All posts by prashantjha

Maoist dilemmas in Nepal

Exactly four years after a peace accord the end of Nepal’s civil war, the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) is going through a deep existential crisis. This was most starkly reflected in the separate political documents presented by chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’, senior vice-chairman Mohan Vaidya ‘Kiran’, and another vice-chairman and ideologue Dr Baburam Bhattarai at an extended party meeting in Palungtar of Gorkha district last week. Almost 6,000 delegates – including 1200 Maoist combatants from UN-monitored cantonments – reviewed the party’s achievements and failures after entering the peace process, and discussed the future ‘political line’ the party should adopt. Continue reading Maoist dilemmas in Nepal

India and the Kantipur Saga

New Delhi is ranged against not only Nepal’s biggest political party but also its largest media house.

First published in The Hindu, 2 September 2010

The Indian Embassy in Kathmandu is in the middle of a controversy. It stands accused, yet again, of ‘gross interference’ and ‘attacking press freedom in another country’, and faces censure from a parliamentary committee, politicians across the spectrum, and civil society groups. Last week, sections of the media, including Kantipur television which is a part of the larger Kantipur group, reported that a product of Dabur Nepal was substandard and contained harmful substances. On August 27, the embassy said, “Indian joint ventures have informed the embassy they have been approached by such media houses for advertisement and are being threatened with negative publicity if those requests are not met.” It termed the news reports as ‘baseless adverse publicity against products of such ventures’ and said such allegations in the past had proven to be false.

Organisations representing media owners, which included the Kantipur publisher, immediately condemned the statement, said media is free to choose its content, and cautioned the embassy to ‘respect diplomatic norms and values of press freedom’. The embassy reacted again, saying the statement by media organisations would have been more credible if backed by a condemnation of unethical practices adopted in eliciting advertising revenue from Indian joint ventures. Since then, the Parliament’s international relations and human rights committee has instructed the government to seek a clarification from the Indian envoy for the embassy’s statements and termed it as blatant interference in free press.

Continue reading India and the Kantipur Saga

Tactical Retreat?

The Maoist ‘postponement’ of the general strike has drawn diverse reactions. Ruling parties have projected it as a victory of democracy, constitutionalism, and law and a massive defeat for the Maoist ‘politics of blackmail’. Sections of the media and civil society that had urged the Maoists to pull back feel it is a result of popular pressure exerted by the peace rally on Friday morning. And while some Moist leaders and cadre are reported to be confused, demoralized, and angry at the leadership for letting go, others are hopeful that this will pave the way for an agreement on peace and constitution.

The responses are naturally shaped by one’s own location on the political spectrum. But what it ignores is that there is a complex set of factors that led to the Maoist decision. The non-Maoist euphoria also glosses over the fact that the strike was not the problem; it was only a symptom of the problem. And while the strike is off for now, those underlying issues remain unresolved.

The Maoists made four miscalculations. Continue reading Tactical Retreat?

The City Turns Red – Kathmandu on May Day

When Maoist Newa state in charge Hitman Sakya asked the assembled crowd at Khula Manch to silently honor martyrs, the moment turned somber. The leaders stood with their heads down on the stage, and on the ground, all one could see were thousands and thousands of fists raised up. There was pin-drop silence.

A bit later, members of the Maoist cultural wing sang and danced. The lyrics were deeply political, hitting out at the NC, UML and India, projecting the Maoists as the only people’s party, and wooing the security forces by showing uniformed personnel shaking hands with Maoists ‘to build a new Nepal’. The crowd was enthralled. Continue reading The City Turns Red – Kathmandu on May Day

Kathmandu Siege – They Are Here

Kathmandu’s elites cannot seem to understand who these people are. But talk to the cab driver, waiter, vegetable seller, small shopkeeper, slum dweller or construction worker and you will get an idea of who may dominate the streets from Saturday.
There has been coercion in the process of mobilisation. But the Maoists have essentially tapped into the three core contradictions of Nepali society – ethnicity, class, and space (Kathmandu versus the rest). They have deployed their cadres; capitalised on the rage of those on the periphery; and channelised popular discontent against inflation, power cuts, corruption and insecurity, for which Madhav Nepal has been projected as solely responsible. Continue reading Kathmandu Siege – They Are Here

Koirala’s death robs Nepali politics of its centre

Girija Prasad Koirala’s death on Saturday afternoon marks the end of an era in not only Nepali but also sub-continental politics. As a warrior for democracy over six decades, a five-time Prime Minister and architect of the ongoing peace process with the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), Koirala was an integral part of Nepal’s modern political history. But he has passed away at a time when the task of institutionalising the democracy he fought for remains incomplete.

G.P. Koirala, or GPK, was born in Bihar in 1925, where his father, Krishna Prasad Koirala, was in exile for defying the autocratic clan-based Rana regime. His father believed that Nepal could not be free of despotic Rana rule as long as their patrons, the British, ruled India. G.P. Koirala’s elder brother, B.P. Koirala (also known as BP), was imprisoned in the Quit India Movement. In early 1947, Nepali exiles in India and Kathmandu-based dissenters formed the Nepali National Congress. Continue reading Koirala’s death robs Nepali politics of its centre

“Twenty million out of twenty-seven million Nepalis are with the Maoists”: Interview with Prachanda

(This interview of Pushpa Kamal Dahal by me appeared in the Nepali Times a few days ago, along with another report.)

A conversation with Maoist supremo Prachanda this week not only brought out the party’s new line, but also offered a glimpse into his analysis of current politics and future strategy.

The root of the problem, according to Prachanda, is that the 12-point understanding was ‘tactical’ for everyone who signed the agreement. “The other side felt they could get us into the mainstream and weaken us. We thought we could use the process to create a new mainstream, which would include political competition.” Neither side got what they wanted, entirely. This paradox has forced the parties to make a more fundamental strategic choice. “This was inevitable and we are now heading for a crisis climax.”

The army issue is key. Neither side feels it lost the war. Prachanda concedes that no one won the war in material terms, but believes the Maoists won the war politically. “It was the then Royal Nepalese Army’s mandate and goal to protect the monarchy and block a republic,” he says. “They failed, and the PLA played a big part in bringing about this change.” The way forward for these “recognised and legitimate” outfits, he says, is “sticking to the peace accord, democratising the army and professionalising the PLA.” Continue reading “Twenty million out of twenty-seven million Nepalis are with the Maoists”: Interview with Prachanda