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Democracy Versus People's War in Nepal

Nihar R Nayak is Research Fellow at Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi. Click here for detailed profile.
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  • May 03, 2006

    Despite the King's proclamation and the subsequent end to the 19-day anti-Monarchy protests by the seven party alliance (SPA) on April 25, 2006, Nepal is still not sure of peace and stability. The difference between the SPA and the Maoists on the new constitution seems to be the biggest challenge before the Koirala Government. Although the Maoists have declared a three-month ceasefire, they have refused to surrender their weapons before or during the elections to a Constituent Assembly. However, the decision of the Nepal Workers and Peasants Party, a partner in the SPA, not to join the Council of Ministers could affect the peace talks with the Maoists.

    On the night of April 24, King Gyanendra had yielded to unrelenting pressure from the pro-democracy movement and announced that the Parliament, which he dissolved in 2002, had been revived. He convened the parliament on April 28. The SPA, which spearheaded the movement for democracy, was quick to welcome the King's declaration and accepted the Royal offer. Earlier on November 22, 2005, the CPN-Maoist and Nepal's political parties had reached a 12-point agreement, which called for joint action to end the autocratic monarchy and bring about fair elections to a constituent assembly.

    The international community, which criticized the King for violation of human rights during the nineteen-day protest period as well as the King's takeover of power in February 2005, welcomed the King's declarations. India welcomed the King's decision to revive Parliament and hoped that an interim government would be in place in Nepal soon. On April 25, Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee said: "We await the convening of the revived House of Representatives and the installation of a government as indicated by the Seven Party Alliance. This is a victory for the people of Nepal, who have displayed extraordinary courage and reaffirmed their faith and commitment to freedom and democracy. The future of Nepal is safe in their hands."

    The US, the European Union and China also welcomed the King's decision, which was a direct result of India's diplomatic initiative. On April 20, Dr. Karan Singh was despatched as special envoy to Nepal, where he called on the leaders of the SPA and the King. India's effort to bring peace and stability in Nepal continues. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader, Sitaram Yechuri, has gone to Nepal to discuss with SPA leaders the issue of formation of the interim government and elections to the constituent assembly. He would also hold talks with the Maoist leader Baburam Bhattarai. Earlier, Nepal's Prime Minister-designate Girija Prasad Koirala had sought Yechury's help in ironing out differences between the SPA and the Maoists.

    However, India is concerned about the Maoist decision. They had betrayed their ceasefire declarations in the past and used the time to replenish their weapons. The Nepal revolutionary movement has now entered its strategic offensive phase and the CPN-Maoists linkages have remained a major concern to India.

    The CPI-Maoists appear to have worked out a strategic alliance with the CPN-Maoists to carve out a Compact Revolutionary Zone (CRZ) comprising areas from Kathmandu to the southern tip of Andhra Pradesh. They have also formed the Indo-Nepal Border Region Committee to co-ordinate their activities in North Bihar and along the India-Nepal border.

    In this regard, on April 14 in New Delhi, at the meeting of the Chief Ministers of Maoist-infested States, Bihar's Nitish Kumar and Chhattisgarh's Raman Singh said there was immediate danger of CPN-Maoist cadres crossing over to India and making Naxalism a nationwide phenomenon. Conceding that Maoists from Nepal posed a serious threat, the Union Home Ministry, which till now had been hinting at 'ideological links' between CPI-Maoist and CPN-Maoist cadres, admitted that the two outfits provided training, arms and finances to each other.

    The CPN-Maoists procure arms and ammunition from criminal gangs in the neighbouring Indian states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, with which Nepal shares an open border, as well as from insurgent groups operating in the northeast region of India. The primary route used by the CPN-Maoists for smuggling weapons and explosives from the Indian border is the Belauri checkpoint of Kanchanpur district and Melauli checkpoint at the border of Dadeldhura and Baitadi districts, then to Bajura district and finally to Achham district of Nepal.

    Interestingly, CPN-Maoist is a member of RIM (Revolutionary Internationalist Movement), and RIM believes in ultimate victory against imperialism, feudalism and globalization and the establishment of a communist society. Both outfits are part of the Coordination Committee of Maoist Parties and Organization of South Asia (CCOMPOSA), and the Nepal Maoists openly declare that unless the Maoists of the South Asian region work jointly to counter 'the pernicious role of India' final victory would elude them.

    At this juncture, India should continue to keep its present diplomatic channel open for mediating between the King and the political parties and discuss the future course of action without being seen as interfering in the country's internal affairs. India should ask the SPA to negotiate with the Maoists to surrender the People's Liberation Army and its arms to the civilian government and co-operate in reconstruction and development activities. Secondly, India and donor countries have to play a major role in reconstruction and development works. Priority should be given to strengthening democratic institutions and good governance. Otherwise, there is likely to be a relapse of the Maoist movement in Nepal.