Tag Archives: nepal

“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

Uncanny parallels between Beg’s and Shah’s deaths

This is a guest post by Akhilesh Upadhyay

The gruesome murder on Sunday of media entrepreneur Jamim Shah, 47, has brought back chilling memories of June 29, 1998. On that day, Mirza Dilshad Beg, a sitting lawmaker, was gunned down outside his home in Siphal, Kathmandu. It was a dark night and the hillside neighbourhood looked darker still due to load-shedding, when we (reporters and photographers from Kantipur and The Kathmandu Post) arrived at the scene, soon after the 9.30 hit-and-run incident.

The newsroom had received a tip-off from a local who had heard what he suspected were gun-shots. It was an innocent world in many ways. Nepalis were still unfamiliar with sounds of bombs and gun-shots, the Maoist-waged “people’s war” was still in its infancy, violent deaths still shook everybody, and political assassination was unheard of. But what shocked the Nepalis most was how ugly games from powerful external forces could play out in Nepal, as it watched haplessly. The incident also gave many of us in the newsroom a first-hand lesson on forces which operate from behind the scene. Two of the theories that made the rounds then clearly pointed at the cross-border nature of the operation; the third one was that Beg’s death had to do with “family problems,” which turned out to be false. Continue reading Uncanny parallels between Beg’s and Shah’s deaths

Open Letter to Noam Chomsky: Nirmalangshu Mukherjee

[We publish below an open letter to Noam Chomsky, written in the wake of his endorsement of a statement against ‘Operation Green Hunt’, issued recently by a large number of intellectuals in India and in the US. Nirmalangshu’s letter is important because it raises some very serious questions that are being brushed under the carpet by sections of the radical intelligentsia.  Unlike Nirmalangshu, I would not put ‘radical’ within scare quotes, since it is precisely this that highlights the immense tragedy of our times. Radical intellectuals – truly radical intellectuals – once again find themselves caught in this situation where in order to oppose state violence, they will wilfully turn a blind eye to the violence of armed nihilist gangs, simply because these claim to speak on behalf of the oppressed – a claim that Nirmalangshu’s letter exposes in all its falsity. He lays bare how the politics that goes by the name of ‘Maoism’ (i.e. CPI-Maoist) believes in violently erasing all other voices of opposition to and criticism of the state, but that of itself. This brand of politics in fact lives in symbiosis with the state – delegitimizing all forms of mass democratic politics. At this moment one deeply misses the courageous voice of the late Balagopal – recently slightingly dubbed a ‘liberal humanist’ by a spokesperson of the Maoists, at a meeting meant to salute his memory. I cannot help recalling here the feeling of immense sadness many of us were overcome by, watching and hearing speakers at this meeting (in Delhi) for Balagopal – speakers who were ungenerous, if not carping and outright dismissive of the courage of conviction that was Balagopal. AN]

Dear Prof. Chomsky,

I saw your support to the statement issued by Sanhati in the form of a letter to the prime minister— endorsed by some intellectuals from India and abroad. Three points are transparent: (a) the Indian government is planning a massive armed operation in the tribal-hilly areas in the eastern part of the country, (b) the poorest of the poor and the historically marginalised will suffer the most in terms of loss of lives, livelihood and habitat, and (c) for whatever it’s worth, an all-out campaign by democratic forces is needed to resist the armed invasion of people’s habitat by any party. To that extent, the statement does bring out the urgency of the matter.

Continue reading Open Letter to Noam Chomsky: Nirmalangshu Mukherjee

Bomb Blasts in Nepal: Global Dimensions of Hindutva Terror

Churches in Nepal, the erstwhile Hindu Rashtra on the face of the earth have maintained a unique tradition. They hold services on Saturdays because it is a public holiday when schools and offices are closed.

When Deepa Patrick, 22 and Celeste Joseph 15, both from Patna went to visit some of their relatives in Lalitpur, situated south of Kathmandu, they found this fact of Lalitpur’s christian communities social life very interesting. In one of her last emails to her parents back home Deepa even specifically mentioned this aspect of Lalitpur, which has a very small community of Christians living there for many decades. Continue reading Bomb Blasts in Nepal: Global Dimensions of Hindutva Terror

‘Either we finish what we started, or get finished’

The most dangerous and worrying feature in the last two weeks is the resurgence of visceral anti-Maoist politics.

The line between the liberals and right wing has suddenly blurred and they are united in their hatred of the former rebels. The Kathmandu middle class, a part of which gave the benefit of doubt to the Maoists in the polls, had to cough up concessions under Baburam Bhattarai’s fiscal regime. With the recent video revelations, they have veered away even further. The urban lower middle class suffered during eight months of misgovernance with price rise, and collapse of services and is hoping the next government may provide some relief.

