Nepali Times Asian Paints
State Of The State
The wobbly group


In reporting human casualties, mainstream Anglo-Saxon journalism has a rule of thumb: "one American equals 10 Europeans equals 1,000 Chileans equals 100,000 Rwandans". Judging from the coverage Nepal has started getting in the western press, we must fall somewhere between the Chileans and Rwandans. After eight years of insurgency and over 8,000 lives lost, we have now been officially "discovered" by the international media.

And their correspondents all have one standard query: "What proportion of Nepal's land area do the Maoists control?", or "How much support do the Maoists have in the countryside?" Both questions are too complex to have black-and-white answers. For one thing, the Maoists regard 'public support' is a bourgeious concept, and believe political power comes out of the barrel of a gun.

Totalitarian groups do not regard the masses as self-determining human beings. It's not just the Old Regime of active monarchists that treats its subjects as objects of royal munificence. Even the pioneers of the New Regime don't believe that we-the-people are capable of rationally deciding our own fate. For the top guns of the Maoists, the masses are subjects in a war that have to be taught to toe the party line, or else.

The threat is rarely so explicit, but the message is seldom lost. It is like the Maoist with a grenade dangling from his belt who comes into the trekking lodge in Birethanti to ask tourists to 'donate' Rs 1,000 each. Ironically, the Maoists seems to have perfected these techniques from CIA-backed rightwing militias like the Freedom Commandos in Nicaragua.

In a widely-circulated letter to American ambassador Michael Malinowski, Maoist ideologue Baburam Bhattarai claims there was "unprecedented and overwhelming support enjoyed by us among the masses both in rural and urban areas, intelligentsia, media and the international community during our seven-month overground period". But this assertion undermines Comrade baburam's own political position. After all, it was the Old Regime that showed tolerance of dissent by allowing the meetings to take place.

If Baburam, Badal, Matrika and their comrades could openly address mass meeting in Kathmandu, Dhangadi, Janakpur, Dang, Gorkha earlier this year then why was there a need to go back to their violent path? Perhaps there is more than a grain of truth in Ambassador Malinowsky's allegation that Maoists were forced to resort to arms because they didn't succeed in convincing the public that the constituent assembly was a dire necccessity of the country at this moment.

An insurgency of this intensity and magnitude can't survive on the basis of enforced support. A swamp isn't enough, mosquitos also need rotting leaves to breed. Poverty and ignorance are the root causes of insurgency, but the backbone of Maoist support isn't the Nepali underclass. Maobadis derive their physical as well intellectual sustenance from what Bukharin dismissed as the 'wobbly group'-the urban petty bourgeoisie, the salariat, and the rural peasantry. "Every one of them," observes Bukharin, "at the bottom of his heart, cherishes the hope of getting on, of growing rich." A pressure-cooker bomb is a shortcut to everything.

To ensure the acquiescence of other groups, the Maoists have adopted methods are based on another axiom of political science: it's much easier to instigate the masses against something or someone than to persuade them to follow some ideology or somebody. The Maoists have intentionally left the outline of their New Regime vague, but they have very concrete plans about overthrowing the Old Regime.

Like the sorcerer hawking a single medication for all ills-buy one vial of fox's intestine or some equally revolting concoction, and it will release you from evil spirits, cure your baldness, and make you popular with the ladies. The Maoists have a readymade answer for every political question: a constituent assembly. It's a failsafe trick, one that has managed to fool everyone nursing a grudge against the political leaders of the Last Twelve Years. Since all questions over the potency of the constituent assembly potion are answered with socket-bombs, silence reigns supreme all over the country.

In A View on The People's War in Nepal from somewhere in western rural Nepal ('location cannot be disclosed for security reasons') for the anarchist internet site, Infoshop News ( Sage Radachowsky observes that ground realities have changed since the Spring of 1999 when Li Onesto of the Revolutionary Worker produced two propaganda pieces for her Nepali comrades. Support for the Maoists has dwindled even in their base area, Radachowsky writes, saying villagers are so scared that when "Maoists come to their door, they are obliged to provide food for them, and to agree with them when they are asked their political opinions". Those with guns, it seems, seldom have time or patience for political arguments.

Now that we know that Maoists aren't what they pretend to be, the riddle still remains: what do these armed insurgents seek to achieve by causing even more mayhem and bloodshed? If the militarisation of Nepali society continues at this rate, even a new constitution will have no meaning. Guns will rule, and as far as the international media is concerend, we will be even closer to Rwandans.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)