2010-04-05 13:50:19 UTC
“Too much representation, too little democracy”
Democracy and free market have fused into single predatory organism:
MoUs with transnational firms resulted in tribals moving out of their
lands: Arundhati Roy
The problem of market externality poses systemic risks: Chomsky
Washington DC: “What happens, now that democracy and the free market
have fused into a single predatory organism with a thin constricted
imagination that revolves almost entirely around the idea of
maximising profit,” asked author Arundhati Roy at a discussion with
Noam Chomsky, professor of Linguistics and Philosophy, at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
In the discussion, which focussed on the threats to democracy in the
United States, India, and worldwide, Ms. Roy said asking such
questions about “life after democracy” did not mean we should lapse
into earlier discredited models of authoritarian or totalitarian forms
of governance. “It is meant to say that in the system of
representative democracy too much representation with too little
democracy needs some structural adjustment.”
As an example of some of the inherent risks within democratic systems,
Ms. Roy touched upon environmental concerns. She asked the audience:
“Could it be that democracy is such a hit with modern humans precisely
because it mirrors our greatest folly, our near-sightedness, our
inability to live entirely in the present, like most animals do,
combined with our inability to see very far into the future, makes us
strange in-between creatures, neither beast nor prophet?”
Ms. Roy also touched upon the institutionalised nature of repressive
tendencies in India. “Something about the cunning, Brahmanical,
intricate, bureaucratic, file-bound, applied-through-proper-channels
nature of governance and subjugation in India seems to have made a
clerk out of me.” She said her only excuse was to say that it took
“odd twos to uncover the maze of subterfuge and hypocrisy that cloaks
the callousness and the cold calculated violence of the world's
favourite new superpower.”
Ms. Roy described her recent visit to areas controlled by groups
portrayed in the mainstream media as “violent Maoist rebels” that need
to be “wiped out.” In exchange for giving such groups the right to
vote, democracy “has snatched away their right to livelihoods, to
forest produce and to traditional ways of life,” she said.
Ms. Roy pointed out that Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and West
Bengal had signed hundreds of Memoranda of Understanding worth
billions of dollars with large transnational companies and this
inevitably led to moving tribal people from their lands. “We refer to
such areas not as the Maoist corridor but the MoU-ist corridor,” she
Corroborating some of her comments with points regarding risks in
global financial markets, Mr. Chomsky said even senior officers at the
Bank of England and the International Monetary Fund recently alluded
the high likelihood of a crisis in the global financial system.
Arguing that the problem of market externality posed systemic risks,
he said: “If Goldman Sachs sells complex financial instruments which
it knows are no good, it will insure itself against loss by betting
that they will fail, but it will not take into account systemic risk —
the effect on the whole system — if its transactions go bad.”
In addition, perverse incentives resulted from the “enormous” power of
the financial institutions over the state with the U.S. now changed
from a manufacturing to financial economy. This power over the state
led to “all kinds of guarantees that if something goes wrong they will
have no problem. The most famous of them is the government insurance
policy called ‘too big to fail' — if you are too big, the taxpayer
will bail you out,” Mr. Chomsky said.
As senior financial regulators had admitted, “the combination of
market inefficiencies and perverse incentives virtually guarantees a
doomsday cycle,” he argued.
Online edition of India's National Newspaper
Sunday, Apr 04, 2010
Chidambaram, Buddhadeb hold one-to-one meeting
Union Home Minister declines to speak to journalists
Wide-ranging discussions held: Chief Secretary
Chidambaram to visit Lalgarh on Sunday
KOLKATA: West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Union
Home Minister P. Chidambaram held a one-to-one meeting at the
Secretariat here for nearly 30 minutes on Saturday.
Officials from the Union Home Ministry and their counterparts in the
State including the Chief Secretary and the Director-General of
Police, who were waiting in an adjoining room, were called in for a 10-
minute session with Mr. Bhattcharjee and Mr. Chidambaram. Mr.
Chidambaram declined to speak to the press.
Chief Secretary Ashoke Mohan Chakraborti said Mr. Chidambaram would
visit Lalgarh in Paschim Medinipur on Sunday. The DGP, Home Secretary
Ardhendu Sen and Central government officials would accompany him on
another helicopter. This would be the first visit by a Union Minister
to Lalgarh, which has become the epicentre of Maoist activities in the
Mr. Chakraborti told journalists that wide-ranging discussions were
held at the meeting but he was not in a position to divulge anything
The meeting with Mr. Bhattacharjee was delayed by nearly one-and-a-
half hour, as Mr. Chidambaram went to the Rajbhavan straight from the
airport. This is Mr. Chidambaram's second visit to the State to
discuss the Maoist problem. He had called a meeting of the Chief
Ministers of all four eastern States, racked by Maoist activities, on
February 9. That meeting paved the way for joint action by the
affected States. Operation Green Hunt has already brought some
successes, government officials feel. This is his first one-to-one
meeting aimed at framing the next strategy to combat the Maoist
However, amid rapidly changing schedules, the Union Home Minister's
proposed visit on Saturday afternoon to certain pockets of Barddhaman
district which has seen bouts of political violence between the CPI(M)
and the Trinamool Congress since last year, was cancelled following
delays in his programme in Arunachal Pradesh.
Even as it tried to mask a sense of disappointment at this
development, the Congress and its ally Trinamool Congress sought a
meeting with the Union Home Minister. . Mr. Chidambaram's scheduled
visit to Lalgarh will take place in the backdrop of a bandh-call by
the Maoist-backed Police Santrash Birodhi Janasadharaner Committee
which has called the bandh in the three Maoist –stronghold districts
to protest Mr. Chidambaram's visit.
A mine blast in Lalgarh on Saturday morning was a harbinger of the
Maoist presence in the area even as the police tightened security
arrangements after the incident.
Online edition of India's National Newspaper
Sunday, Apr 04, 2010
Encounter specialist Sharma charge-sheeted
MUMBAI: The police on Saturday filed a charge sheet against encounter
specialist Pradeep Sharma and 20 others for allegedly killing
Ramnarayan Gupta, a suspected aide of gangster Chhota Rajan, in a fake
The Special Investigation Team probing the case filed the 1,150-page
charge sheet, which says the 10 accused — Pradeep Sharma, senior PI
Pradeep Suryavanshi, three more policemen and five civilians — have
been arrested, SIT chief K.M.M. Prasanna said.
“Eleven more accused, including nine policemen attached with various
departments, were cited as absconders,” he said. — PTI
Online edition of India's National Newspaper
Sunday, Apr 04, 2010
Justice Dinakaran asked to go on leave
He has not been performing judicial functions since Rajya Sabha
admitted motion against him
New Delhi: The Supreme Court collegium headed by Chief Justice of
India K.G. Balakrishnan has advised Karnataka High Court Chief Justice
P.D. Dinakaran to go on leave. Since December last, Justice Dinakaran
has not been performing judicial work. In his place, the acting Chief
Justice of the Delhi High Court, Justice Madan B. Lokur, is being
appointed Chief Justice of the Karnataka High Court.
According to highly placed sources, the decision to advise Justice
Dinakaran to go on leave was taken by the collegium on Thursday,
following representations that in the absence of the Chief Justice at
the helm of affairs, judicial work in Karnataka suffered to a great
It was felt that the three-member committee headed by Justice V.S.
