Nepali Times
Moving Target
Burned again


The signing of the peace treaty spawned two schools of thought, and a pleasant interlude when both theories had credibility and vied equally for our allegiance.

The now-bankrupt Idealist hypothesis appealed to optimists who took the Maoists at their word, figured the war was behind us and better times lay ahead. Those afflicted with the logic syndrome also jumped aboard, arguing that the comrades needed a soft landing and would abide by the agreements since the government had obsequiously met their every demand. Surely their histrionic speeches at the signing means they'll behave like all the rest, work within the system, and think only of their next Pajero.

Many of us leapt to this conclusion out of desperation. The traumatic war had dragged on for so long, everyone badly needed a rest. Those who warned that you can't teach an old tyrant new tricks were dismissed as whiners and cynics. 'Our' totalitarians were less rabid and dogmatic than other ideologues and, given time, would embrace the tolerance and gentility so characteristic of Nepali society, and the harmless buffoonery so endemic in politics.

Having bought into this rationale big time, the Hand recalls first hearing the competing school of thought, recognising its grievous potential, and feeling his heart sink.

Instead of being humbled by the great duties of national statecraft, goes the now verified Realist theory, the Maoists will be emboldened by their new-found legitimacy. The fact that they've moved from the jungle to the halls of power proves that their brutal methodology works, and they aren't switching strategies in the middle of a winning streak. More extortion, bullying, and militancy will be on their agenda, this time from an unprecedented position of strength, and there will be less need for sincerity and cooperation.

Since reality plays no role in the party's version of events, their minority status in parliament and the inconvenient fact the war ended in stalemate makes no difference; the cadre have been told victory is theirs, they are the government, and that's enough to change their behaviour for the worse.

The Hand has grown used to unexpected results and being proven wrong. Life in Nepal is fuller of surprises than most places, but this particular guessing game I really hated to lose.

We saw all too soon that things weren't exactly as we hoped. Supremo Pushpa Kamal Dahal not only signed the treaty in a false name, his statement that the Maoists accepted peace only to satisfy the will of the people also shamelessly obscured the fact that few wanted this bloody war in the first place.

That insincerity was to be the defining theme of post-war Nepal was soon driven home by a nationwide wave of extortion and militant unionism. Minds reeled, especially among the surviving Idealists, as to how such criminal activity could be perpetrated by members of a legal party in government. Even Maoist apologists stopped rationalising the offences, which has been perhaps the only benefit for the public.

The list of broken promises is long and depressing (favourite headline of the week: 'Maoists seize farm, destroy vegetables'), but most of us only grasped the scope of this betrayal when the UN got so few guns for the containers and so many Maokiddies for the cantonments.

The recent unleashing of the 'Young Communist League' to burn government offices and beat up opponents has found employment for the real comrades supposed to be in the camps, and trashed the last vestiges of the Idealist Theory. A Red Guard by any other name is still a thug.

If all is fair in love and war, the comrades' lack of good faith in peacetime is deeply troubling and suggests that they see little difference between the two. Maoist doctrine promotes constant class warfare; signing a piece of paper simply shifts the venue. Instead of wasting time in the hinterland fighting the army, take the struggle to the doorsteps of those with something worth coveting. That Supremo Prachanda is chauffeured around in a stolen SUV, which would get him thrown in jail in most countries, indicates such policies originate at the top.

Betrayal of the people's trust is nothing new in Nepali politics, but there is a lot riding on the outcome of this particular venture. At the very least, we've learnt another lesson the hard way: you can take the comrades out of the jungle but you can't take the jungle out of the comrades. Some people never change, others get worse; especially those with deceit in their hearts.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)