary to get arms from other countries. All these reports of buying weapons from other countries are just rumors against our party. Now we are in open politics.

What, if anything, are you planning to change about Gurka recruitment in Nepal?

The people in Nepal join the Gurkas as a Means of economic support. But they are forced to fight in foreign wars that they have no stake in. If they were not compelled to join out of economic necessity they would not do so. So it is not really a matter of honor but a matter of slavery. The Gurkas will not be needed once we have economic development, so we will end Gurka recruitment in Nepal.

Which comes first?

The development must come beforehand. We will end the recruitment once they can all be provided with jobs.

How do you envision the future for foreigners in Nepal? Do residents originating from developed countries have anything to worry about?

There will be no problems for foreigners on the part of the Maoists. The claims that we will stop them from coming or cause them problems are media exaggerations. However, we want foreigners who love Nepal. Those who hurt the country will be thrown out.

What role is the new Young Communist League going to fulfill? Will they be helping in the implementation of your various programs? Will they serve as a replacement for the militia?

It is not a new role for the militia. There are hundreds of thousands of youth in Nepal who have no employment or chance for productive activity. There are also more and more young people who are coming forward politically. The YCL will be an outlet for those youth.

Part 2:
Can you draw a picture of the new state structure? An organizational diagram of how things will work.

We want a structure of interdependent yet independent regions linked like a chain underneath a central hierarchy, much like the system in Switzerland. We want to follow the system of Switzerland very closely.

Does this include the Swiss military structure, with no standing army?

Yes, it will be the same. But this will happen very slowly.

What are the top 3 things that need to happen in order to achieve lasting peace in Nepal.

There is just one thing.Those who have been ruled over need to be given the right to rule themselves. All other things flow from that.

You have received nothing but trouble from the American administration over the years. Yet, as it is now, if a tourist goes into the mountains it is nearly impossible for them to keep from putting money in America’s pocket. In light of this what is your position on American products in Nepal (Coca-Cola, Marlboro etc.)? It is known that you have in the past closed down various industries for one reason or another. So, is there a Maoist double standard regarding American products?

I appreciate this question. Whoever asked it truly loves this country. America has the same policy all around the underdeveloped world. Above all, America uses its products to capture markets and dominate others. There may seem to be a double standard. But we are fighting in our own way. We will develop products like Coca-Cola and Marlboro here. Then there will be no need to fight American products.

What are you going to do to ensure tourism continues and increases? Furthermore how will you ensure the conservation of the National Parks? Where does Tourism fit into your future economic plans?

We have a complete package for economic change. Only developing one sector will not change the economic situation of the country. Nepal must not only be politically independent, but it must be economically independent as well. Tourists will always be welcome in Nepal. What is happening now is that Nepalese people are going all over the world and showing people our wonderful culture. We would like to have the opposite of that. We would like People from all over the world to come here. Then when they go home they can spread our culture themselves. When tourists come here in the future, they will have total security.

What is your view on the Indo-American military alliance? Deals to provide India with modern jet fighters for instance?

This is just another example, and another means for, the U.S. domination of all the countries of the world.

Do you think the king should be tried in international court?

Of course.

International Court?

Yes, he’s a criminal; of course he should be tried in international court.

There are 3 different main religions in Nepal; Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam. Officially, the Maoists do not believe in any of them. How will you respond to religions that try to assert themselves politically, such as the case of Hindu Fundamentalists?

We want to stop all oppression that happens in the name of religion. However, anyone may freely practice the religion of their choice.

Neil Horning, an American currently living in Nepal, has conducted Multiple interviews with Maoist combatants and their superiors during the Nepalese conflict and subsequent period. He holds a BA of International Relations from San Francisco State University. Personal Blog

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68 thoughts on “Nepal Talks: An Interview With A Local Maoist Leader”

  1. Hey guys,

    I’m sorry, first off, because I wont be checking up to see if anyone responds to what I’m about to say, so this isn’t very dialogical of me. Second, great job Neil, way to take back the media. I also really like how you bothered to post those things about what you know of the Maoist atrocities. I found that the interview wasn’t very biased at all, not least of all becuase I came away thinking, “so that’s what they have to say,” not, “what great guys.” As for not asking questions that loose you access, good call, full marks for practicality. You certainly don’t strike me as either a Maoist or a Royalist, though being an indymedia type I bet you’re a leftist. Anyway, I just wanted to say I’m thankfull for your work, it was enlightening. I must admit, I’m really tempted to comment generally on the responses you’ve recieved, but hey.