Sirpurkar might take at least a year or so to complete the probe into
charges against Justice Dinakaran and till then the High Court could
not remain idle without a regular Chief Justice.
Madan B. Lokur
After Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari admitted a motion seeking his
removal on charges of corruption, land-grab and abuse of judicial
office, Justice Dinakaran has not been performing judicial functions.
It all started in August 2009 with the collegium recommending the
elevation of Justice Dinakaran as Supreme Court judge along with four
others. The Chennai-based Forum for Judicial Accountability, in
September 2009, furnished a list of charges against Justice Dinakaran,
including allegations of land encroachment at Kaverirajapuram in Tamil
After this allegation was confirmed by the Tiruvallur Collector in two
reports, the collegium dropped Justice Dinakaran's name for elevation.
Thereafter on a complaint from 76 members of Parliament, the Rajya
Sabha Chairman admitted a motion for the removal of Justice Dinakaran.
Pending the completion of enquiry, he is now being asked to go on
Online edition of India's National Newspaper
Saturday, Apr 03, 2010
Mayawati sets up special force for guarding monuments of Dalit icons
Bill for U.P. Special Zone Protection Force, comprising ex-servicemen,
is yet to get Governor's nod
LUCKNOW: Not waiting for Governor B.L. Joshi's approval for the
Special Zone Protection Force (SZPF) Bill and an ordinance by the same
name meant for constituting a force for guarding monuments of Dalit
icons, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati on Friday decided to
constitute a special force of ex-servicemen with immediate effect.
The SZPF Bill passed by both Houses of the Legislature on February 18,
2010, was sent to the Governor for his approval. But with Mr. Joshi
sitting over it, the government sent an ordinance to the Raj Bhavan on
March 26, 2010, with some amendments. Still there was no response from
The proposal submitted before the Cabinet on Friday was granted prompt
approval. The recruitment of ex-servicemen would begin from Saturday
with the Principal Secretary (Home) given the authority of completing
the formalities. The Cabinet meeting was presided over by Ms.
The SZPF proposal envisages the constitution of a battalion comprising
about 1,200 security personnel, and would be headed by an ex-Army
officer of colonel rank. The recruitment process and the service rules
would be the same as applicable elsewhere in the country. About Rs.8
to 9 crore would be spent on constituting the force in the first year
and it is likely to be set up by April-end.
Describing the move as an executive decision of the government, which
implied that there was no confrontation with the Raj Bhavan on this
issue, Cabinet Secretary Shashank Shekhar Singh told journalists here
that the Bill and the SZPF were two separate issues.
He clarified that there was no discussion with the Governor on this
issue. As head of the State, it was the Governor's prerogative to take
any decision on the pending Bill and ordinance, he said.
To begin with, the security force would be responsible for the
security of nine sites, including memorials, museums, parks, statues
and galleries built to Dalit icons in Lucknow and Noida (Gautam Buddha
In fact, the urgency and reasons given for constituting the SZPF were
interesting. Stating that the monuments built in memory of Baba Saheb
Bhim Rao Ambedkar, Kanshi Ram and other eminent persons were the BSP
government's tribute to their contribution, Mr. Singh said the
security of these sites was a matter of concern for the government.
There was a fear that these might be vandalised by casteist and anti-
Dalit elements. That was why there was a pressing need for
constituting a special security force, Mr. Singh said.
Any damage to the monuments would create a furore in the country and
cause law and order problem. “These things were kept in mind before
taking the decision to form a separate force.”
Moreover, recruitment from the police would have caused a heavy strain
on them and there would have been a shortfall in their numbers.
Online edition of India's National Newspaper
Saturday, Apr 03, 2010
Ahead of Chidambaram's visit, Maoists trigger blast in Lalgarh
Incident not serious, says West Bengal Director-General of Police
Blast occurred as a vehicle carrying CRPF personnel was passing by
Chidambaram scheduled to review progress of anti-Maoist operation
The road in Bamal village in Lalgarh that was damaged in a landmine
blast triggered on Saturday. Maoists are suspected to be behind the
KOLKATA: A day before Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram's proposed
visit to Lalgarh in West Bengal's Paschim Medinipur district to review
the progress of the anti-Maoist operation, suspected Maoists on
Saturday triggered a landmine explosion, targeting security personnel
at Bamal village.
Police said no one was injured in the blast.
District Superintendent of Police Manoj Kumar Verma said suspected
Maoists triggered the explosion on a road near the village when a
patrol vehicle carrying Central Reserve Police Force personnel was
“The explosion left a crater on the road. The blast seemed to have
been triggered from at least a kilometre away. During search
operations, an almost 1-km long wire was discovered,” Mr. Verma told
He asserted that “necessary steps” were being taken to tighten the
security during Mr. Chidambaram's visit.
Director General of Police Bhupinder Singh did not see the incident as
anything serious, saying they were routine happenings in troubled
He, however, added that security would be ‘further strengthened' for
the Union Minister's visit.
Mr. Verma said that in combing operations since Thursday security
forces arrested three suspected Maoists and detained five others.
There was flutter at the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International
Airport here on Saturday after the detection of an unclaimed bag just
hours before Mr. Chidambaram's arrival.
The Maoist-backed Police Santrash Birodhi Janasadharaner Committee has
called a 24-hour-bandh on Sunday in the districts of Paschim
Medinipur, Bankura and Purulia in protest against Mr. Chidambaram's
Online edition of India's National Newspaper
Sunday, Apr 04, 2010
Maoists kill 9 SOG jawans in Orissa landmine blast
Sib Kumar Das
Attack comes ahead of massive offensive against the naxals
— Photo: By Special Arrangement
When terror struck: The mangled remains of the vehicle ferrying SOG
personnel that bore the brunt of the landmine attack at Tanginiguda in
Koraput district of Orissa on Sunday. The mini bus was thrown over 100
metres away in the blast.
BERHAMPUR: Nine jawans of the anti-Maoist Special Operation Group
(SOG) were killed and eight others seriously injured in a landmine
blast triggered by Maoists in Koraput district of Orissa on Sunday
The attack occurred at Tanginiguda on the Govindpalli ghat road around
10 a.m. The first of three mini buses carrying the SOG jawans took the
impact of the massive blast, believed to have been triggered by remote
control. The vehicle was thrown 40 feet in the air and its wreckage
strewn over 100 metres. A 15-feet deep hole could be seen at the place
of the blast.
Sources said a brief exchange of fire took place between the security
personnel and the rebels near the blast site.
The injured were taken to Baipariguda and later to Jeypore in Koraput
district. From there they were flown to Visakhapatnam.
Koraput Superintendent of Police Anup Sahu confirmed the death of nine
personnel and injuries to eight. However, the sources said one SOG
jawan was still missing till evening.
Reports said there were 19 persons in the vehicle.
The Malkangiri SP and the Koraput SP rushed to the spot. Intense
combing operations have been launched in the area.
Traffic between Malkangiri and Jeypore was held up for several hours
following the blast.
The SOG jawans were on their way from Koraput to Govindpalli in
They were on a mission to sanitise the Maoist-prone Govindpalli ghat
road so that CRPF personnel camping at Govindpalli in Malkangiri
district could move from there to Koraput.
This incident occurred while preparations are in full swing for a
massive offensive against the naxals in the undivided Koraput district
that adjoins the strongholds of the militants in Chhattisgarh and
Two battalions of the Border Security Force have reached Malkangiri
district and one more battalion is expected.
