The recent escalating violence between the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF or MPRF) and the Maoists, and level of brutality involved therein, indicates that some groups are indeed well-prepared to answer the Maoists in the same language that the Maoists spoke and understood the best.
By Chattra Bahadur
We have had mixed results in terms of ‘achievements’ when we consider events that unfolded since April 2006. The ‘reinstatement’ of democracy, comprehensive peace treaty, renouncing of armed struggle by the Maoists, the SPA government, the Interim Parliament, proposed Constituent Assembly elections, etc were milestones. However, these path-breaking events were severely undermined by the lack of sincerity of the Maoists, indetermination and meekness of the SPA government, lack of contingency planning, and lack of proactive approach of all the major political parties. Though the Maoists are well placed in the Interim government, it is too early to comment on the performance of the Maoists ministers. It is also uncertain whether there would be any change in the functioning of the Maoists after joining the government.
Though it may be euphoric moment for the Maoists, the events are increasingly becoming difficult for them. Ultimately, they may be the only major political force facing ‘lose-lose’ situation. Their continued reliance on heavy-handedness has evoked widespread criticism from every sphere of the Nepalese society. The international community, with feedback from international donor agencies, has always expressed strong reservations regarding their style of functioning, actions and motives. Moreover, repeated and open violations of party directives by the party cadres have raised many questions regarding the party’s hold over its cadres and control mechanism that exists within the ‘dedicated’ and ‘disciplined’ Maoists.
The recent escalating violence between the MJF and the Maoists, and level of brutality involved therein, indicates that some groups are indeed well-prepared to answer the Maoists in the same language that the Maoists spoke and understood the best. And this does not augur well to the Maoists’ strategy of total domination either by terror or by indoctrination. If the MJF continues to retaliate against the Maoists in the future as well, Terai is most likely to slip away from the Maoists grip. This definitely spells doom to the electoral chances of the Maoists. At the same time, the Maoists understand that Terai would be dominant and vital political battlefield since the number of seats in Terai will see dramatic increase if population is given preference while determining number of representatives. Precisely for this reason, the Maoists do not want to accept that there is a possibility for them to lose their grip over Terai. In addition, the Maoists cannot also ignore the fact that the retaliation of the MJF may embolden other groups to actively fight back the Maoists’ coercion in the same manner.
Media, over the years, has provided strong impression that the Maoists have maintained tight hold over the hilly and remote areas. There are also reports that suggest minimal political activities of other political parties as a result of the Maoists’ pressure and intimidation. However, it is uncertain whether the Maoists would make any electoral gain of this situation. The level of animosity towards the Maoists, and huge social and economic costs paid by local population, amounts too great for them to vote en masse in favor of the Maoists. Of course, the Maoists can always resort to booth capturing, a potent weapon suggested by Comrade Gaurav (CP Gajurel) in Delhi and widely reported in national media. Again, given the sensitivity of situation, international pressure may prove strong deterrent for the Maoists to act insensibly.
The Nepalese media, which had been reticent in the past to criticize the Maoists, have gathered confidence and objectivity to evaluate and report the Maoists’ activities and implications of such actions. The national newspapers now feature comments and articles on a regular basis that point at shortfalls of the Maoists, shortcomings of their ideological base, and futility of mindless actions of the Maoists cadres. Since media has powerful influence to shape mindset of larger population, this may add further pressure on the Maoists to mend their ways and amalgamate themselves in democratic process.
International community at present has even larger role to shape the Nepalese politics and course of actions. Among the most influential power are the Americans, who have been in forefront and vocal to express their displeasure explicitly regarding the actions and motives of the Maoists. Moreover, extreme dislike of the Americans with respect to the Communist ideology, every move of the Maoists is likely to be closely watched and immediately commented upon. The European Union is likely to voice the same opinion as the Americans. India, which considers Nepal as its backyard, has number of reasons to be wary of the Maoists. The Indian perception is that growing Naxalism in states of Bihar and Jharkhand may receive further boost if the Maoists gain upper hand in the Nepalese political sphere. Thus, its own security concern may cause India not to desire further rise in the stature of the Maoists. With stock of the CPI (M) going down in the Indian politics, especially after Nandigram incident in West Bengal, the traditional backers of the Maoists are unlikely to influence the Indian stance and policy on the Maoists. In case of any eventuality, Indians can use incriminating evidence against the Maoists since Pasang, a Maoist cadre, was caught in Kashmir with money and LeT (enemy of Indian state) cadre while purchasing arms for the ULFA (another enemy of Indian state). Therefore, the Maoists’ room to maneuver has shrunk further.
Though the posture may be aggressive with right dosage of well-rehearsed revolutionary rhetoric, the Maoists leadership is well aware of the limited options they have. Instead of strong friends, they have powerful detractors watching every move they make and possibly devise ways to counter their every action. They are also aware that time is running out for them to make amends since their cadres have minds of their own to do as they please. And, importantly, they know that they have already lost little credibility they ever had. Thus, mounting pressure on the Maoists leadership from its own party cadres, domestic political situation, and international community may prove too huge to manage to their advantage. It is no wonder that they face ‘lose-lose’ situation.