Nepali Times
State Of The State
Basking in reflected glory


Tipped off by incendiary interviews of Prachanda, the sky is dark again with media parachutists. They think something is afoot but are astonished by the raucous calm of Kathmandu in the nuptial season. Perplexed, they look towards local columnists for explanation.

Nepal is their stopover between Baghdad and Bangkok. Most have neither time nor patience for the intricacies of Nepali politics. They want to be briefed about the Maoist rebellion in five minutes so that they can grab that flight to Nepalganj to see the 'frontline'.

The problem is that the conflict in Nepal is maddeningly complex even for an insider. It's impossible to simplify the insurgency or monarchist regression to suit the attention span of a tv journalist.

There is no frontline here. A reporter is as safe or unsafe in Libang as in Lajimpat, an IED can go off with no warning Chipledhunga. All parties to the conflict think they have a higher calling and swear by the same constituency-the people. How do you boil all this down for the Asia Briefs newsbar? So the deadline reporter goes for dath from an exotic dateline: body bags and sound bites of an obligatory my-encounter-with-a-Maoist.

Journalists can get away with gross simplifications but donors and diplomats have to sound a little more profound. They have to pretend that they can make head and tail of this mess. Since the Maoists have been claiming Prachandpath is synthesised Marxism, Leninism, Maoism, and Shining Path, conflict experts evaluate their rhetoric and activities from the prism of these models of left extremism.

Westerners do not fear Marxism anymore. They have seen that it is socialism and not capitalism, that ultimately collapses under the weight of its own contradictions. Marxism is now the fatalism of academia and fetishism of intelligentsia. The elite worldview is that if a classless society is a historical inevitability, then we may wait for eternity.

It is the resurrection of Lenin's ghost in Asia and Africa that spooks the Europeans and Americans. Bolshevik fervency lies buried under the rubble of Berlin Wall. That is why the UML apparatchiks at Balkhu HQ in 2003 took down the wall-mounted portraits of their five avatars (Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao) when western envoys came visiting. Threats of 'or else' was all it took for the UML comrades to desert street protests and join the royal cabinet of Sher Bahadur Deuba.

The mystery of the Great Helmsman has unravelled. He is no more the master strategist he was once believed to be. Without a determined Stalin and disinterested Lloyd Johnson Mao too would have probably gone down in history as a failed warlord. In any case, China has so successfully drowned the memory of the last Chinese Emperor with Deng capitalism that the People's Republic refuses to even use the 'M' word.

Naxalite Charu Majumdar and Shining Pathist Comrade Gonzalo have passed into history of revolutionary have-beens. Unable to pigeonhole Nepal's Maoists into any known model of leftist radicalism, therefore, conflict experts now like to equate them with Pol Pot. No matter how hard Prachanda tries to convince his audience that he wants to be a statesman like Gandhi or Ganeshman, the diplomatic community refuses to accord him any status other than that of Brother Number One.

Perhaps the easiest way to understand a future Maoist republic is to picture it as the mirror image of monarchical democracy. The two chairmen are alike in their moods, methods and machinations. Once we get rid of one, the other will automatically cease to exist.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)