Nepali Times
From The Nepali Press
Demagougery and the psychology of fear

Following the murder of Youth Force activist Prachanda Thaiba in Butwal, the UML threatened to quit the coalition. The thundering response of Finance Minister Baburam Bhattarai was: "If there is an attempt to topple the government, the Maoists will once again resort to a revolt." Even though he has made such threats before, the meaning and intent of the latest pronouncement point to grave danger.

It would be wrong to term this threat of 'revolt' from a top leader of the party in government as based on momentary emotion. Bhattarai is in fact giving us the indication of an extremely well thought-out plan, and there is an intent to blackmail the other political parties as well as the people. It reflects the presence of a totalitarian mindset within the Maoist party.

The Maoists are today using only slightly modified version of the psychological methods of influence and control that they perfected during their armed insurgency. The goal is to progressively extend full control over the state and the society.

While the widely-held impression is that Bhattarai is the moderate and the democrat among the Maoists, when he does open his mouth there is the clear odour of extremism. He was the first Maoist leader to threaten revolt if there was an attempt to topple the government, and he is the only one who continuously repeats that warning.

The Maoists seem to be utilising one of the psychological tools of military science, of directing one's fire at where the opponent is most vulnerable. The public seeks peace before all else, the NC and UML seek to proceed through sustainable, peaceful politics, and so the Maoists use 'peace' as a bargaining chip. In return for long-term peace the people will give them the vote, while the UML and NC will submit to the Maoists remaining in power to prevent violence and anarchy.

The oft-repeated threats of revolt are but one way of reminding the public continuously of its yearning for peace, and to force the other political parties to buckle. The people are made to believe that the right to revolt and to destroy the peace is a birthright of the Maoists, while it is the job of the other parties to work for peace. The impression being created is that the Maoists have the right and privilege to create anarchy, in case they are made to leave government.

The existing state of impunity is not the residue of the transitional phase we are in, nor is it the result of governmental ineffectiveness. It is a deliberate weapon being used by the Maoists to spread fear.

Attacks on the press, businesses, schools, interference with the civil service, the military, demonstrations against the judiciary, the behaviour towards NGOs, and the vicious response to anyone who criticises are all proofs of the planned Maoist exercise to extend command over all the facets of society.

This sort of fear-mongering on the part of a party which has already accepted the system of periodic elections is nothing but a corrupt output of wartime hubris. Regardless of what they may know of conflict and social progress, the Maoists say they abandoned the 'people's war' and embraced multiparty democracy because of geopolitics. They are myopic: they underestimate the people's rejection of violence as the real reason.

The Maoists also seem too quick to ridicule the support among the people for the UML and NC. They have not even been able to understand why they got the votes they did in the elections. The people wanted not only a republic and a new constitution, they also voted for peace. The Maoists are showing extreme reluctance to accept this reading.

Even though they have had control of state power for a full year, there is no evidence of concern among the Maoist leadership as to how their attitude is being perceived. There is disenchantment, sloganeering and attacks against the Maoists are on the rise.

With this loss of trust, participation in Maoist rallies and marches is thinning. With its reluctance to read the meaning of the recent student elections, the Maoist party seems unwilling to confront the need to reform its ways. If it remains stubborn in its worldview and indisciplined in its activities, it is certain they will not experience much tranquility in the days ahead.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)