Nepali Times
Reply to Baburam

Dr Baburam Bhattarai, Namaste from Massachusetts, USA.

I am an American citizen and a frequent visitor and lover of "materially poor but spiritually rich" Nepal, as you so eloquently put it. Your fax of March 15, 2002, was recently forwarded to me by a Nepali friend, and I would like to respond to your "invitation" to us foreign tourists to visit Nepal-even though your communist party is waging a people's war against "a fascist monarchical state".

What struck me immediately upon reading your fax were the inherent contradictions in your invitation. While you declare magnanimously, "Foreign tourists are most welcome in the country and will be so in future as well," you then go on to advise us to take "special precautionary measures while travelling during the period of war."

I cannot help but recall the folk tale in which a jackal invites a long-beaked stork to dinner and serves food on flat plates. While the shameless host the jackal laps up his dinner, his guest remains hungry because his beak is useless in feeding itself. In the story, the stork has his revenge, but that is irrelevant right now. I must say that your invitation is reminiscent of the hypocritical jackal. In a nation where guests are supposedly equivalent to gods, you will agree it is rude to invite guests with all sorts of conditions attached.

For instance, you warn tourists not to patronise certain tourism services because the Nepali tourism industry "is monopolised by the arch-reactionary Shah-Rana family and their close courtiers." Respected Doctor, how are tourists to arrive in Nepal if they are not to fly into your country, seek shelter in hotels and take buses (or fly) to enchanting towns like Pokhara or Chitwan? They couldn't possibly take a boat, since Nepal remains a land-locked country, if my current world atlas is accurate. While Indian tourists (whom you also say you welcome with open arms) may entertain the real possibility of walking into Nepal and lodging with relatives and friends, and walk to the temples within Kathmandu (and thus consider their vacation as a pilgrimage), western tourists are separated from your lovely nation by vast oceans and seas.

Personally speaking, whenever I visit, I do not-in fact cannot-afford the luxury of such extravagant establishments because, you see, my petit bourgeois purse is much too meagre. Like you, I want my money to benefit the Nepalis with whom I come into contact, and not flow back to the foreign nations. So I stay in family-owned lodges, hire local guides and porters with surnames like Lama, Tamang, Gurung, Sherpa, Gauchan, Thapa, Biswakarma with the hope that the wages I've paid them will help support the family, send children to school and put dal-bhat on the table.

However, I must take the buses or fly to various towns, and if by doing this I've propped up the "fascist monarchical state", then so be it. But then, why bother extending your heartfelt welcome? And have you ever bothered to figure out what you have done with your "peoples' war" to wreck the tourism industry in Nepal and therefore deprive hundreds of thousands of porters, vegetable farmers, lodge-owners, taxi drivers, and guides of their jobs? Or was that your intention all along: to wreck the economy so you can come to power quicker?

Your bandhs have in fact begun to alienate and damage those very people you wish to liberate. The peasants, the proletariat and the petit bourgeoisie are caught between threats and extortion of your cadre and the counter-insurgency operations of the army, police and other branches of the government. But instead of alleviating their suffering, your supporters are augmenting it. Your militia are carrying out plunder, mayhem and murder of petty tea-shop owners, and families who run lodges and guest houses along the trekking trails.

I believe Mao himself was most explicit in not persecuting the peasants and seeking their full support in order to achieve the aims of a revolutionary war. While every revolutionary poseur is quick to quote Mao's famous "Political power flows from the barrel of a gun," he or she conveniently forgets many of Mao's mundane but enlightening rules he imposed upon the revolutionary Red soldiers, such as "no confiscation from peasants," "pay for all articles purchased," "be courteous and helpful when you can."

Your party and cadres are neither winning the hearts and minds of the Nepali people, nor the international propaganda war when they are accused of brutally assassinating school teachers, burning innocent people and children to death by torching a public bus or mutilating the wounded and the dead. Sorry to say, but your revolution seems to be going the way of the Cultural Revolution circa 1960s when millions of Chinese peasants died of starvation, Stalin's gulags and the Khmer Rouge.

The irony is that many people, myself included, actually agree with you that centuries of injustice, exploitation, degradation and inequality, among other social evils prevalent in Nepal (as well as every other nation on earth), must end. But I firmly part with you on the means of achieving that end. For you and your ilk, destruction and death are considered "collateral damage"-an inevitable and necessary process in achieving the aims of the glorious revolution. And to ask you to renounce violence is surely like asking a bhiksu to sanction violence.

I want to assure you that I do plan to visit Nepal again and again, and we request others to do so too. For we believe that now more than ever, Nepal needs us urgently. After all, the star hotels and well-connected agencies have enough financial and other clout to stay afloat. It is the small lodges, tea-shops and porters who need us more. Ultimately, I want to convince you that I am not just a fair-weather friend of Nepal but a friend for all seasons.

Paul Bacon
Massachusetts, USA

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)