The return of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) to a campaign of assassinations after the breakdown of the ceasefire has cast serious doubt on their political nature. It may be common during uncommon times for those who carry the gun to kill each other but indiscriminate killing of unarmed citizens is not acceptable behaviour in any civilised society.
It is also politically unwise to resort to murder and terror as a way to win support from the people, just as it is against international humanitarian law to kill unarmed policemen or soldiers. The state can't go around mowing down people just because they happen to be Maoists. The biggest losers from the wanton slaughter that the Maoists have unleashed on the country today will be the Maoists themselves. If they want a negotiated solution, they must understand a revolution is about social transformation, not an excuse for violence. When violence becomes an end in itself, it undermines revolutions. The only time violence may be justified is if all other peaceful, constitutional paths are blocked. Resorting to the gun instead of non-violent ways of achieving social and political transformation is a sign of the revolutionary romanticism of comrades in a tearing hurry, and does not reflect the needs of the country and the people. Time is running out for the Maoists to accept this truth.
Violence and conflict is not the Nepali way. True, there is poverty, discrimination, exploitation and exclusion in Nepal. There always has been and these evils persist. But even though the Maoists have tried very hard to justify their violence, these are not the only factors that caused the conflict. The real reason for the violence is the ideology of Nepali Maoists and the methods they justify in its name. Their argument is that society's transformation can only take place through violent revolution, and not through peaceful political evolution.
But this is a faulty interpretation of Mao Zedong's thought. And as long as the leadership and the cadre base of the Maoists are guided by militaristic principles they will never show a serious commitment to compromise and a peaceful resolution of the conflict.
After the ceasefire, the Maoists embarked on a brutal campaign to wear down the state and terrorise the people into submission. It is difficult to understand why the Maoists don't see that this isolates them and irreversibly erodes their political character.
The age of traditional communist one-party rule and rule through personality cults is over. Any political force that doesn't analyse and understand power through the lens of democratic pluralism and a multiparty system will be irrelevant in modern society. The Maoist rhetoric is of the "21st century" but their behaviour is medieval. This has isolated the Maoists not just from the people but from all other political forces. It has resulted in the militarisation of the state and an erosion of the rule of law. Thanks to this, the experience of countries where the rise of left extremism resulted in the upsurge of rightwing reactionaries has now been repeated in Nepal.
The Nepali people, who had won sovereignty and were exercising their freedoms to chart out their own destiny have now found those hard-earned rights slipping away. By obstructing democracy, the Maoists have made the monarchy more assertive. Their concerted attacks on parliamentary parties helped regressive forces turn back the clock on Nepal's democratic evolution.
All Nepalis who are for democratisation, protection of political rights and who believe in parliamentary democracy must stand up to the militaristic tendencies of both the state and the Maoists. The political parties must be the bulwark against regression and they must start by responding to the public's need for an assurance that they will not repeat the mistakes of the past 12 years.
Only if there is a change in the political ideology of the Maoists will there be a change in their methods. And the only way that can happen is if they abandon their militaristic path, return to the political fold by restoring the ceasefire and work towards a resolution of the crisis with a constructive agenda.
The alternative path is one of political suicide that will endanger the country's existence. If they continue on their present path, the Maoists will go down and they will take the country with them.
Raghu Panta is the former UML MP from Lalitpur. This opinion piece is translated from an original Nepali contribution.