Nepali Times
State Of The State
Return to rhetoric


If, and when, the Maoist insurgency peters out, Purandara in Dang will probably develop as an attractive destination for domestic tourism. In course of time, Shivaram Khatri's house at the centre of Hapure village may even evolve into a guesthouse that is a tourist attraction in its own right. 'Here is where the Abortive Third Round of Peace Talks Were Held', a brass plaque on the wall may say. The bed-and-breakfast Failed Negotiations Pension at Purandhara will serve kheer, made with rich milk straight from the udders of local water buffaloes.

The Dang excursion was a symbolic sideshow. Everyone knew the talks weren't going anywhere even before the negotiators helicoptered off. There was nothing in the position paper of the government that could open the door for a face-saving entry of the insurgents into the national mainstream. In the entire exasperatingly-long document there is nothing about curtailing the role of the monarchy, and the name of Royal Nepali Army doesn't even get a mention. Did the government think that the Maoist leadership was so eager to surrender that it would unilaterally offer to disarm?

It's clear that the government is in no mood to resolve the Maoist insurgency. It has no reason to do so. No sooner is the rebellion over, Messers Thapa, Lohani and their company of former Panchas will be out on the streets, desperately looking for roles. The military isn't in any tearing hurry to usher peace either. The day negotiators and facilitators were helicoptering around, C-in-C Pyar Jung Thapa was busy confabulating with his Division Commanders and fellow generals in Kathmandu. Gen Thapa believes that it is the army's arm-twisting that has brought the Maoists to the negotiating table. This smugness is understandable, the longer the insurgency lasts, the more his organisation is ensured centrality in the public life.

On the other side in Libang, the rebels were equally unconcerned about the outcome of talks in Dang. No Maoist insurgent anywhere wishes for peace, otherwise why would they go for armed struggle? It would be futile to expect Nepali Maobadis to be any different.

Elaborating on Sun Zi, Mao Zedong wrote: "The enemy advances, we retreat; the enemy camps, we harass; the enemy fires we attack; the enemy retreats, we pursue." To that proposition, Maoist commander Nanda Kishore Pun could probably add with some justifiable pride, "The enemy begins diplomatic offensive, we carry out a media blitz; the enemy invites foreign intervention, we unleash civil society; the enemy holds talks, we let loose elite intellectuals." Let's face it, Maoists have outsmarted the establishment on all fronts. And perhaps it will be the resulting hubris that will be their undoing.

After all, guns may help get instant attention, but it can't confer legitimacy. As even Mao found out in the end, coercive power play inevitably breeds sabotage and internecine purges. The rise of Gang of Four and the resulting backlash decimated Maoism from within, it wasn't anything brilliant that the reactionaries did. If politics isn't allowed to assert its centrality, the Maoist leadership will not be able to contain the demon of warlordism in their ranks for long.

An ambitious military is seldom an asset for any regime. Baburam Bhattarai's allegation that Royal Nepali Army is in the process of transforming itself into Royal American Army is knee-jerk rhetoric, but foreign advisers aren't desirable anywhere.

Popular Nepali poet Bhupi Sherchan writes that we Nepalis are said to be brave precisely because we all are so naive. Mainstream political parties are the only representatives of peace, not for any altruistic reason, but because their very existence depends on a return to peace. As long as the peoples' representatives don't get a say, enduring peace will continue to elude us.

By incessantly running down political parties for their sins of omissions and commissions-of which there has been many over last 12 years-our 'opinion-makers' unwittingly end up propagating the case for the continuity of conflict. As Baburam Bhattarai admitted in another rhetorical flourish: if the Maoists are guilty for the excesses of the last seven years, the monarchy too must own to up its past 234 years of injustice.

After the declaration of a state of emergency and mobilisation of the army, the Maoists 40-point list of demands receded into the background. Now their cadre are unlikely to settle for anything less than the capture of the state, something that's not likely in the present geopolitical environment. Perhaps only a reassertion of the people's sovereignty can bring about reconciliation between the forces of the extreme right and the leftist ultras. For that to happen, the 18-point demand of the agitating parliamentary parties has also become the national agenda of progressive change. The sooner we all realise that, the better for all of us. Competitive politics may be inherently dirty, but other extreme options are far more dangerous.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)