Two BSF battalions are camping in the Koraput district.
The CRPF personnel deployed in these areas are being relocated to
other naxal-hit districts.
Online edition of India's National Newspaper
Monday, Apr 05, 2010
Chidambaram renews talks offer
Requests people not to extend support to the Maoists
— Photo: Arunangsu Roy Chowdhury
Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram meets villagers in the Lalgarh area
of West Bengal's Paschim Medinipur district on Sunday.
LALGARH: Terming Maoists ‘cowards,' Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram
made a fresh offer of talks with the rebels if they abjured violence.
He ruled out military action against them.
On his maiden visit to the Maoist-affected region to review the
progress of the anti-Maoist operations and assess the situation, he
said that while the lack of development was an issue, he requested the
people not to extend either material or moral support to the Maoists
since “they will only continue killing people.”
“The naxals are cowards. Why are they hiding in the forests? We had
invited them for talks…If they really want development…, they are
welcome to talk about anything in the world. Just give up violence,”
he told journalists after his two-and-half-hour visit.
Mr. Chidambaram also slammed the Maoist-backed Police Santrash Birodhi
Janasadharaner Committee (PSBJC) for “directly or indirectly”
supporting the Maoists and offered to use his “good offices” to talk
to the State government if it had a “genuine problem.”
After his arrival here, Mr. Chidambaram held an hour-long meeting with
both security and administrative officials at the Lalgarh thana and
then interacted with the locals about their grievances.
Denying that under-development was driving the locals to back the
Maoists, he said: “Very poor people live in this part of West Bengal,
and nobody supports the naxalites…they are, no doubt, unhappy that
development has not come to this area, but they also know that the
naxals are not going to bring about any development.”
Acknowledging the grievances over the lack of education, proper
ration, electricity and medical care, he said the State government
should improve its performance.
Saying that the visit made a “mixed impression” upon him about the
security operations, Mr. Chidambaram said that though the positive
part was that a “few key naxalites” could be neutralised, the “weak”
part was that Maoist killings continued. The Home Secretary and the
Director-General of Police were asked to work on the weaknesses.
Online edition of India's National Newspaper
Monday, Apr 05, 2010
How can we fight them, ask Lalgarh residents
LALGARH: “He asked us to get united and drive away the Maoists from
the area. But tell me how are we going to do that? We have been living
on the edge for the past one year,” – middle-aged Arati Dhar said,
while talking about the interaction villagers had with Union Home
Minister P. Chidambaram during his visit here on Sunday.
Arati's dilapidated cottage is a stone's throw away from the Lalgarh
thana and she earns Rs. 100 per week as a temporary nurse at the
primary health centre.
“Living in a place where bandh is observed almost half of every month
and livelihood is uncertain, fighting Maoists is the last thing on our
minds,” she said.
Even as she spoke, the 24-hour-bandh called by the Maoist-backed
Police Santrash Birodhi Janasadharaner Committee in protest against
Mr. Chidambaram's visit was on.
Mithu Singh Ray, a young housewife from the same village, said that
Mr. Chidambaram told them that everything would become normal in three
“How many more times do we have to listen to such hollow promises? For
us managing two square meals a day, giving our children education and
normal life is enough. We do not need lofty promises from the
leaders,” Mithu said.
Asked if they had told the Home Minister about the lack of amenities
in the area, she said Mr. Chidambaram observed that development was
possible only if the Maoist menace was checked.
Seventeen-year-old Saraswati Ray could not appear for her higher
secondary examinations this year due to the bandh called by the
While the district administration had assured special bus services for
the students, Saraswati said that none plied on the route from her
home to the examination centre.
Online edition of India's National Newspaper
Monday, Apr 05, 2010
Volume 18 - Issue 09, Apr. 28 - May 11, 2001
India's National Magazine
from the publishers of THE HINDU
A spurt in Maoist attacks
Maoists carry out daring attacks in Nepal and Bihar and Jharkhand,
indicating growing coordination between the extremist groups.
TWO naxalite attacks occurring within a week of each other, one in
Nepal and the other in Jharkhand State, have once again evoked
suspicions of a coordinated movement by Maoist rebels in areas along
the international border in the Indian States of Bihar and Uttar
Pradesh and in Nepal. A group of militants belonging to the National
Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isaac-Muivah) is also reported to be
maintaining close ties with the Maoists of Nepal.
On April 7, armed members of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)
struck in a central mid-western Nepali district of Dailekh, killing 47
people, including 29 policemen. The rebels attacked a police post at
Naummle village in the district. They overwhelmed the 72-man force
after a three-hour gun battle. The police gave up the fight after the
guerillas bombed the post. The force commander, Inspector Dhruva
Prasad Dahal, and 28 policemen were killed in the encounter, in which
19 others also lost their lives.
CHANDRA SHERKHAR KARKI/AP
Family members try to identify the bodies of policemen massacred by
Maoist rebels at Naummle village in Dailekh district of Nepal.
The Dailekh incident is yet another instance of increased Maoist
attacks on police posts. On April 2, Maoist extremists struck in the
mid-western Rukum district and the north-central Dolakha district,
killing 36 policemen. The extremists have been setting off explosions
at select targets, which included residences of ruling Nepali Congress
leaders and former police officers.
The underground Maoists launched an armed "people's war" in Nepal six
years ago for the establishment of a republic as opposed to the
constitutional monarchy in a multi-party parliamentary democracy.
Since then, 1,658 people, including 344 police officers, have been
killed in encounters. Initially the Maoists were active in some remote
villages but soon their operations spread to more than 30 districts.
The Maoists, considered to be ideologically close to Peru's Shining
Path guerillas, started an armed rebellion in February 1996 to set up
a one-party Communist republic. They started their low-intensity, but
sustained, campaign from the villages located in the Himalayan
foothills. Pushpakamal Dahal and his close associate Baburam
Bhattarai, who lead the movement, are reported to be in contact with
their Indian counterparts in Bihar - the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC)
and the People's War Group (PWG). The PWG is also active in Andhra
Pradesh and in Bastar district of Chattisgarh. The PWG, which did not
want Bastar to be included in the new State, is running a parallel
administration in southern Bastar district.
Within a week of the Maoist attack in Nepal, the MCC's armed squad
killed 14 members of the Gram Raksha Dal (village volunteer force) at
Belthu village in Hazaribagh district of Jharkhand, in retaliation for
the killings of Sumar Bhuiyan, a self-styled MCC area commander, by
Never before in the history of Jharkhand and Bihar has a 2,000-strong
MCC force taken part in such a daring attack. In the March 1999
operation at Senari village in Jehanabad district of Bihar, in which
34 upper-caste Bhumihars were killed, only 500-odd extremists were
In their latest armed action, in Hazaribagh on April 14, the
extremists laid siege to the village in the wee hours of the day. The
victims were pulled out of their homes and hacked to death after their
limbs were tied. Some houses were torched. A one-year-old girl was
burnt alive. The assailants fired in the air, threw bombs and shouted
The April 14 massacre is the biggest one since the formation of
Jharkhand in 2000 with 18 districts of south Bihar. The Bharatiya
Janata Party government in Jharkhand headed by Babulal Marandi
launched a special drive on assuming office to flush out naxalites
from Jharkhand. The Chief Minister announced at that time that
"liberating Jharkhand from the grip of naxalites was the first
priority of my government". The police demolished several MCC bunkers
in the Balumath jungles and seized a cache of arms and ammunition.
