Sunday, October 31, 2004

Nepal: Living with the Maoists


Girija Prasad Koirala deserves the biggest credit and discredit for the Maoist rise because he had the longest tenure of office as the full-powered prime minister. However Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba appeared in the forefront in escalating and intensifying the war when he declared the state of emergency and mobilised the army against the Maoists. Other political parties and the state machinery helped in their own ways in fanning the fire and spreading it out all over the country. Thanks to our political immaturity, misuse of power and corrupt practices that the Maoists have emerged today as a political as well as a military force. More than that, it has given birth to a belief that revolt does make a difference and violence does make impact. It is this state of mind that has made Maoism a lasting feature of our national life.
National crisis - Learning to live with the Maoists
Aditya Man Shrestha

The crux of the problem lies not in suppressing the Maoists but in obliterating the state of Maoist mind.

We, the Nepalis, had the respite during the Dashain festival of nine days of no Maoist offensives matched by no army retaliation. Many people cried for prolonging the truce and converting it into a permanent peace. But that did not happen. However, peace will visit us from time to time in future as it twice reigned in the previous years for a brief period. But, now, we have to learn to live with the Maoists as their presence is going to be a permanent part of our national life. Maoism is not going to die with the suppression of the Maoists in Nepal, if ever it happens. Maoism is a state of mind —rebellious and revolting. Nepal provides by far one of the biggest potentials for its perpetuation. Let us look at the social injustice, economic inequality and political exclusion that exist amidst us.

The continuing bloodshed on the ground and the high-pitched political debate in the media are doing nothing to address these basic problems. When shall there be peace and when shall the critical issues be taken care of to the satisfaction of the affected people? That is certainly a long-drawn process. It is this protracted process that will be reinforcing this state of defiant mind. It has, thus, become a permanent feature of our psyche and society.

The Maoist rebels were born and grew up very ironically during the most open and democratic functioning of our society. At a time when the parliamentary democracy should have taken its roots, it sowed the seeds for the growth of Maoist violence. Girija Prasad Koirala deserves the biggest credit and discredit for the Maoist rise because he had the longest tenure of office as the full-powered prime minister.

However Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba appeared in the forefront in escalating and intensifying the war when he declared the state of emergency and mobilised the army against the Maoists. Other political parties and the state machinery helped in their own ways in fanning the fire and spreading it out all over the country. Thanks to our political immaturity, misuse of power and corrupt practices that the Maoists have emerged today as a political as well as a military force. More than that, it has given birth to a belief that revolt does make a difference and violence does make impact. It is this state of mind that has made Maoism a lasting feature of our national life.

Has anything changed since the royal takeover in October 2002? Nothing much as far as the Maoists and their status is concerned. The two years of constitutionally suspended rule has reinforced the necessity of learning to live with the Maoists. First, the political parties could not prove their mettle despite their long-drawn agitations against regression. If anything, they have appeared as paper tigers. There was no political storm, no big earthquake nor mass uprising the political leaders threatened to create during the last two years of their displacement from power. A peaceful means is of no consequence. Second, the Maoist gun power, on the contrary, is receiving increasing recognition internally and externally. It is they who have made their presence felt in every household, every village and every nook and corner of the country. It will act as an unforgettable inspiration for those who have a state of Maoist mind. Even if the Maoists agree to a peace settlement, the re-emergence of violence will remain around the corner thanks to this state of Maoist mind that has percolated in our society with no visible radical changes for transformation into an egalitarian and prosperous form.

The Maoist leaders of today should not take these thoughts flattering as they might boomerang on themselves. They are also vulnerable in tomorrow's Nepal to the dangers of this state of mind as the leadership of today is. Supposing the Maoists come to power, they are sure to try to establish a totalitarian state. Whether they would be able to address the issues of economic deprivation, social oppression, ethnic inequality, linguistic injustice and corruption they are championing today is an open question that they themselves are not able to answer. Failing in their commitment to establish a flawless governance system, the most likely possibility, the Maoists cannot control the rise of a violent revolt as a natural outcome of our socio-economic conditions that would be no different from today. The Maoists will inherit a society resplendent with the Maoist state of mind, a state of mind that helped them once to come to power but would put them constantly under the threat of being dethroned from power.

The crux of the problem, therefore, lies not in suppressing the Maoists but in obliterating the state of Maoist mind. The fundamental problems of the people that lead to a state of revolt remain as they were. The current conflicts between the insurgents and the state, on the one hand, and the opposition parties and the government, on the other, are not helping to address these fundamental problems of our society. What they are trying to do is to hold supremacy over the state power, a power that is combating the Maoist power but has never taken the state of Maoist mind into account. It means that this state of mind will continue to exist in our society. It further means that we will have to learn to live with the Maoists and, in all probability, with their state of mind for an indefinite time.

Shrestha is coordinator, Volunteer Mediators Group for Peace

Himalayan Times 29/10/ 2004