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06 May, 2009

Turmoil in Nepal: interpretation of ‘people’s democracy’ of Prachanda


Nepal is facing the biggest crisis after the formation of new democracy. Prime Minister Prachanda has resigned after his government was reduced to a minority as partner UML party which has 108 members in the Parliament withdrew its support on the issue of sacking of the Chief of Nepal army General Katwal. The Maoist blamed him for being pro Indian and resisting the inclusion of their 19000 cadres which fought against the military. General Katwal and many other political parties felt that these political cadres of the Maoists will be a grave threat and the army would then be indoctrinated. Ofcourse, it is a fact the same army was under the royalty and was considered to be an obedient supporter of the erstwhile royalty.

The Maoists are in the street. Prachanda seems to have gone back to where he belonged to, which is guerilla warfare. The Nepalese political system, which was held to ransom by an autocratic monarch, is now sandwiched between the forces of democracy and those who use democracy to hijack it.

One needs not to be an analyst to see why Prime Minister Prachanda resigned so fast. Nepal’s people are completely disappointed with the current lot of politicians and the Maoists raised hopes for them but current problems that cropped in Nepal, could not really provide them with innovative ideas or radical ideas. The economic disparities remain the same. The long lines for petrol and diesels could always be seen at the petrol pumps. The economy was in doldrums. The former gorillas were now power centre with gunmen surrounding them and distancing them from the people.

But now the historical moment of democratizing the Nepalese society seems to be slipping out of Nepal’s hand. Prachanda and his comrades seem to fuel anti Indian sentiments to further their own agenda which has never been democratic. It is strange that the forces of change, as they claim, are afraid of democratic dissent. It is the irony of democracy that it becomes victim of anti democratic forces who use democracy for their vicious agenda. We have in India, all the anti democratic forces, riding on the wave of democracy to further their casteist and hate agenda.

However, Nepal looked an exception. Nearly 10 years war of the Maoists against the Monarch, whose stories were well established in the political circle, whose anarchist son would rampage at any place to fulfill his whims and fancies, the people of this kingdom, joined hand and revolted against the age old monarchy. To the credit of the Maoists, they forced the dictatorship of the monarchy out. Had they been not there, I would bet, the Nepalese congress and other political parties did not have the courage to tell the King to leave the Narayanhiti place, which is now a national Museum.
In August, after Prachanda assumed the charge of the nation, a lot of things were expected. Prime Minister took oath in a different way; of course, his red tilak was always there. His deputy Babu Ram Bhattarai have been more argumentative on the issue of breaking the ‘feudal’ structure of Nepal. The prime minister actually in a recent international conference organized by International Land Coalition and government of Nepal argued for a scientific land reform. All his ministers have been talking about it. For us it was a difficult preposition but then Bhattarai said that many of the old mindset in Nepal still resists their original ‘revolutionary’ land reform and hence they undertook a middle path and said it will be ‘scientific’ land reform.

Both Prachanda and Babu Ram Bhattarai, may not be ignorant to the blatant casteist society in Nepal. It flourished during the regime of the king who considered himself as the incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Unfortunately, the ‘revolutionaries’ in Nepal keep a conspicuous silence on it. After hearing them so many times, none of them ever use the word ‘ Dalits’ or ethnic minorities to describe about oppression and exploitation. Why is the current regime of Nepal living in a continuous mode of denial, and does not say a single word against the atrocious caste system of Nepal? Fighting war against feudalism is welcome but the caste oppression in Nepal is not just feudalism. It exists even among the poor. So a poor Brahmin is not equal to poor Dalit as being projected by the Maoists. A visit to many of these areas of Nepal suggest how the Dalit still face boycott and tyranny of the upper castes in the villages, schools still have the same structure, water is not available to Dalits, job reservation is not meant for them and hence if Prachanda and his company talks of ‘scientific land reform’, one sincerely hope, it wont be the rigged ‘reforms’ as the CPM has done in West Bengal, which never reached the Dalits. Contrary to this, these progressive left actually turned oppressor against the Dalits as their ‘perceived’ notion that ‘caste’ does not exist simply because they do not believe in it. In the name of looking ‘progressive’ by using ‘internationally’ ‘acceptable’ terms of class, feudalism etc, the Maoists seem to be defending a status quo in Nepal which subjugated people for centuries. The Dalits in Nepal are looking for a change, a democratic one which gives them opportunity to develop. A mere manufactured consent of Dalit yes to their ‘initiative’ will not suffice.

