Nepali Times
"Talks are a mirage"


It has become almost fashionable to say that the Maoist People's War should be resolved through dialogue. Private individuals hold forth authoritatively, various political parties have stated that it is the only way out, and the government itself has time and again announced that it is all for talks. And now, in the name of civil society, various non-governmental organisations are also getting into the act. The most all this talk of talks has resulted in is the formality of a meeting between the home minister and a central committee member of the CPN (Maoist) at the initiative of human rights activist Padma Ratna Tuladhar.

In the last five years, the Maoist insurgency has grown by leaps and bounds. It has spread its tentacles to all 75 districts of the country. In the fifth year alone, there were 14 Maoist attacks on the police in 13 districts. Many policemen lost their lives and weapons were looted by the hundred. For the first time, rebels were able to launch a frontal attack on a district centre and overrun it-the capture of Dunai was an indication of their strength, their confidence and their fighting skills. And with last week's ambush of the chief justice's convoy in Surkhet, it is clear that the insurgency has entered yet another phase.

The Maoists are well on their way to fighting a real war. The creation of fighting units, the manner in which prisoners are taken and released, the destruction of key targets such as bridges, and their preference for consolidating strength rather than engaging in political talks are all indicators of their intentions. Their contacts with the government and others in the political spectrum are but a minor part of their political strategy to establish communism in Nepal. Those who fail to see this and still talk about a peace process are chasing a mirage.

Looking back at the events since the launch of the People's War five years ago, there can be no doubt that the Maoists have been very successful. There has been no force strong enough to counter their determined progress. But more important is that their success is directly related to the incompetence of the present establishment.

When the Maoists began their struggle it was a do-or-die mission to offer Nepalis an alternative to the present system that is flawed in every sense-economic, social, cultural and political. And they have built on the shortcomings of the establishment to reach out further to achieve their goal. In the last five years, the police have proved incapable of dealing with the insurgents. Intelligence gathering has been useless, administration is a farce and there is still confusion about mobilising the army. Those in power are secretly paying off the Maoists for their personal safety, while some, believing a Maoist victory is imminent, are speedily accumulating wealth and preparing for a getaway.

None of the government institutions have been able to assure common citizens that security and justice will prevail. Corruption is flourishing and has been institutionalised. Disenchantment with the present political system is complete. It is therefore no wonder that the young, who are by nature idealists, find the People's War the only way out and flock to the Maoist fold in droves. In such a situation, to hope that the Maoists will come to the table is a bit unrealistic.

The Maoists did not begin their campaign only because both the time and conditions were ripe for an insurgency. They had their own compulsions. Even so, they do not seem to have taken into consideration factors such as Nepal's geo-political location and the international situation. The Maoist leadership did not even consider joining hands with fraternal organisations that were sympathetic to their cause. Neither do they seem to have understood the changing world situation where globalisation is the order of the day and within which various forces are acting out their power play. The development of information technology seems to have missed their purview. It would also be pertinent to ask if today's society is willing to embrace a style of armed struggle perfected in the 30s and guided by the idea of 'endless revolution' articulated in the 60s. All this shows that the People's War is moving forward almost mechanically. And a war fought mechanically can never guide the politics of a movement.

The present world economic order is increasingly marginalising large portions of the population, and that is particularly so in countries like ours. Those who once were in the forefront of opposing the capitalist imperialism of yesteryear have been sidelined and their arguments have lost out in relevance. Their place has been taken over by issues of regionalism, communalism and ethnicity. Disillusionment is on the rise in many countries, and many capitalist parliamentary systems established in the last decade of the 20th century are losing credibility. Political instability, especially in Third World countries, has created perfect conditions for rebellion. Extrapolated to Nepal, at a time when the establishment has adopted a socio-economic policy that falls within the ambit of capitalist globalisation, and when workers, peasants and the underprivileged are being pushed to the margins, it should not come as a surprise that they would take up arms.

In a sense the People's War is only a local manifestation of discontent worldwide. But nowhere has armed rebellion been able to lead this universal restlessness. Insurgencies generally start off well, but ultimately end in failure. The success or failure of a movement no longer depends on the support of one friendly country. International powers decide the outcome.

There is a possibility of the Maoists' struggle becoming isolated in Nepal. Because of their class and political relationships that cut across political boundaries, most of the powerful forces in the country are now standing united against the Maoists. Certainly the Maoists have tried to upset this carefully calibrated balance, but the best way would have been political action rather than a declaration of war. Driven by burning ambition and buoyed by minor military victories that they have taken as an indication of their great success, they have angered the forces that could have stood by them. Discarded on the wayside has also been their attempt to create a united front of like-minded forces. In this situation the only option they have is the path of armed struggle. Regardless of victory or defeat that is the only way forward for them.

Those who advocate talks have only been viewing isolated incidents in the course of the People's War. They should realise that good intentions alone are not enough for talks to take place. The only way it will be possible is if the present general discontent is recognised and comprehensive reforms implemented, political forces re-align and there is a show of determined military strength. The Maoists are flying high, especially after Dunai, and it is unlikely that they will choose to negotiate. Talks will not bring about an end to the crisis. Rather, if there is to be an end, it is likely to result from internal dissension within the CPN (Maoist), as is becoming evident from the contradictory statements its leadership has been issuing over the Surkhet episode.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)