Nepali Times
Analysing the Maobadi

One of the first local books to explore the terrain of Maobadi insurgency was Domestic Conflict and the Crisis of Governability in Nepal (CNAS, Kathmandu, 2000, Rs 525) edited by Dhruba Kumar of the Centre for Nepal and Asian Studies. Though not specifically devoted to the study of the Maobadi, it gave an academic veneer to the conventional wisdom about the rise of armed conflict in the kingdom. A more detailed primer on Maobadis is the collection edited by Prakash Shrestha, Quest for Peace (SAP-Nepal, Kathmandu, 2001) in which leaders of nascent civil society in the country indulge in their favourite game of discrediting each other when not laying all the blame at the doors of squabbling politicos.

In the October 2002 issue of the Dialogue Quarterly (Astha Bharati, Delhi, 2002, $15) its editor BB Kumar focused on the 'Maoist Insurgency in Nepal and India'. One of its contributors, the former director of India's Intelligence Bureau MK Narayanan, is now Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh's security adviser. Narayanan advises fighting the insurgency the old way, but will it work?

Deepak Thapa has edited one of the most comprehensive books to introduce the Maobadi insurgency to outsiders, Understanding the Maoist Movement in Nepal (Martin Chautari, Kathmandu, 2003, Rs 475) which begins with premonitions and ends with profiles. The breadth of the book has been acquired at the cost of analytical depth. Thapa has covered some of the lost ground in a subsequent book that he co-wrote with Bandita Sijapati, A Kingdom Under Siege (the printhouse, Kathmandu, 2003).

JNU professor SD Muni's monograph for the Observer Research Foundation Maoist Insurgency in Nepal (Rupa & Co, New Delhi, 2003, Rs 312), not only fails to break new ground, it doesn't even succeed in regurgitating old facts. By copiously quoting Maobadi ideologue Baburam Bhattarai, Muni shows it is possible to read all the books and yet remain wedded to your favourite dogma. The Price of Neglect (Bhrikuti Academic Publications, Kathmandu, 2004, Rs 1,295) by our only conflict doctor Bishnu Raj Upreti is an addition to the 'politically correct' analysis of the insurgency that uses an academic format to prove the obvious: Nepal is poor, misgoverned and unjust, hence it is a fertile ground for rebellion. Upreti raises questions, but leaves them largely unanswered.
Academic analyses of the Maobadi are understandably sketchy. After all, it is still a war in progress. Risks for critics can be for real. Still, it is difficult to understand the sympathetic undertones of a lot of the material on the Maobadi.

The next book someone should work on is the political entrepreneurship of the Maobadi insurgency to shed some insight into the strategies of its leadership. But it probably needs an insider to write it, and the author probably won't be an insider for much longer if it is written.

And maybe we should put a moratorium on people telling us what the problem is: what we need are solutions. Someone someday may show the courage to tear the insurgents' revolutionary mask. That may seem a long way away, but history has a way of dealing with statues: it topples them. Marie Antoinette and Jiang Qing, the right and left banks of extremism, are subsumed by the mainstream of the people's will. In Nepal, too, history will take its course.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)