The April 14 massacre has come in the face of a State government
announcement of a "rehabilitation package" for misguided extremists
who wished to surrender. The package comprises a cash reward,
provision of land for the landless and homes for the homeless.
Naxalites belonging to the Scheduled Tribe and the Scheduled Caste
would also benefit from the government's employment generation and
rural development schemes. Left-wing extremist outfits, such as the
MCC and the PWG, have so far rejected all government appeals to join
That the Nepal Maoists have frequently been crossing over to Bihar and
Jharkhand and that they have been collaborating with their
counterparts in India is evident from a recent report submitted to the
Home Ministry. Informed sources said that the Home Ministry had
forwarded to the Bihar government Nepal's request to flush out from
the State extremists who are conducting training camps for Nepali
There is growing concern in Nepal over the Bihar links. The government
of India verified Nepal's claims before forwarding the plea to Bihar,
intelligence sources said. The Home Ministry was told that there had
been a steady trickle of Nepali militants into Bihar's Kaimur and
Aurangabad districts over the past two years. These districts provide
an ideal setting for such camps as the terrain is hilly and densely
forested. Kaimur, close to Uttar Pradesh on the Indian side of the
border, provides an easy escape route for the extremists.
Alarmed at the spurt of Maoist attacks, Nepal contacted India at the
diplomatic level, seeking help to bust the training camps. "Since
there are naxalites in Bihar, they may have links with their Nepal
counterparts," said a senior officer in Bihar, adding that the State
government was doing its bit to meet the challenge.
Volume 25 - Issue 19 :: Sep. 13-26, 2008
INDIA'S NATIONAL MAGAZINE
from the publishers of THE HINDU
WHO killed Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati? Confusion about the
identity of the killers kept growing even as the Sangh Parivar’s
demand for the arrest of the killers got shriller. What led to the
confusion was Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s refusal to hand over the
investigation to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
Among the questions being asked were: Were the killers Maoists or a
group of Maoists who supported a section of Christians who wanted to
eliminate the swami because he was working to bring Christian converts
back into the Hindu fold?
Were militant Christians, who were allegedly behind several attacks on
the swami in the past few years, behind this attack too?
Lakshmanananda had been attacked at least nine times before he was
The modus operandi of the assailants, the use of sophisticated weapons
and the brutal manner of the slayings point to the involvement of
Maoists. Initially the police said they suspected the Maoists and
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said the swami had been killed by a
group of extremists.
But after Sangh Parivar organisations claimed that militant Christians
were responsible for the crime, the police became tight-lipped. Though
a few persons were arrested, the police would only say that the
investigation was in progress.
In fact, soon after the killing, a report in a newspaper said a member
of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) called up the newspaper to
claim that the organisation was behind the killing. Later, a few media
houses received letters saying that the CPI(Maoist) was not involved
in the incident and that some of its cadre might have committed the
crime by playing into others’ hands. However, a few days later, media
reports said the central committee of the CPI (Maoist) issued a
statement in New Delhi claiming responsibility for the murder.
Whatever the truth, a Maoist hand in the killing has not been ruled
out because the swami was expanding his base in Malkangiri district
where the left-wing extremists have a strong presence. The swami
visited Malkangiri a few months ago to attend a function of the Vishwa
The presence of the Maoists was also felt in Kandhamal last year when
members of the Christian community and extremists attacked Hindu
families in Brahmanigaon village. The attack took place within a few
days of the outbreak of communal violence following an attack on
Lakshmanananda on December 24.
The attackers had used automatic weapons. Interestingly, Brahmanigaon
remained peaceful during the current riots.
As regards the probe into the killing, sources in the ruling alliance
said the government was not willing to hand it over to the CBI as it
apprehended that the agency may be influenced by the Central
Whoever may be the culprits, many in the ruling alliance in the State
would not want them to be arrested before the next Lok Sabha and
Assembly elections. Identification and arrest of the killers will deny
the Sangh Parivar the chance of making it an issue in the polls in the
tribal-dominated districts where the swami had a strong following.
Volume 18 - Issue 20, Sep. 29 - Oct. 12, 2001
India's National Magazine
from the publishers of THE HINDU
In Maoist country
IN mid-August, a Maoist rally of 10,000 people in the hills of
Sindhupalchowk district, located below the Langtang range, declared
the district one of their adhar ilakas and set up a "people's
government" there. Its integration into the "red districts" was of a
pattern that was followed elsewhere in the country, said Churna Prasad
Srestha, the chairperson of Kuvinde village development committee
(VDC) and a member of the right-wing Rashtriya Prajatantra Party
(RPP). At the rally a policeman was killed. Mass arrests followed and
about 25 persons went underground. A VDC chairperson who was notorious
for oppressing the people was killed, and it was followed by mass
arrests and police excesses. Agni Sapkote, one of the three
negotiators in the talks with the government, joined the movement from
After a five-hour drive from Kathmandu, I trudged up the track passing
a gate erected by the Maoists to enter village Thulo Shurovari, one of
the 45 (out of 89) villages where the Maoists have established a
village people's government (VPG), displacing the government-sponsored
VDCs. A tussle is on to take over the offices of the VDCs and, more
important, the funds to pay for a water tank and a park recently built
by the people's government. People's labour is voluntary, but cement
had to be paid for, until they could access VDC funds. Were they
taxing people? "As a government, we tax the people," explained Tek
Bahadur Srestha, chairperson of the VPG. Surely that imposed a double
burden on the poor. "Eventually, they will stop paying taxes to the
anti people's government," he said. A cooperative bank had been set up
in the village, and the rates of interest and credit amounts varied
for the rich and the poor. There was door-to-door investigation to
assess what people had or did not have. They had not started land
redistribution yet. Tek Bahadur hopes that once people are made aware,
they would voluntarily surrender surplus land. As for coercion, he
said, it is unlikely when the People's Militia's strength is only 15.
Tek Bahadur, who is in his late twenties, is a peasant agriculturalist
and has not studied beyond the third standard. He described himself as
a Maoist sympathiser. His class analysis is well-honed Maoist rhetoric
but also resonated with the specificity of practical application. He
recognised that tourism in the villages as promoted by the Kathmandu
government was good but in its wake had come many evils - gambling,
alcoholism and wife-beating. The Maoist agenda, especially at the
grassroots level, is particularly pro-women.
We met Tek Bahadur in a school classroom. Ironically, the headmaster
of the school, along with 39 other teachers in the district, had
resigned in protest. The Maoists, as part of their school reform
campaign, have proscribed fees in government-funded schools (at the
same time, they attack private schools for charging exorbitant fees).
But there were no government funds to cover the salaries of teachers
who teach 9th and 10th class pupils.
There was no need to look over his shoulder to make sure the police
were not tailing him - of the 17 police posts in the district only
four were left, and none in these 'liberated villages', Tek Bahadur
said. The People's Militia chief, Ganesh Gautam, was unarmed and was
equally unconcerned about the security forces. He is ready to fight
the Army if necessary. "It's not written on my forehead that I am a
Maoist; so they'll have to kill many of us, including their own. And
then they'll stop. The army will split along class and ethnic lines."
