Nepal’s Week of Discontent : Maoist Hara-kiri?

The swing of the Maoists in Nepal or the Unified CPN M as they are known today from the bullet to the ballot was hailed across the world as one of the most successful political transformation of a guerrilla group in 2006. There was also much hope as a Maoist led government was sworn into power in the country. However it is now apparent that the former rebels are taking some time to adjust to new political formulations and thus intimidatory tactics continue to form a foil in their armoury, in the bargain they are losing sympathy of the masses. It was just this form of hara-kiri that Prachanda’s party seemed to have committed in the past week by bringing the country to a grinding halt at the cost of public goodwill.

From 2nd to 7th June, Nepal and particularly Kathmandu saw the sway of Maoists street power as the nation was brought to a grinding halt. While the former guerrillas had promised that the protests would be peaceful, loss of control over such a country wide agitation was inevitable. The general strike brought transportation, industries, educational institutions and marketplaces to a halt with shortage of food and vegetables reported in the capital and outside. The Maoists had brought cadres from around the country for the agitations and were hopeful of sustaining the same, however bouts of diarrhea seemed to have hit the young men and women as nature played its own part.

Public support to the Unified Maoists dramatically declined as clashes were reported across the country. There was also fear that the Maoists would intensify the struggle in the next phase and there would be more clashes on the streets. Fearing the worst, civil society swung into action.

Hundreds of people turned up for a rally in Kathmandu launched by PAPAD or Professional Alliance for Peace and Democracy, comprising of an impressive array of civil society organizations as the Nepal Bar Association (NBA), Federation of Nepalese Chamber of Commerce and Industries (FNCCI), Nepal Chamber of Commerce, Nepal Teachers' Association, National Private and Boarding Schools' Organization of Nepal, Nepal Medical Association, Human Rights Organization of Nepal (HURON), civil society leaders, academic and the media, PAPAD gave a strong message to the Maoists. Virtually all elements of Nepali civil society were represented and this must have been a wake up call for Prachanda’s team.

The pressure from the civil society paid off and Maoists having seen the writing on the wall withdrew their agitation. While announcing the withdrawal, the Maoists seemed to have sent a message that this was only an interregnum for political negotiations, but only if they are reading the tea leaves they should wind up the agitations and opt for settlement of differences through the parliamentary route.

After the strong response of the civil society, the Maoist propose to organise mass meetings followed by demonstrations in the capital and other major cities across the country. However the negotiating position of the Maoists has become weak.

At the same time the government has to get extension for drafting of the Constitution which would be possible only with the support of the Maoists as it requires a approval of two third votes in the parliament else the country will have to be under President’s rule.

Some are hopeful of a package deal between the Maoists and the other parties. Inclusion of their agenda in the deal is likely to be the negotiation strategy for both sides, the Maoists and the 22 party alliance. Thus what portions of the bargain will be accepted is not known but of the issues raised such as integration of Maoist combatants, dismantling of Maoist youth wing, YCL, return of seized properties and formation of national unity government, the priority could be reversed as the Maoists want the last item the national unity government to be taken up first.

However the 22 parties are worried that in such a scenario, it would lead to the Maoists setting the agenda for change therefore it is important that other issues are also resolved. In all probability there would be some compromise with no clear cut formula emerging for in ambiguity each party can claim victory before the formation of a national unity government. Will Dahal head the same remains to be seen?

India has also possibly read the riot act in Nepal to the Maoists and hopefully some sense would prevail for the blockade unlike the ones in 2006 which brought in democracy was supported by all the parties then lacks political viability this time around. Other countries including Europeans and the United States are pitching in.

While the Maoists have been humbled, the other parties may be drawing wrong lessons and could harden their stand. Nepal like Thailand is a victim of the political ambitions of the elite withering away this remote mountain Shangri La, hopefully the Gods will shine from the Himalayas for the Nepali people in the days ahead.


More by :  Col. Rahul K. Bhonsle

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