    Keep up the good work,
    Some random guy named Phil

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  2. Neil,

    I like the fact that you take the interest to talk with these maoists at the local level . I’m sure you have to tread carefully on their turf. I must also admit that some questions whether you asked them or not are quite leading, but then since you asked them the answers were obvious. I would not waste time asking maoists what they think about the King and what should happen to him. However, what interests me is the mixed messages we get from their leaders, sometimes India is their enemy and later not so, and we really still don’t have a policy on the economy from the maoists besides they wanting to take everything away from the haves. I know we cannot expect too much from a local level leader, but I wonder if the national level leaders are struggling with their own cadres just as they seem to be with the rest of us in giving us a clear maoist agenda. Banning Coca-Cola and hoping to find a product that replaces it does not really convince, especially when you think of the many people out of work and the tax revenue lost to the government, not to speak of the demand for it by the population for this popular American beverage. Correct me if I’m wrong, but these respondents seem to be driven by hatred for whoever they think are the “ruling classes” (King, feudals, Brahmins, Chettris, etc.) more than the desire to really make a change for all of the citizens no matter what their history.

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  3. The Maoist position on the economy is not clear if you get it from the newspaper. If you get it from their documents it is pretty clear.

    http://nepal.singlespark.org/problems/bb_pe-rational.htm

    Thats a place to get started there. I have not seen any current Maoist economic positions that contradict the above document. The local business owner who gave me the question was the one who wanted to see Coca-Cola banned. What was encouraging about what Karan said in response is that they wouldn’t be banning it. He said they would instead produce products here to compete with coke.

    I think the central leaders are indeed struggling with the local cadre. Various Non-profit workers have told me that they often encounter trouble with local cadres, and getting these problems resolved is simply a matter of appealing far enough up the chain until they get to someone who has a better understanding of what is going on. They tell me that once you get far enough up in the Maoist government the representatives tend to be pretty articulate and understanding. My friend who works for the UN OHCHR tells me that Karan in particular has always been very cooperative with him. The pattern one sees in the paper is that of local cadre’s screwing up, and then commanders stepping in to try and resolve things. Either that or they promise to investigate. Just read the Kathmandu Post for a while and you will see what I’m talking about. This is an example I saw today: http://www.kantipuronline.com/kolnews.php?nid=102569

    Part of the Maoist support and zeal may come from hatred of the ruling classes, but at least a significant amount comes from a hatred of the system. The women in their ranks, for instance, seem to be more inspired to join the Maoists by the lack of power they have over their own lives in the current system, than any class ideology. It is an ironic, yet true, that many women in Nepal can find more independence in an ideologically rigid political party and its military than they can in their own family.

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  4. N. Horning-since you seem to have a very good insight on the Maoists I would like hear what you have to say about the present perception that they took the Madeshis and the Janjatis for a ride. They do seem very lukewarm about Madeshi and Janjati issues right now which contradicts with their earlier stance.

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  5. My take on it is this. The Maoists failed to negotiate the bill of goods they were selling to the Janajaties and the Medheshi’s from the SPA. The NC stood in particular oposition to these issues. The Maoists decided to make the peace accord anyway, because they figuered they would be the only party going into the CA that would stand for these issues, and all of the marginalized groups would then have to vote Maoist. They didn’t count on a Medheshi organization (besides the Maoist splintergroups) “spontainiously” forming at the very moment they entered the parliment.

    I think the Maoists were counting on being portrayed as the savior of the marginalized groups once the CA rolled around. Now they are playing catchup.

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  6. Well one good thing that seems to have happened with the Madeshi and Janjati issue is that these groups appear to have now taken up their own causes instead of relying on others.

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  7. Neil,

    I did not get the competition factor from the response, it sounded more like we will ban American goods and produce our own. I could be wrong, you interviewed the guy. Also, I have not read their economic agendas, but I have heard the discussions in the media and interviews with the leaders, it seems quite confusing. As for the women factor, I can see exactly what you mean, Nepal still has a ways to go before women are considered equal even in the eyes of the law, I don’t take the parliamentarians seriously when they claim to stand up for women, they themselves seem to be the same old boys types.

