THE WAY WE WERE: Photograph taken in August 1999 in Darbot of Rolpa after military training by Indian Maoists from the People’s War Group to the Nepali Moaist leadership. From l-r: PWG’s ‘DK’, Rabindra Shrestha, Shakti Basnet, Krishna Bahadur Mahara, PWG’s Balaji, Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’, Post Bahadur Bogati, Barsha Man Pun.
He is wearing branded shades, military fatigues and boots, a shiny buckle with an American pistol in his holster, a cap with a red star and is standing with 10 other uniformed men in a row. He is the current Maoist chairman, Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’. Other Maoist leaders are also present, but there are two taller men who don’t look Nepali wearing lighter uniforms.
This picture was taken in 1999 in Darbato of Rolpa and the two men are Balaji, still a politburo member of the Indian Maoist People’s War Group (PWG) and the one with glasses is PWG central committee member DK who was killed two years later by Indian security forces. They were in Nepal to provide military training to the Maoists who by then had the Nepal Police on the run. But their future path was uncertain because state security had just wound down Operation Kilo Sierra 2 and was setting up a paramilitary force and the Royal Nepal Army was mulling an Integrated Rural Development Program to counter the insurgency. The Maoists received up to 20 days of training to be instructors to train more guerrillas in their areas. The training gave an important boost to the movement and allowed the Maoists to launch simultaneous attacks in different parts of the country.
What the picture offers is proof that there was indeed a close link between Indian and Nepali Maoists, countering Indian academic SD Muni who, in his book Nepal in Transition: From Peoples War to Fragile Peace, claimed there was only solidarity and no cooperation between the two groups. This wasn’t the only training Nepali Maoists got from the Indian comrades both inside and outside Nepal. A retired Indian soldier first trained central leaders, including Prachanda, in Physical Battle Craft in Siranchok of Gorkha to prepare for the ‘People’s War’.
The party also sent Mahendra Shrestha and Nanda Kishore Pun ‘Pasang’ to go to India to get weapons and explosives training by the PWG. Then again in 1997 it sent Shrestha and Pun together with Bijay Ghale to India for training, but it is not clear where. Shrestha and Ghale later died and Pun refuses to say where they were trained. Pun admits in his book, Itihas Ka Raktim Paila, that he did get training in India, but is silent on the venue. He told Nepal: “There are many things about the People’s War that will be revealed when the time comes, maybe in my next book.”
However, Royal Nepal Army officer Bibek Kumar Shah writes in his book, Maile Dekheko Darbar, that he was told by APF Chief Sahabir Thapa that one of his officers sent to be trained at the Indian Army’s training centre in Chakrata near Dehradoon in 2000 said he had learnt Nepali Maoists had also received training there one month previously.
The Darbot training was so effective that the Maoists launched a wave of attacks which forced the police to close its posts and pull back to district headquarters. Further training in modern weaponry was provided by another PWG trainer, Binod, in 1998 in the Valley, Bara, and Tanahu. After this, the Maoists scored one victory after another in Rukum, Rolpa, Jajarkot, and Dolpa in 2000. CPN(M)’s Kul Bahadur KC says: “Those attacks were all possible because of that first training in Darbot.”
Indeed, within six months of Darbot the Maoists expanded their forces and by 2001 had set up the People’s Liberation Army, even before the Indian Maoists who trained them had their own army. It was 1,000 members of this newly-formed force who made the successful attacks on the army base in Ghorahi and Mangalsen during which the Maoists captured a large amount of modern weaponry. By this time, Nepali Maoists were more battle-hardened than the Indians and it was in fact 25 Indian Maoists who came to Nepal in 2004 and spent three months in Rolpa to learn about the revolution.
This continued even after the ceasefire when Indian Maoists were trained inside the Shaktikhor Cantonment in 2008 while it was under UNMIN supervision. Nepal’s Maoist leadership also played a role in uniting the three Indian Maoist parties in 2004.
However, after the ceasefire the relationship between international and Indian Maoists and the Nepali Maoists went cold and Prachanda didn’t even bother to reply to letters from them that were critical of his ceasefire agreement. Now it is the breakaway CPN(M) that is closer to the Indian Maoists.