The army establishment has reasserted itself and is actively hatching plans to undermine Maoists. Most of the press, with ownership and editorial staff affiliated to ‘mainstream’ parties’, is toeing the NC-UML line. And erstwhile sympathisers in the Indian establishment are now sick of what they see as Maoist duplicity – the recent rediscovery of the ‘nationalist’ rhetoric has put them off further. Continue reading ‘Either we finish what we started, or get finished’

The resignation aftermath

This entire crisis complicates politics for the simple reason that no side feels that it has lost. Don’t mistake this for a win-win situation. It is a situation where all sides are smug, their ambitions are stoked, and they are even more unwilling to make any concessions.

This has actually been a problem right since the 12 point deal. The king got dumped. But besides that, no actor has had to relent on their fundamental interests and give concessions.

The army, after a temporary cooling-off period, was rehabilitated and its privileges were protected. For GP Koirala, April 2006 was a moment to take over the state apparatus and keep the seat warm for his daughter, while protecting the interests of the NC class base. The Maoists saw the entire process, and the polls, as a tactical victory on way to state control.

In the last fortnight, this tenuous situation has only got more retrenched. The NA’s political role and links and divisions within may have got totally exposed. But the top brass feels they have won a huge victory and will be even less amenable to civilian control. The Maoists may not have succeeded in throwing out Katawal, but they feel they have won a moral victory by resigning and are complacent that the political stalemate cannot be resolved without them. UML and MJF think this is their chance to lead the government. And NC is already thrilled at the money that will come with the ministries. Continue reading The resignation aftermath

What next in Nepal?

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’s resignation on Monday afternoon once again reveals how the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) is different from any other ‘mainstream’ party that inhabits the Nepali political landscape. Most observers, including this writer, fail in assessing the Maoists correctly because we end up using the same categories, attribute the same motivations, and expect similar tactics from them as from other political actors.

The PM’s resignation came after a two week long political thriller leading up to the executive’s decision to dismiss Army chief General Katawal and appoint General Kul Bahadur Khadka in his place. Continue reading What next in Nepal?

Save the left from left scholars

I have just returned from an atrocious talk delivered by a famous Nepal expert, David Seddon, who claims to belong to the ‘old British Marxist tradition of Eric Hobsbawm and E P Thompson’.

So this Mr Seddon is well known in Nepal for a book he wrote three decades back – Nepal in Crisis. More recently, he got along with a local activist to edit a book on the People’s War.

Now, Seddon sahib comes here. He tells a Nepali audience how he is worried about the rising violence and the ‘law and order’ problem. He links the violence with identity – “people feel they have a legitimate basis to pick arms and throw stones because they belong to a caste and ethnic group.” He tells the audience, many of whom have struggled for long to bring some change in the exclusionary Nepali state structure, that ‘identity politics is profoundly undemocratic and federalism is not necessary.” And here is the clincher, “When your constituent assembly members adopted a federal democratic republic, I am sure they were thinking only about the republic part. No one really thought about the federal part.” Continue reading Save the left from left scholars

Exclusive TV tamasha at Ashoka Road

I was in Delhi for a few days last week to cover, among other issues, the pre-election mood for a few Nepali publications.

Now, it is not as if I am totally unfamiliar with the Indian media scene. We watch Indian news channels here in Kathmandu and know the nature of the beast. I have friends in the Indian TV business who had come to cover Nepal elections last year but ended up reporting on adventure sports despite the huge Maoist win. “Boss, no one is interested in Nepali politics. Rafting will sell,” they had said. And we saw India TV go hysterical when the Maoist government appointed Nepali priests in the Pashupati Temple to replaces the ones from Karnataka – the media induced pressure forced ‘secularists’ like Mulayam Singh and Amar Singh, on a visit to Kathmandu, to force the government to retract and got venom spewing Ram Yatris like L K Advani to make calls to Prachanda to convey his ‘disappointment’. Continue reading Exclusive TV tamasha at Ashoka Road

A Fragile Peace in Nepal

In the six months that Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ has been Prime Minister, he has realised that running a state is more complex than waging a war.

