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The rise and fall of the Maoists

Friday, February 13th, 2015
Maoist artistes singing a song at an event held by the Chanda faction to mark their 'people's war' day in Kathmandu on Friday. Photo by Bikram Rai.

Maoist artistes singing a song at an event held by the Chanda faction to mark their ‘people’s war’ day in Kathmandu on Friday. Photo by Bikram Rai.

Om Astha Rai

According to the Nepali way of counting, this is the 20th anniversary of the start of the Maoist ‘people’s war’ against the state that led to the death of at least 17,000 people.

Although it is actually the 19th anniversary, the five factions of the Maoist party marked the launch of their common armed struggle on 13 February, 1996 on Friday amidst separate functions in Kathmandu. It was on this day 19 years ago that the Maoists simultaneously attacked police posts in Rolpa, Rukum and Sindhuli districts.

Back then, no one expected the war to be so prolonged and brutal. Over the next 10 years, until signing of Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) with the government in 2006, the war not only killed thousands of people but also left many more injured and displaced.

For the families of 1,347 disappeared by the state security and Maoists, there hasn’t been closure even nine years after the war ended. Children born in the year the Maoist war began are now in their twenties, and are still struggling to cope with the legacy of violence and the war’s impact on the country’s development and economy.

The war is over but the political transition is not. A new constitution that is supposed to be the last stone of the peace process is still elusive. Nineteen years after launching their armed struggle, where have the Maoists arrived? And where are they heading towards?

The answer was vividly demonstrated by the observation of the anniversary by various Maoist factions.

The UCPN (Maoist) led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Baburam Bhattarai is still considered to be the main Maoist group that waged the war. But, prominent leaders of Maoist insurgency are no longer with them.

The Mohan Baidya-led CPN-Maoist that boycotted the second CA elections. And there is the Netra Bikram Chanda-led CPN Maoist, which is a breakaway faction of the breakaway Baidya’s party. Other relatively little known leaders like Matrika Yadav and Mani Thapa have their own Maoist groups. They all celebrated their “people’s war day” in different places and in different ways.

After an India-brokered 12-point agreement with parliamentary parties like the NC and the UML in November 2005, the Maoists came over-ground, joined peace process, surrendered their weapons and dismantled their ‘people’s army’. They rose to power after winning the first CA elections on 2008 but were restricted to a third party in the second CA.

Today, the Maoists stand divided. There are internal power struggles even within the remaining UCPN (M) and this was in full display earlier this week after Lhar Kyal Lama, a UML defector, was recommended as a CA member. Maoist leaders close to Bhattarai have stood against Dahal’s appointment of Lama.

Defeated in the last elections and unable to manage internal power struggle, UCPN (M) leaders now look desperate for a power sharing deal with the NC and the UML on the pretext of reaching a consensus on the disputed elements of the new constitution.

An aging Baidya seemingly lacks charisma, courage and confidence to establish a people’s republic through what he used to call as ‘an urban revolution’. He is likely to rejoin the UCPN (Maoist). Chand keeps saying he wants to launch another war but timing is not as right as it was 20 years ago.

Timeline of the Maoist war

4 February, 1996 Baburam Bhattarai of Samyukta Janmorcha submits a 40-point memorandum to Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, warns of waging a war if their demands are not met in 15 days.

13 February, 1996 Even before their 15-day deadline expires, the Maoists declare a war against the state, attacks police posts in Sindhuli, Rolpa and Rukum and Agriculture Development Bank in Gorkha.

April, 1997 Government starts ‘Kilo Sierra 2’, a police operation against the Maoists.

August, 1997 The Maoists declare Prachanda (Pushpa Kamal Dahal) as their supreme commander, makes it mandatory for all Maoist leaders to use his statements in their articles, decides to build their own ‘base area’.

22 September, 1999 The Maoists attack police barrack in Dang, kidnap DSP Thule Rai.

24 September, 2000 The Maoists attack Dunai, the district headquarters of Dolpa.

20 December, 2000 The Maoists start forming ‘people’s governments’.

February, 2001 Prachanda becomes the Maoist Chair. The ‘Prachandapath’ doctrine  is announced.

2 June, 2001 A day after the Narayanhiti massacre, Prachanda declares that the monarchy has ‘come to an end’ and vows to turn Nepal into a republic

19 July, 2001 Girija Prasad Koirala steps down as Prime Minister after the army refuses to be deployed against the Maoists.

23 July, 2001 The government and the Maoists announce ceasefire. Four days later, Maoist leaders Krishna Bahadur Mahara, Agni Prasad Sapkota and Top Bahadur Rayamajhi come to Kathmandu for talks with the government. Talks fail.

23 November, 2001 Prachanda declared supreme commander of ‘People’s Liberation Army’.

26 November, 2001 Government declares emergency against the Maoists.

26 January, 2003 The Maoists assassinate APF Chief Krishna Mohan Shrestha.

29 January, 2003 Another ceasefire. Maoist leader Ram Bahadur Thapa, Krishna Bahadur Mahara, Dev Gurung and Matrika Yadav come to Kathmandu for talks.

26 August, 2002 Maoists call off ceasefire following massacre of 19 Maoist cadres in Doramba, Ramechhap.

1 February, 2005 King Gyanendra dissolves the Deuba government, overtakes as Chair of Council of Ministers.

25 November, 2005 Seven political parties sign a 12-point agreement with the Maoists, vow to end Gyanendra’s absolute rule through street protests.

April, 2006 People rise against King Gyanendra’s rule who steps down after 19 days of uprising.

16 June, 2006 Prachanda appears in public for the first time in Kathmandu.

21 November, 2006 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed, peace process begins

10 April, 2008 First CA polls, Maoists emerge as single largest party.

28 May, 2008 First meeting of the first CA declares Nepal as federal democratic republic. In the next two months, Gyanendra exits from the Narayanhiti palace, Ram Baran Yadav elected as Nepal’s first President, Prachanda becomes Prime Minister.

28 August, 2001 Baburam Bhattarai becomes Prime Minister. He later dissolves the first CA and announces another CA election. The next month, Mohan Baidya splits from the party. Ram Bahadur Thapa, Dev Gurung, Pambha Bhushal, Netra Bikram Chanda and other leaders join Baidya.

19 November, 2013 Another CA elections. Maoists restricted to third party. Maoists accuse NC and UML of rigging elections but eventually joins the second CA.


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4 Responses to “The rise and fall of the Maoists”

  1. david seddon on Says:

    there is still time for the ‘Maoists’ to re-think their tactics, re-unite and develop a coherent strategy for radical social and economic change based not on the reactionary notion of ‘social inclusion’ but on the basis of class struggle – maybe in opposition to a NCP-UML govt. The whole rhetoric of ‘consensus’ is profoundly misleading and anti-democratic.

  2. David Seddon on Says:

    urgent need for ‘Maoists’ to rethink tactics and develop strategy for radical ecnomic & social transformation

  3. K. K. Sharma on Says:

    Nepali Maoists rose, thanks to India. Now the Nepali Maoists are falling, thanks to India.

    It seems the utility of Nepali Maoists is now over for India… their objective having been achieved.

  4. Kul Gautam » “Noble ends need noble means” on Says:

    […] Chandra Gautam: Yes, the Maoists have certainly been a force for change. But much of the change they advocate has been negative – glorification of so-called […]

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