Having tracked down their issues, I am amazed that none of them ever raised the issue of how the ‘cult of Kumari’ which is nothing but a ‘celebration’ of virginity and patriarchical feudal values are still allowed and none of the revolutionaries are seen speaking against the same. Similarly, a majority of the landless labours, share croppers in Nepal are Dalits. What stops the Maoists to speak openly on the issue and develop Dalit leadership and not just show pieces who do not raise the issue of caste discrimination and continue to ‘fight’ against ‘feudalism’ or simply ‘samantshahi’.

Now, the situation in Nepal is alarmingly changing. More and more anti India rhetoric are on the air. One can understand that New Delhi actually messed up things in such a way that average Nepali feel that India does not respect them as an independent nation but simply as another state of India. It is ironical that all the democratic movements in Nepal never had an Indian support. May be because of the government of India’s policy of not offending a neighboring power, the Maoists propaganda worked that India is not interested in strengthening the democratic system there. But at the end of the day democracy has to come through our own struggle and interference from an external power would not work.

Immediately assuming the power, Prachanda went to China. The government of Nepal wants a similar treaty with China as it has with India. While every country is free to make its choices, one is sure that Prachanda and his friend know that culturally India and Nepal are closer and any thing on part of the Maoists to go against that would not work in Nepal.

When the Nepal fought against tyranny of the king, it was people’s desire to be free from the shackles of monarch and dictators. The Maoists played a lead role in getting rid of the oligarchs who destroyed Nepal. But then democracy throws strange results. It brings to the forefront those forces, who do not have faith in democracy. The fifty years of Indian democracy has the similar experience when the feudal forces got legitimized through democratic set up. In Nepal, Prachanda and his associates harped much on the Chinese vision and blamed India for every evil.

One has to understand why the Maoist government was keen to establish itself beyond India. The fascination comes from various aspects. One, Chinese brand of people’s democracy has no faith in dissent and the Maoists actually failed during the past few months. Their working pattern was no less than feudalistic like our own monarchs who pretend to represent the poor. Secondly, Prachanda’s own son has no good record than Paras, the autocratic son of former king. The expectations that the Maoists raised to its cadre actually were fast receding and therefore they needed the rhetoric.

One needs to ask the question to the Maoists and all those sympathizers. How can they include their cadre into the army of a country? Is Nepal a moist country? As an ideology, one should not afraid of it, but as a nation Maoists and Nepal can not be used in interchangeable term. Nepal as a nation is much bigger than Prachanda and his Maoist army. Nepal paid a price of the submissive royal devotees as army chief. Now if the royal Nepalese army is being replaced by the one loyal to Prachanda, then one can for sure understand that Maoist war against the Monarchy was not on pure ideals of democracy but to thrust their way of dictatorship on a nation which is asking for more democratic liberal values.

The country’s armed forces, educational institutions, judiciary and media need to be free from these ideological biases. If Nepal has to develop then they can not have a democracy hijacked by those who do not believe in it and want to use it for their own nefarious purposes. Nepal’s tryst with destiny is to open itself to its diverse population, ethnic minorities and destroy the age old feudal structure led by the priestly class amply supported by the King. Unless that priestly class is attacked, the slogans of ‘revolution’ will remain the biggest humbug. Unfortunately, the Maoist government was not bothered to use this terminology. May be because they feared the issue of representation of the Dalits with in the party and government will always be raised.

Democracy may have many flawed. We witness it in India but democracy at the end is a level playing field. Whether we like it or not, Lalu, Ramvilas, Maywati, Narendra Modi and Prakash Karath are the reality of the day in India. Such things are not that easy in Nepal. The Dalits with in the communist set up are afraid to speak up against the brahmanical leadership of the political structure there in Nepal. One can understand the difficulties of the leadership in speaking plainly against the caste structure as a majority of them hails from one particular community and the top brass of the Communist Party of Nepal are particularly Brahmins. Ofcourse, there are a few showpieces as Dalit ministers very much like what used to be in India with mainstream parties in the past. The Maoists know it well that it is important to use this symbol of Dalit empowerment through individual ministers who fail to impress with their work.

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