Ethnic consciousness is strong in the Maoist outfit and the Army as
In Chautara, the district headquarters, the District Development
Office (DDC) is still controlled by the Communist Party of Nepal (UML)
but all effective power has devolved to the nominated, new People's
Committee headed by Shyam Krishen Srestha, himself the head of the
local trading body. In principle anyone can be nominated, but so far
there are no representatives from other political parties. However, in
the presence of Srestha, the CPN(UML) district head as well as
representatives of other political parties denounced Maoists as "Left
adventurists" who were out to destroy Nepal. Srestha denied that the
Maoists were using force to punish people. A few hours earlier we had
met a UML worker whose leg had been smashed by the Maoists. Srestha
insisted that punishment be limited to community labour. The jana
adalat or people's courts had done away with the witness system and
reverted to the tradition of asking neighbours to vouch for the
accused, he said.
The Maoists have few illusions about the talks; they feel that they
would at best produce awareness. The Maoists spoke with the confidence
of having the people with them. But can they face the full might of
Volume 26 - Issue 24 :: Nov. 21-Dec. 04, 2009
INDIA'S NATIONAL MAGAZINE
from the publishers of THE HINDU
PEOPLE in rural areas, including agricultural workers and tribal
people, have been neglected since Independence (Cover Story, November
6). The socio-economic and cultural conditions in States such as
Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Bihar are still
semi-feudal. The Central government needs to wake up.
The Maoists of India should not emulate their counterparts in Nepal as
India has a well-organised state with a big army. Even Bhagat Singh
believed that bombs and pistols alone could not bring about a
successful revolution. If the Maoists do not give up their arms and
adopt democratic means, their “Red corridor” will be confined to a few
Raj Bahadur Yadav Fatehabad,
THE Cover Story on the Maoists (“Maoist challenge”, November 6)
exposed the vulnerability of the Indian state. The government is
focussing more on planning a major police offensive than on energising
democratic processes and policies.
Ever-increasing corruption, inefficiency, a biased law-and-order
machinery and poor governance are pushing more and more tribal people
and the poor into the naxal fold. That is why any strategy to curb
naxalism should focus on development.
Vitull K. Gupta
THE Cover Story gave an in-depth analysis on the causes and problems
posed by the Maoists. The problem can be traced to the flawed system
of Indian bureaucracy.
The multidimensional strategy that the government has been talking
about of late should be implemented wholeheartedly, and it should not
be confined only to areas under Maoist influence.
It is a fact that tribal people and backward communities back the
Maoists. In view of this, the government should think twice before it
goes in for a military solution.
BOTH the Maoists and the government must strive to change their
ongoing stand on violence by sharing a political platform instead of
battlegrounds to sort out the chronic socio-economic maladies of the
hinterlands. The government has to accept the reality of the
discontent in these areas.
Naxalism and any other movement that emerges from socio-economic
inequality need to be seen with a fresh perspective because counter-
insurgency or any other violent move by the state on their own
citizens will only intensify the anguish and desperation of the
The Maoists in India need to take a fresh look at their basic
Atul Kumar Thakur
THE article “A battle won” (November 20) on the spirited struggle
waged by the Dalits of Chettipulam in Nagapattinam district for temple
entry was an excellent summary of the events that ultimately forced
the local administration to act. That the issue is far from over is
clear from the way the caste Hindus kept themselves away when the
District Collector and other top officials led Dalits into the
It is a pity that even when the State is under the rule of a Dravidian
party swearing its commitment to the ideals of the social reformer
E.V. Ramasamy, the administrative apparatus chose to side with the
opponents of temple entry.
IT is disgusting to note that Dalits are being subjected to social
alienation in several parts of our so-called secular country. Denying
temple entry and other such discriminatory practices exist even
The sacred writings, hymns and holy books of various religions do not
exhort people to follow such filthy practices. But, some sections of
society strive to divide the nation on the basis of religion, caste,
creed and language. The Nagapattinam Collector deserves applause for
tackling the situation effectively.
Ippili Santhosh Kumar
THE articles on “love jehad” (“Love and hate” and “Divisive debate”,
November 20) were interesting. Earlier, in Kerala, student politicians
used to keep a watch over terrorism among students.
Now, with the High Court ban on campus politics, there is no good
organisation operating on campuses. It is high time to allow student
E.A. Ibrahim Vyttila,
THIS is with reference to the article “Unholy row” (October 23). Why
should anyone use only a particular language when God should be able
to understand and reply in any language.
It is time that all clergy, missionaries, preachers and religious
heads realised and admitted that religions, sects, cults, languages
and rituals are manmade and undergo modification and modernisation
THE issue of who should recite prayers and intone mantras and in what
language has dragged on until judicial intervention. This is a
testament to the religious intolerance within the Hindu fold.
R. Ramachandra Rao
Letters, whether by surface mail or e-mail, must carry the full postal
address and the full name, or the name with initials.
Volume 19 - Issue 18, August 31 - September 13, 2002
India's National Magazine
from the publishers of THE HINDU
Through Maoist country
An exclusive, first-person account of a journey to Nepal's mid-west -
the heartland of the Maoist insurgency.
in Rolpa and Kathmandu
'PIRAM' is the password this Wednesday night as the barbed wire is
rolled out across the gate at 7 p.m., enclosing the hollow of Libang,
the district headquarters of Rolpa, in a multi-layered security siege
of checkposts and curfews. Perched sentinel-like on a hill is the camp
of the Gorkha Bahadur gan (battalion) of the Royal Nepal Army (RNA).
Libang lives in fear; its barricaded residents fear that the Maoists
will overrun the city if the Army withdraws.
Rolpa is the heartland of the 'People's War' launched by the Communist
Party of Nepal (Maoists) in 1996 to establish a democratic republic. A
day's hard trek up and down the soft hills around Libang, and across
swing bridges, brings you to territory controlled by the CPN(M).
"Strangers who come, we arrest. And if it's an Army-police patrol, we
melt away into the fields and jungle and wait it out," said a
confident 'People's Army' guerilla in 'red' Tebang. Nine months of
Army deployment and a state of Emergency have resulted in mobile Army
encampments, but when these are withdrawn, the Maoists return to
reassert control. The barely 35,000-strong RNA fighting force cannot
be everywhere and eventually has to pull out. Formidable logistics in
the hills make combing operations more symbolic than effective.
Helicopters with night vision equipment are on order.
An Army-police patrol team sets off from Libang, the headquarters town
of Rolpa district. This town lives in fear.
As we climbed to Tebang, leaving way below us the market of Sulichaur,
where the road stops, photojournalist Usha Titikchhu and I were
accosted by three armed men and a woman. They emerged from a clump of
trees, pointing a magnum rifle and two locally made shotguns, and
identified themselves as members of the 'people's militia'. Who were
we? Did we have permission? In the distance, at Satobato the tin roof
of the Army camp glinted in the sunshine. An 'independent' gulmi
(company) of 137 soldiers there had a commanding view of the Maoist
hills. "They see us, we see them", said a 'people's militia' recruit,
pointing to the camp. These inaccessible midwestern hills, the power
base of the CPN(M), are ideal terrain for guerilla warfare. Said a
young Army officer posted in Libang: "We raid their homes, but can't
find them. It may be that they're staying at their gote (shed) in the
upper reaches for grazing, or (maybe) another gote near their fields
below, or they've gone to India for work. We can't arrest everyone.
