For a leader of his stature, Comrade Matrika Prasad Yadav is exceedingly modest. Instead of calling someone to his den, he prefers to call on them. Dressed simply in khadis, he arrives five minutes before the appointed time. As an alternate politburo member of the Nepal Communist Party (Maoist), Comrade Matrika is entitled to party protection: two alert guards shadow him wherever he goes. On Sunday, one of them was in combat fatigues, and that created problems when the Royal Nepali Army detained his entourage for almost two hours in Salyan.
While the lone Madhesi Maoist negotiator is in Kathmandu (the capital of the "old regime") one of his guards often doubles as his PA, passing him the cellphone after making sure that the call is from someone safe. But if you refer to him as a PA, he lashes back, "We have no assistants, only comrades."
Comrade Matrika opens the discussion on a generous note, "We have highly valued your intellectual contributions to the cause of social transformation in the past." Then his voice takes on a steely tone, "However, when anyone indulges in malicious propaganda against us, we take due note of that too."
Perhaps he realises that he hasn\'t been all that reassuring to his host. So he adds, "We hold no grudges against people like you. Our actions are aimed only against class enemies. We hold independent intellectuals in high esteem." For over an hour, we discuss the problems of Madhesis in Nepal and the Maoists\' method of handling it. Like most of his naive cadres, Comrade Matrika seems to put his faith in the political rhetoric of his leaders. "Round table, interim government, and constituent assembly," he chants the Maoist mantra with quiet reverence. It is pointless to argue against the faith of an extremist--be he a Maoist revolutionary, a jihadi, or a neocon Bush warrior.
Speaking of which, it is America that worries Comrade Matrika. He agrees it was the fear of direct American intervention that prompted the Maoists to come back to the negotiating table. And like Palestinian children, the Nepali proletariat too is ready for a prolonged struggle against imperialists. But the Maoists say they do not want to be the main cause of drawing the tentacles of Pentagon into this region.
The Palestinian struggle has become a global icon of resistance against aggression. Even the Maoists of Malangwa and Myagdi seem to draw inspiration from the TV images of children stoning tanks on the streets of the Occupied Territories.
Such images strike a chord with the suppressed anywhere in the world as they fight entrenched power, and it inspires those who struggle against injustice and inequality.
Maoists have prevailed over state forces in almost every encounter in nearly two years, except one or two rebel offensives that went wrong. It is not surprising that the Maoist militia have little respect for the fighting ability of their peers in the Royal Nepali Army. Even young Maoist fighters barely out of their teens openly boast that they can easily lay their hands on the army\'s new rifles if instructed to do so.
The insurgents do not seem to be too bothered about the Indian armed intervention either and reject such a possibility.
"But even if they were foolhardy enough to send in the Indian Gurkhas," says a young Maoist cadre, "we could keep them engaged for years." He cites the way the Indian Army has been tied up in Kashmir and the northeast for decades by tiny insurgency groups, often fighting more amongst themselves than with the invaders. "And didn\'t they run away from Sri Lanka with their tails in between their legs?"
Surprisingly, it is the growing influence of the Americans that worries Comrade Matrika more. Reading between the lines and peering through the thickets of jargon he seems more worried about the US marines in Kalikot, or a B-52 from Diego Garcia laying waste to training camps in northern Rukum. Nepali Maoists do not want the fate of Afghanistan to befall their country.
Senior Maoist leaders believe that they have to keep talking with this government for as long as it takes them to keep Americans away. For them, the People\'s Movement II is a peripheral issue. "The parties will withdraw the moment we go back to the jungles," he says with barely-veiled disdain in his voice as he prepares to leave.
Despite the ceasefire, a police van invariably tails Comrade Matrika\'s team of Maoist rebels wherever he goes. Evidently, the state has taken full responsibility for the personal safety of the Maoist delegation. But Matrika Yadav doesn\'t give the blue van a glance, like his supremo he seems more worried about the Americans.