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  8. I also agree totally with you that as you go further up the pecking order things get somewhat clearer (especially regarding matters of extortion, intimidation, arms etc.), although most wish that the strengths upstairs get transferred quickly as possible to the lower levels.

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  9. Neil,

    I went through Baburam Bhattarai’s economic policies and would like to share and comment on some:

    “Even after the decade of 1980s when the much propagated “liberalization” campaign was launched as directed by world imperialism, the multinational companies have not been investing as much capital as expected by the ruling classes and instead they are found investing more in sectors which benefit them most in terms of quick and big profit returns such as in beer, liquor, soft drinks (Pepsi-cola, Coca-cola), hotels etc.”

    Yes, big profits but also big taxes for the government.

    Hotels??? – quick and big profits – must be dreaming. It’s probably the most long term investment there with very high risks and low or no returns no thanks to the peoples war and the largest employer of semi skilled and skilled labour – or do we all work in the fields with no pay? This strikes at the heart of our greatest industry – tourism, which Dr. Bhattarai does not even mention in his great economic programmes.

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  10. In revolutionary changes to means of production,

    “Thus the main policy of the revolution would be to confiscate the means of production that have been in the hands of the reactionary classes, mainly land which has been in the hands of the feudals and capital in the hands of the comprador and bureaucratic capitalist classes, and then to hand them over to the progressive forces (i.e. workers, peasants, petty bourgeoisie and national bourgeoisie) and to organize the mode of production in a new way”

    Who defines these terms “reactionary classes”, “beureucratic capital classes” – it could mean anybody and everybody.

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  11. “In the New Democratic stage big and basic industries and financial companies would be under social ownership of the state, some of the larger means of production would be jointly owned by the state and the individual and in agriculture, the largest sector of the economy, there will be private ownership by the peasants and in small and medium industry and trade there will be ownership by the industrialists and traders.”

    While the world progresses the other way we go backwards. Let’s not stray too far, West Bengal even with it’s access to the sea tried this for decades only to fail again and again. The Communist leadership today in Bengal do not want to talk about the days of state run everything and have moved on and shown great progress in a short period with liberalisation.

    The fact that large industries suffer here is not because of privatisation, it is infact because of government policy and political unions. When policy can be changed to benefit the nation why go for nationalising by the state which has failed even in nations who have much more wealth then ours? It seems that Dr. Bhattarai is less interested in economics and more on centralisation of power for populist political capital.

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  12. Land Reform:

    “The principal strategy of land reform would be to usher in capitalist relations by destroying completely feudal, semi-feudal and bureaucratic capitalist relations prevalent in agriculture. It would be primarily based on the policy of “land to the tiller”. In other words, the land of those feudals (and also guthis) who do not put their labour or capital on the land would be confiscated without compensation and distributed to the landless and poor peasants and the tillers would be made owners of the land.

    Together with this all forms of debt incurred by landless and poor peasants would be completely nullified and labour-services and other forms of payment forced upon them would be cancelled. In order to enhance production and productivity of agriculture and to protect the backward agricultural sector from the competition of industrial, commercial or financial sectors, adequate institutional provisions of irrigation, modern inputs (e.g. fertilizers, seeds, pesticides, machines, implements etc.), credits and market would be made to the farmers and in order to guarantee proper price for the agricultural produces, necessary monetary and price policy would be implemented at the state level.

    Of the 2.6 million hectares of cultivable land currently available in the country if one is to confiscate only the minimum 40 percent of land belonging to the 5 percent of the feudals and bureaucratic capitalists then the surplus land turns out to be 1.0 million hectares. If one is to distribute this among the 70 percent of landless and poor peasant families then it comes to more than 0.5 hectare per family,

    If one is to mobilize the huge surplus labour available to bring irrigation facility to the additional 1.15 million hectares of land then even within the present technical level of production, agricultural production can be increased by many times. Hence there is no doubt that dramatic turns in the agriculture sector and in the overall economy can be brought about through revolutionary land reforms in the country.”