Take this man, he's unarmed; a peasant by day, he could be a Maoist by
night. What can we do?"
Such restraint is not borne out by reports of Army high- handedness
and brutality. Mobile Army encampments and patrols leave, as in
Tebang, a trail of arbitrary arrests, random killings, torture, arson
and terror. Maoist retribution, says Gopal Tamoli of Tarun Dal (the
student wing of the Nepali Congress), is equally brutal. At Akalgaroha
village in Banke district, blasted houses, signs of targeted,
execution-style killings of 'informers', and generalised terror are
testimony to this. It is a war in which both sides give no quarter,
taking few or no prisoners.
Since February 1996 the 'People's War' has spread from Rolpa to two-
thirds of Nepal's 75 districts, establishing 'people's governments' in
22 districts and threatening to encircle Kathmandu. After four months
of stalemated talks, the Maoists launched a series of attacks, taking
on the Army for the first time. A state of emergency was imposed and
the Maoists were dubbed terrorists. The United States put Nepal on its
international terrorism map. The international community, including
India and China, backs the military option. Within Nepal's Kathmandu-
centric politics, multi-party democracy is imploding since the June
dissolution of Parliament was peremptorily sanctioned by the new King.
The Nepali Congress Party, which led the 1990 movement for democracy
in Nepal, has virtually split. Power is gravitating back rapidly to
the Palace and the Army. King Gyanendra's recent visits to India and
China were not the visits of a constitutional monarch, but of a king
negotiating the destiny of Nepal.
CPN(M) Chairman 'Comrade' Prachanda, in his renewed offer of talks on
July 18, specifically alluded to the threat of extreme anarchy with
the ganging up "of domestic feudal forces and international
reactionary forces". He echoed former Prime Minister G.P. Koirala's
line of a conspiracy behind the dissolution of Parliament and
indicated a willingness to participate in elections provided there
were provisions for an interim government or mutually agreed upon
election procedures. Shyam Srestha, the Editor of Mulyankan, regards
this as a significant show of political flexibility and a scaling down
of the demand for a constituent assembly to renegotiate the power
structure, abolish the monarchy and make the Nepali people sovereign
At Fortress Libang, behind barbed wires, policemen take time off to
play carrom. Army and police watchtowers encircle the town and
movement is severely restricted.
Militarily, there is a stalemate. Army deployment has yet to make an
appreciable shift in the tactical advantage that the Maoists gained
following dramatic attacks on Army and police camps. A visiting Maj.-
Gen. Ashok Mehta (retd), who has close links with Indian Gurkhas in
Nepal, said the seized training videos of the Maoists and their
military tactics were impressive, especially as the military
commander, 'Comrade' Badal, has reportedly had no professional
training. However, certain Maoist reverses in June at Khara in Rukum
district, where the Army battalion reportedly had prior warning of an
attack, suggest that Army intelligence is advancing on the learning
curve of infiltrating the 'enemy'. In Libang and other fortified
district headquarter towns the number of 'surrendered' Maoists and
'escapees'- internally displaced people (IDPs) - is increasing, and
they are seen as being vulnerable to use by the Army as guides,
porters for arms and ammunitions, and informers. In Tebang, the area
committee member, 'Comrade' Dileep, spoke of five families in Libang
which had escaped Maoist justice and whose members accompanied Army-
police patrols in uniform.
FIVE years ago, the influence of the Maoists was everywhere in Libang,
a market town that is now virtually a fortress. The chief district
office is a hollow shell and its staff of six has no work as the
parallel 'people's government' has taken control of land records,
revenue and the courts. Today, Army and police watchtowers encircle
Fortress Libang and movement is severely restricted.
In the open maidan, two trucks were busy unloading sacks of rice,
branded fruit drinks in tetrapacks, shampoo and so on. A district-
level official waves a sheaf of papers - permits signed by the Chief
District Officer (CDO) who is also the head of the Security Committee
- sanctioning supplies. There is a blockade in place in Rolpa. It is
aimed at the Maoists but hurts ordinary village residents who are
faced with severe food shortages and no easy access to life-saving
drugs. Village residents walk a day and a half to reach the market and
return with 10 kg of rice. CDO Birendra Nath Sharma explains that rice
is merely supplementary to the staple diet of maize and barley.
However, this is the scarcity period that lasts six months and the
peasants are dependent on the market. Moreover, with the uncertainty
about the rain and the standing crop of maize drying up, what is a
difficult situation could become alarming.
A Maoist suspect, Buji Maya, in the Libang jail. At one point of time
a third of all Maoists were believed to be women.
Medicine stocks are running dangerously low as no sanction for
purchases has been granted for a month and a half. In Sulichaur,
medical shops have run out of anti-diarrhoeal drugs, saline solution,
tetracycline and so on. Village pharmacies, as in Maddichaur village,
are closed. Items on the banned/restricted list include battery cells,
pressure cookers, instant foods and Nepal-made 'Gold Star' shoes. It
is the favoured shoe of the Maoists and has disappeared from village
stores. In Libang you can buy a pair and no more, as long as stocks
last. Shopkeeper Man Shyam Pun at Maddichaur told us that before the
regime of restrictions was put in place after the Khara incident, an
armed Maoist bought 15 pairs of Gold Star shoes from him. "You mean
before the Emergency?" I asked. "No, just two-three months ago," he
replied. The state of Emergency, as we discovered, was not a watershed
in these 'control' areas. Incidentally, Indian rupees is the currency
of exchange, whether it is to transact official banking business or to
buy an umbrella. It is a reflection of the dependence on the
remittance economy here. Also on the restricted list is colour film,
lest you be tempted to take scenic shots and give away the location of
the defences of Libang.
There are no restrictions on black and white film, though. It is in
demand for use in citizens' identity cards and passports. The chief
district office had to expand its staff from six to 21 to cope with
the demand for ID cards and passports. In the last eight months alone
8,990 ID cards have been issued, compared with 2,260 last year. As
many as 1,336 passports have been issued in the same period. Young
boys like Karna, 21, of Jamkot are queueing up to go to Malaysia,
Saudi Arabia or India. Karna had been picked up for interrogation when
the Army set up a camp in adjoining Kotgam in April 2002. He had
apparently played in a volleyball match organised by the ANNISU
(Revolutionary), a mass student organisation of the Maoists, and
Maoist leaders later dined in his house. Jamkot and Maddichaur are
known control areas with 'people's governments' or Gajjasas.
The 'Martyrs' Gate' in Tebang.
Bimla Garti and her infant are in the Libang jail, with about 28
inmates, for much the same offence as Karna's. In the jail courtyard,
the striking murals of Communist icons Marx, Lenin and Mao had been
whitewashed over since we last saw them in 1998. But the inmates had
not changed. Buji Mala, now 21, is still bewildered about the reasons
for her arrest. She was in the upper regions grazing animals and might
have given shelter or food to the Maoists.
At the Army camp checkpost we waited for the battalion commander, Col.
Sudheer Sharma, to see us. Also waiting was a group of 20 men aged
between 18 and 40 years. "They're internally displaced people," a
Major told us. Evidently, some kind of temporary recruitment was going
on. The names of sensitive villages were taken. One of them held back;
he was not wearing shoes and would not have been able to move fast.