Since mid-August when he took charge, the PM has had to deal with multiple challenges – an intense ideological debate within his party; a deadlock in the peace process; breakdown of consensus with the G P Koirala led Nepali Congress (NC); acrimony between the defence ministry and Nepal Army (NA); opposition from sections of civil society suspicious of Maoist commitment to democratic norms; rampant lawlessness in the eastern Tarai and ethnic assertion in eastern hills; the collapse of basic services with 16 hour power cuts; and the impact of the global meltdown with remittances dipping. Continue reading A Fragile Peace in Nepal


(Uma Singh, a journalist with Radio Today in the southern town of Janakpur in Nepal, was killed on 11th January 2009. The Federation of Nepali Journalists has mounted a campaign asking for immediate action against Uma’a killers and a firm commitment by the government to the freedom of press. Uma’s killinng comes in the wake of attacks on different media houses in Kathmandu. Like Lasantha Wickrematunge in Sri Lanka, Uma was killed for writing and speaking fearlessly at the other end of Southasia.)

Janakpur: It was impossible to believe that Uma Singh at Ganga Sagar Ghat on Tuesday morning – an FNJ flag draped over her still body, face bandaged all across, the cuts on the head visible – was the same Uma I had met two months ago.

Uma’s looks were deceptive, for the tiny frame contained abundant energy. By the time I strolled into Radio Today’s studio at 6 am in mid-November, Uma had wrapped up her morning bulletin. She was running around the office and passing instructions in a matter-of-fact professional way

She briefed me on the format of Janakpur’s most popular Maithili political discussion show, Garma garam chai. I still remember how Uma said to both her co-anchor and me, “Please avoid English words. The programme is meant for people in villages.” I nodded, a little ashamed my Maithili was not as fluent. Continue reading “Why?”

Prachanda in New York: Ahilan Kadirgamar


Maoist leader and the first Prime Minster of Republican Nepal, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, more commonly known as Prachanda, was in New York these last few days.  I heard him speak at the Asia Society and at the New School for Social Research, where he fielded questions from the audience.  The webcast of Prachanda’s address to the UN is here.

Prachanda opened his speech at the Asia Society, by saying it is like a sweet dream to be in New York. Continue reading Prachanda in New York: Ahilan Kadirgamar

Ahilan Kadirgamar on Southasian Solidarity and Questions of State and Land

[This guest post is by AHILAN KADIRGAMAR who is an activist with the Sri Lanka Democracy Forum. He has written about the international dimension of the conflict and peace process in Sri Lanka and worked on human rights concerns related to the conflict. His current interests include the political economy of state-society relations and attempts at state reform in Sri Lanka.]

I have been travelling between cities, from Kathmandu to Delhi to Calcutta and down south to Madras. Visiting friends, but also trying to understand peoples’ perceptions of Sri Lanka in a time of war. I give talks here and there, but many more meetings over tea and dinner. There is an older tradition of solidarity, but now I am thinking again of the meaning of Southasian solidarity.

In Calcutta, on an activist’s book shelf, I find a book signed and gifted to her in the mid-eighties by Para, my friend from Berlin who passed away last year. Kumaraswamy Pararajasingham, a Marxist and human rights activist in Lanka in his early years, was a pillar of Tamil dissent over the last two decades of exile in Germany. An old Marxist in Calcutta, asks me about Hector Abhayawardhana, the theoretician of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party Continue reading Ahilan Kadirgamar on Southasian Solidarity and Questions of State and Land

Understanding the Nepali mandate

(Three years back, Nepal was in the middle of a miserable war. 7 people were killed every day, mostly by the army but also by a ruthless Maoist military. An autocratic monarch ruled from his palace in Kathmandu. The street agitation led by established parties was not going anywhere. The Maoists were waging an armed struggle with control over most of the hill hinterland, as well as the strength to block supplies to the capital. There was a political deadlock among the three power centers and a military stalemate between the Royal Nepal Army and the People’s Liberation Army. Continue reading Understanding the Nepali mandate

Jaswant Singh ko Gussa Kyon Aata Hai?

There are rare occasions when one is witness to the making of history before our own eyes. The dismantling of the 240 year old Nepalese monarchy and the ushering of Nepal into a Republic has been one such occasion.

As rightly said by a senior Nepali leader “A day comes once in a century. Today is day that Nepali’s long cherished dream has come true.”

But as far as the Sangh Parivar and its affiliated organizations are concerned they have openly expressed their displeasure over these developments. Looking at their sectarian worldview and anti-human understanding of history it does not look surprising. These are the very forces who supported Monarchy till the very end and were enamoured about the ‘model Hindu Rashtra’ in operation here which denied every right to broad cross-section of people. People who still pat themselves on the back for the ‘successful Gujarat Experiment of 2002’ or who celebrate demolition of a five hundred year old mosque as ‘Day of Valour’ can have only such convoluted understanding of things.
Continue reading Jaswant Singh ko Gussa Kyon Aata Hai?