    While I agree that agricultural areas have to be put to it’s maximum use and the fruits of it’s labour should benefit the tillers as much as the owners who are also tillers themselves, there are ways to do this without being so —- bankrupt for ideas. We already have land ceilings in place and the first stage should be to strictly impose them (when Prachanda makes statements like feudals with 100 bighas of land, I’m afraid he can only be talking of the King, as the rest of us ar not allowed to hold that much land in anycase under current laws). Confiscating land without even the minimum compensation is just dictatorship, therefore under existing ceiling we can have progressive taxation and farms should be run like companies with benefits to workers, salaries etc. just like any other company. Smaller farms should be encouraged (though various means – tax breaks for instance) to merge their land with others like themselves to go into cooperative farming. This way the administrative costs and obviously the political and social cost of such an venture would be greatly if not entirely reduced. Governments on the other hand should concentrate on improving policies and implementing them to assist the population and not talk of nationalising etc. and venture on populist agendas that only empowers the state and no one else. Let us also not forget who the biggest landlord is and the most unproductive feudal in my book – the Government of Nepal itself.

    Finally the whole idea of “mobilising the surplus of labour” – basically meaning free of cost labour to till the land and this has been done even during the insurgency where villagers were made to work on road projects with no pay or even food for that matter. Simply too vague for anyone to take it seriously in economic terms and serious enough for economists to flay such proposals.

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  13. Well, while I haven’t heard any Maoists statements that contradict the above, one has to keep in mind that those were written with the assumption that the Maoists would take state power by military force. The actual Maoists policies in the current situation are likely to be a bit more nuanced.

    If they can enter into the government before the CA, the Maoists will probably start on land reform as soon as possible. Instead land reform along “revolutionary” lines, they will probably do something closer to what you are calling for. They will no doubt have a lower ceiling than the current one, but the biggest difference with the past will be that the program will actually be implemented. The reason it will be implemented is not because the Maoists are more competent than past governments (although they are in certain matters). The reason is they actually want to see the programs implemented.

    This is the crux of the matter. The Maoists will obviously try to implement some programs that only make sense to people who share their ideology. However, they will actually make a good faith attempt to implement their programs. Past governments, in contrast, have paid lip service to populist concepts while lining their own pockets and those of their backers. Sometimes doing the correct thing poorly is worse than doing the wrong thing well.

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  14. Well I think the recent broadcast of Maoist Supremo Prachanda’s interview on KTV described something else. They cannot deny that they’re not influenced by the lust of chair. He clearly stated that Power meant Gun and Money and that Gun could be gotten having hold of Ministries like Defence and Home and Money from Ministry of Economy. So what people should understand that at the immediate moment based on the white papers of Maoist, they may look revolutionary but after all it is all what matters to them is power to get a grip of everything at once after having been a crownless king of Nepal. The pomp and show of his security escort and YCL cadres holding batons on their hand taking up the administration on their hands deciding that pedestrians should walk on the main street and vehicle dwellers on the pedestrian walk clearly signifies what they’re up to. And SPA has made the government the puppets of Maoist. During Prachanda’s visit we could see the flag of Maoists fluttering on the vehicle of SP of Morang. So it well defines who is running this country beyond the curtains and before the curtain

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  15. Neil,

    Like I said they are quite vague and have changing views like the wind. Of course, you are correct that if they could have just taken over, then obviously they would nationalised just about everything – which is not a good thing, but it would have been done (hence people really don’t trust their recent democratic embrace). Land reform has always been on every parties agenda. We have ceilings in place now for decades which is not implemented properly. The bottom line Neil, which you forgot is – 2/3 majority is required to pass any nation wide changes – so before CA elections? I doubt it. I even doubt they will take up the Land Ministry, because if their proposal does not pass (and most likely it won’t), they will have lost faith with their voters. They have got to win substantial votes in the elections (of course freely and fairly). Will they – I doubt it.

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  16. Neil,
    With my reference to vagueries and changing views:

    You say that you have’nt heard any maoist statements that contradict the Bhattarai document. Now I really do not want to sound anything but constructive here, but Neil I would like to ask how your understanding of the Nepali language is? I know you may have translaters for some occasions and here again their skills of Nepali into English and vise versa has to be examined but I think (and I could be wrong) that seeing your take on the maoists (which is quite thorough therotically), I’m afraid practically if I may you seem to be somewhat (not completely) lost in translation. Believe me I am not trying to belittle you in anyway here – as I said I could be wrong.

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