Riding a wave of popular anger against the Maoists, the confrontation between the Maoists and the Jana Morcha is spreading. It is a turf war between one communist faction that believes in armed struggle and another that has taken the parliamentary path.
The Jana Morcha launched a campaign to 'expose' the Maoist in August but more recently it is trying to ride the wave of popular outrage against the Maoist that started in Dailekh last month.
To be sure, the anti-Maoist demonstration in Baglung headquarters on Wednesday was smaller and not as spontaneous as the Dullu rally in Dailekh on 22 November. Chitra Bahadur KC is a former Jana Morcha MP from Dailekh and was here to address the town meeting of 500 people. Baglung has always been a stronghold of the Jana Morcha and two of its three MPs in parliament were from here.
In September, Maoists kidnapped four Jana Morcha members on their way to a party rally in Dhorpatan. At the rally, Jana Morcha's local leader Pari Thapa denounced the Maoists. The next day, Tulsi Ram Aryal and other party leaders were abducted and some of them only managed to escape after two months in captivity.
The protests snowballed, and in retaliation, 300 Maoists attacked Damek VDC on 29 November, where they tortured six people including Pari Thapa's wife, Rupa by drilling holes into her legs. Twenty villagers were severely beaten.
"Both parties claim this area," explains Baglung's CDO, Prem Narayan Sharma. "The Jana Morcha used to keep quiet when the Maoists attacked members of other parties. Now it's just them and the Maoists."
The turf war has now gone into kidnapping each other's cadre. The Maoists abducted five Jana Morcha members in Damek last month. Jana Morcha retaliated by holding six Maoists, although three have now been released. "I think they are bargaining," says Sharma. He also says the two are fighting for territory at the grassroots even though their leaders don't want to fight each other.
Jana Morcha says angry villagers captured the Maoists and handed them over to the party. Chitra Bahadur KC explains: "Our party policy is not to capture Maoists, the people sometimes take them in."
Indiscipline in the Maoists' lower ranks may explain why a six point non-aggression pact signed recently between the leaders of the two parties has broken down. "Village level Maoists are acting on their own. They are ultra-leftists so they don't stick to agreements," says KC who as MP visited Kim Il Sung in Pyongyang.
Locals here have their own take on things. "Two years ago, Jana Morcha and the Maoists were brothers," said a shopkeeper observing the rally, holding up two fingers to show how close they were. Others think Maoist discipline is breaking down. "District and village Maoists are leaderless," says a local reporter. "The big leaders are united but the little leaders don't listen. Villagers say local Maoists behave like criminals."
The current trouble in Baglung may be further proof that villagers will no longer tolerate Maoist brutality. Certainly, Jana Morcha found a sympathetic audience for its denunciation of Maoist methods here on Wednesday. But in future, there may be further fracturing of politics: between the Maoists and their erstwhile Jana Morcha allies and within the Maoists themselves.
The government, for its part, can't take comfort in the anti-Maoist mood. Says KC: "The Nepali people don't believe in the king or this government. The government is also a terrorist."