Maoist Movement In Shambles
Ritu Raj Subedi
The bellicose Maoist movement that rocked the nation in mid-90s is now in total disarray. It underwent various ups and downs and split into over a dozen groups. Their disintegration and re-organisation is still going on. Amidst deep frustration that has gripped both the foot soldiers and stalwarts, they recently marked the 22 anniversary of ‘people’s war’ in different venues. They traded acerbic polemics against each other to justify themselves as the genuine torch-bearer of the guerrilla movement. Thousands of its former militia have a feeling that they were betrayed by the leadership. The term ‘disqualified’ has pricked them to the hilt. During the insurgency, the leaders put arms in their hands and they bravely fought against the state. “But, come post-peace agreement, we were declared ‘disqualified,” bemoan the innocent ex-militia, who were suckered into joining a futile war against a fledgling democracy that was struggling to find its feet.
Today the Maoist movement suffers from a lot of paradoxes. CPN-Maoist Centre chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, who led a decade-long insurgency, heads a shaky coalition involving his arch enemy Nepali Congress. The kick-start of Maoist violence coincided with the rise of NC leader Sher Bahadur Deuba to power. But, he did not give a hoot to the warning of the Maoists that submitted a memorandum to him with an ultimatum of launching a guerilla warfare. Deuba had presided over a number of police armed action against the violent activities of the Maoists. Ironically, Deuba and Prachanda are now bedfellows in a coalition government saddled with the task of bringing the disgruntled Madhesi forces on board and holding the three-tier polls in line with the constitutional provision.
However, Prachanda’s political guru, Mohan Baidhya Kiran, and his former lieutenant Netra Bikram Chand Biplav do not see Prachanda-led government as Maoist-friendly. Both the groups question the nationalist credential of Prahanda and accuse him of ditching the great goals of ‘people’s war’. Both have now realised that Prachanda made them fools and he treaded a political path that took them nowhere. Over 17,000 people were killed and thousands of others were injured and displaced from their bases in the ruthless drive. The costs of conflicts have outweighed the achievements it made. One of its apparent gains was that it grew consciousness among the Dalit, ethnic and Madhesi groups, who were highly resentful of the way the Kathmandu-centric state had treated them. They exploited the ‘ethnic fault lines’ to the point of social disharmony and cleavages.
Apparently, the jilted ex-combatants have no stomach to take up arms again. But a show of strength by Biplav faction the other day amply implied that specter of ‘people’s war’ continues to stalk the new republic. A sea of red flag wavers that marched through the thoroughfares of the capital city had sent chills down the spine of not only Maoist bosses but also other major parties, which believe that the insurgency was water under the bridge. Biplav has coalesced the ragtag soldiers into a force to deal another blow to the faltering state. He has massaged the wounded ego of the disenchanted cadres, who can again be used as gunpowder to fire on the new democratic republic. His rhetoric against the parliamentary system is not only disturbing but also poses a serious security threat to the country that has already been hit hard by the ethno-centric Madhesi politics in the southern plains. Roaring of ‘red guards’ in the streets of Kathmandu testified to the fact that the Maoist top leaders reneged on a promise made before them during the war. Many of its cadres and leaders have hobnobbed with the Kathmandu elite and become nouvea riche overnight. The duped cadres accuse their leaders of being blinded by power, pelf and family interests. As a result, the injured and families of those killed in the conflict have been left out in the cold.
To their utter bewilderment, Dr Baburam Bhattarai, one of the masterminds and executers of ‘people’s war’, has washed his hands off it. It was the height of political immorality to run away from the actions and outcomes to which he was responsible. When one of its top commanders disassociated himself from the entire Maoist politics, it is natural for its rank and file to get their wires crossed and question the motive of their leaders.
While some Maoist groups listlessly marked the ‘people’s war’ as a Red Day in various places, the Maoist victims observed it as a ‘Black Day.’ It is a big challenge for the Maoist leadership. On one hand, they were pooh-poohed by their own functionaries for not treating them properly, on the other the Maoist victims cried foul, accusing them of killing their innocent relatives, seizing their property and robbing their freedom to live in the villages peacefully. They have been demanding transitional justice and stern action against the culprits who took the lives of their dearest and nearest ones. These victims have formed the Conflict Victims National Society to get their demands fulfilled. They marked the ‘people’s war’ as condolence day and staged an hour long sit-in near the southern gate of the Singha Durbar. They have been impatient with the state’s dilatory posture and are smoldering inside for not getting proper justice for more than a decade after the country signed the landmark peace deal with the rebels.