They let him go. The others walked into the camp. The next day we
heard of a pre-dawn Army raid on Dhabang village. Apparently, these
'volunteers' were the guides and even carried equipment and
explosives. They were not paid. According to Army sources, they had
intelligence information about a group of Maoists - 'people's militia'
- meeting in a house in Dhabang. Travelling in the dark on hill
tracks, the Army patrol surrounded the house. Of the 11 who were
inside, two, a man and a woman, were shot dead even as the others
fled. "We ask them to surrender but they flee, so we shoot them," said
the Major. He dismissed allegations of the Army taking prisoners.
Anecdotal accounts speak of people being picked up and interrogated
and then killed while fleeing. "No, it's not true, look at the many
who have surrendered. You can meet them in Libang," he said.
Maoists inside the Roka Bahadur School. Since 1996 the 'People's War'
has spread from Rolpa to two-thirds of Nepal, an area covering 75
districts. People's goverments' were established in 22 of them.
In Libang, a commercial-cum-civic complex was being constructed in the
town's public space and a group of IDPs owing allegiance to the
conservative Rashtriya Prajatantra Party was hard at work, digging.
One of them, Tek Bahadur Biko, was evidently a man of some means
because the young woman by his side was his 11th wife. The family had
moved from Gam village to the safety of the police post of Sulichaur.
After the November attack by Maoists in Dang, when the police pulled
out to Libang, so did Biko. After Maoists attacked Gam, the Army took
Biko to the village to dig up the bodies of 40 Maoists to try and
identify them. "I went to perform the last rites," he said.
Working alongside Biko was Amber Singh Buda. He had been in a group of
45 IDPs who had trekked four days to Tebang and back when the Army set
up camp there. "We carried explosives and other equipment for which we
were paid for three days at the rate of (Nepali) rupees 90 a day,"
said Buda. The going rate for civilian porterage is rupees 250. The
government has not paid any money as compensation to the IDPs but
people like Biko and Buda are required to be guides, informers and
porters by their military benefactors. While the Maoists are accused
of using human shields, was the Army also crossing the line using
A young Maoist recruit.
Libang was full of escapees associated with Nepal's many political
parties which stood bail for them. They were an important source of
information about life in Maoist-controlled areas. Tham Bahadur Sunar
(of the United Marxist-Leninist, or UML) spoke of the practice of
contributory labour in his natal village, Irribang, where the Maoists
had built a bridge. He had contributed six days' labour. In Gartigaon,
his village by adoption, he was taxed rupees 1,200 a year because he
was a Sunar. After the Dang action, when the Army set up a camp in
Gartigaon, it took utensils from his house. Meanwhile, higher up in
Ramkot, at a mass meeting of the 'people's militia', his nephew, who
was on sentry duty, overheard the political commissars name his uncle
for elimination. So when the Army pulled out, he also left. Ten days
later, the Maoists came calling and warned his wife to leave.
Kheema K.C., 19, from Maddichaur and Sun Kumari Buda, 20, from Wama
are 'surrendered' Maoists. Alongside the class struggle, the Maoists
have taken on board the women's question, and issues relating to
ethnic nationalities and Dalits. Indeed, in the Maoist heartland,
Hisala Yami, the then leader of the All Nepal Women's Organisation
(Revolutionary), had told this correspondent in 1998 that a third of
the Maoists were women. In Maddichaur, Kheema was among three other
young women who joined the Maoists. Some 12 students of classes 7 and
8 of Shree Bal Uday Middle School had also joined the Maoists.
However, Kheema's story is one of forcible induction. She had gone
with some friends to a mass meeting. While the others returned home,
she was asked to do contributory labour in lieu of the tax that her
three brothers, soldiering in India, had not paid the Maoists. Her
work comprised household chores, collective cultivation and fetching
water for mass meetings. She attended mass meetings but indoctrination
exposure seems to have been minimal. Kheema returned to her village
and apparently was not under any pressure to rejoin the Maoists.
Eventually the family paid rupees 1,200 as tax. Later Kheema was again
asked to do contributory labour because her brother's sister-in-law
stayed in her house before surrendering.
Maoist leaders Baburam Bhattarai (left) and 'Comrade' Prachanda, in a
Sun Kumari Buda's story differs only in that there was no forcible
induction. She went to a mass meeting at Kotgam and stayed with the
Maoists for nine months. For six days the police interrogated her and
she now reports to them regularly. Both live in Libang's 'Pakistan
Evening curfew and the mandatory blackout drive everyone off the
streets and into dimly lit houses. There has been no electricity ever
since the Maoists blasted the hydro-electric facility at Jhimkri.
Telephones do not work because the Maoists blasted the repeater
(telecommunications) tower. Army sources claimed that the Maoists used
drugs and alcohol before an action. Dead Maoists were found to have
pocketfuls of condoms.
AT the entrance to Maddichaur is the remains of the Victory Memorial
Gate blasted by the Army when it set up an encampment in Kotgam. Still
visible through the coat of whitewash is the commemoration to Raju
Chappamar. In the 'people's militia' structure, the first unit is
chappamar, then platoon and company. A year after the 'People's War'
was declared, the police chowk in Maddichaur was attacked, and six or
seven policemen were killed. By 2000 there was a Gajjasa. The Army set
up a camp at nearby Kotgam in April 2002. Rajesh Oli, a young student,
narrated the killing of a young woman who was suspected to belong to
the 'people's militia'. He said: "A group in civilian half pant-style
clothing, like the Maoists, came patrolling and surrounded the house
of (23-year-old) Man Mali Biko. A contingent of 24 uniformed Army men
followed. She was shot. Amrit Garti, an elderly person who happened to
be outside, was also shot dead." "Was she a member of the 'people's
militia'?" There were no answers. Her father and brother have since
In the Maoist heartland, an uneasy coexistence with security forces.
On the question of how many people were arrested, Rajesh said he and
four other students were taken to the Army camp and handcuffed. One of
them, Shyam Bahadur, was beaten for two weeks. The soldiers wanted to
know what work they did for the Maoists. Two schoolteachers were also
picked up and now report regularly to the authorities. School
headmaster Barman Buda moved to Libang after he was accused of being
an informer. The Army pulled out in May.
As we stopped for lunch at the Maddichaur end of the bridge linking it
to Libang, three men were waiting for us. The eldest, 'Comrade'
Ashish, took out a notebook folded in a plastic bag and wrote down our
names. The questions came quickly: "Did we have permission?'' ''Were
we planning to go on to Jamkot and maybe meet someone there?"
Inexperienced about authentic and non- authentic Maoists, we let the
opportunity slip. 'Comrade' Ashish was an old-time party activist, an
area committee functionary.
There, out in the open, with likely informers coming and going across
the bridge, three hours from Libang, the Maoists sat down for a chat.
Apparently, the Emergency had not driven underground the Maoist
political activists, especially those belonging to the Gajjasas.
'Comrade' Ashish refused to be photographed full face. However, a
young recruit who had been with the militia for six months, his Gold
Star shoes worn out from action, posed obligingly. "There are
thousands in the 'people's militia' who look like me," he said. I
asked whether there was any rethinking in view of the U.S. and India
materially backing the RNA in its fight against the Maoists. "I won't
deny, we are taking heavy losses. But this is a people's war, no
outside force can win."
Three herdsmen with 10 goats were about to cross the bridge and onto
Libang to sell them. Had they paid the tax - rupees 25 a goat, the
Maoists asked. Yes, they said, and crossed to the other side. Later,
on the road, they told us that they had lied. Krishna Bahadur Pun, the
local school teacher, too, had not paid the required 12 days' salary
as tax. No, he had not been threatened. The shopkeeper of the general
store, Man Bahadur Shyam, paid rupees 150 a month. The Maoists gave
receipts, but after a couple of times he tore them up. What if the
police found them, he explained. Maoists would come openly, carrying
arms, and eat in the village. Did the people believe that the Maoists
used drugs and alcohol to embolden themselves before an attack? "Can't
be," said the students.
TEBANG is on the Maoist map, at the base of the forested ridge of
Lisne Lek, where the Army claims it encircled a Maoist training camp
and killed hundreds of Maoists in May. Lack of helicopter support
enabled a group to escape and it attacked a security camp in Gam in
the northeast. Tebang had a long history of revolutionary left-wing
politics, as did much of Rolpa. Police excesses during Operation Romeo
and its successor Kilo Sera II generated many recruits and the process
of regenerating the 'people's militia' is going on.
It is a steep two-and-a-half-hour climb from the Sulli river to a
watering spot, where we rested. Four men appeared, three of them
carrying rifles and shoulder pouches, which I later saw had socket
bombs and a transistor. They had watched us for some time. Did we have
permission? The militia leader brandishing a magnum rifle and in a
stylised version of fatigues agreed to arrange a meeting with the area
committee leader. On top of the ridge was the Martyrs' Gate.
Tebang was declared a 'people's government' in 2000. A congregation
hall with wooden totemic guards and a bronze bell lay in disrepair.
Inside was the board of a discredited official body and other stuff
that had been thrown away. The Maoists closed it three years ago and
stopped the tradition of local melas. 'Comrade' Dileep, the area
committee member, said the mela attracted outsiders. He denied that it
was an anti-religious move and claimed that there had been instances
of people congregating for a mela being fired upon by the Army. In the
village, described as Hindu, people were free to worship their gods at
In the apron ground of Rok Bahadur School, maize is growing as part of
a pilot project in collective farming, 'Comrade' Dileep said. On the
school ground there are ashes from the cooking fires of the Army when
they camped there on their last patrol on July 4. Members of INSEC, a
human rights organisation, told us that the Maoists often blew up
schools because the Army had used them. In Tebang they reclaimed the
On March 25 an Army patrol from the Satobato company blasted 11 houses
and looted several others, said our village hosts. They came again on
May 2, this time in battalion strength, walking and on helicopter, and
set up camp for five days. Eight people were killed, according to
'Comrade' Dileep. Kirti Bista, 23, was shot dead when he was repairing
a gote. Durga Mohre, 20, was grazing his goats when the Army shot him.
"They point a bayonet at you and charge you with being a Maobadi, and
then feel your heart. If it beats faster than usual, they shoot you,"
'Comrade' Dileep said. Were they Maoists, we asked. "No, just ordinary
peasants," he said.
The Maoists claimed that the Armymen picked up two young girls, Pooma
Bista and Pokchi Thapa, who were out tending cattle, and took them to
the camp. They also took the wife of the village ward member, who
happened to be in the field, and the aunt of human rights activist
Ghanshyam Acharya. All four were made to work at the Army camp.
Meanwhile, the Army raided the adjoining villages and blew up 62
houses, they claimed. On the fifth day, there was a confrontation
between the RNA and the 130-strong Jan Sena at Lisne Lek. Two men,
Mukti Bika and Dil Man Thapa, were killed and the Army blasted a
martyrs' pillar. 'Comrade' Dileep said that just before leaving the
camp the Armymen killed the four women. "We found them naked and shot.
The ward member's wife had every finger of her hand cut off," he said.
He dismissed as propaganda the Army's claim that it had attacked a
training camp and killed 400 Maoists.
What did the 15-member area committee think about 'Comrade'
Prachanda's latest offer of talks, which scales down the demand for a
republic and for a new constitution? "The political leadership decides
these things, our goals remain as before - the achievement of
livelihood needs such as food, clothing, shelter, health, security and
roads," said 'Comrade' Dileep and the others.
On the government's charges that the Maoists used human shields and
took drugs and liquor before an attack, Dileep insisted that "these
are huge lies". "We are fighting a 'people's war' and are extremely
conscious that our image must be above reproach," he said.
ON July 9, about 300 Maoists attacked Akalgaroha, a Tharu-Yadav
village about 7 km from the highway to Nepalgunj, killing two persons
and injuring five. They blew up two houses. Eyewitnesses said that
they saw hundreds of torches in the field coming towards the village.
People were warned not to flee and to stay indoors. They went from
house to house and pulled out the men and the boys. "I was taken out
and tied with my brother Sohan Lal Yadav, and pushed along to the open
space where the panchayat meets," said Santosh Yadav, 19. "We were 35,
squatting in two rows. They would shine torches in our face and pick
us out." Santosh did not see his brother Sohan Lal being hacked and
killed, nor his brother Inder Yadav, 16, have his left foot chopped
off. Moti Tamoli, a former UML party candidate, was caught on the
Tharu side of the village and killed. Dhani Ram was shot but managed
Akalgaroha has been the site of Maoist mobilisation, especially among
a section of the Tharus, one of Nepal's most oppressed communities.
Kamal Choudhury (Tharu), the Maoist contact, has gone underground. His
brother, Ganga Ram, showed us that they had separate kitchens as he
wanted to keep out of it all. A few weeks earlier, six or seven
Maoists attacked N.C. activist Gopal Tomali, suspecting him of being
an informer. The local people set out after the Maoists and captured
two outsiders, Renu Tharu and Saresh Tharu, and handed them over to
the police. The Maoists took their revenge and attacked the village,
which is on the highway to Nepalgunj.
The military option seems to be the line that the Palace-Army and the
'caretaker' Sher Bahadur Deuba government are bent on pursuing,
emboldened by the international support and the lures of a war
economy. Prachanda's offer of talks has produced the Deuba
government's routine reaction - disarm and then talk. New Delhi
getting tough with Maoist supporters in India in the wake of the
King's visit has made the Palace combine more inflexible. On July 11,
at 4-30 p.m. in the Bengali Market cultural complex in Delhi, Special
Branch operatives picked up Partha Chettri (alias Surrinder Karki),
Aditi, Maheshwar Dahal and Moti Prasad on a tip-off from the Nepal
Embassy that they were supporters of the Maoists. (Writer-activists
Gautam Navlakha and Anand Swaroop Varma were also arrested but
released a few hours later.) The four, three of whom are journalists,
were accused of being members of the recently proscribed Akhil
Bharatiya Nepal Ekta Samaj. Declared by the Foreigners Regional
Registration Office as 'undesirable aliens', they were handed over to
the Banke district Superintendent of Police G.B. Pal at 11-30 p.m. the
same day. Since then they have joined the long list of missing
persons. More than 34 journalists are on that list. Editor Krishna Sen
died in custody in June.
The main left-wing Opposition, the UML, has opted for the status quo
and insists that the proposed November elections will be free and
fair, will deliver it a victory and save the gains of the 1990
democracy movement. It is hard to share their confidence, especially
in the Maoist heartland, where the state exists only as the Army and
the police. The People's War was launched to make the Nepali people
sovereign. Escalating violence, deprivation and the erosion of
democracy loom ahead.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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-
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
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
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
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
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.
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