>> Saturday, November 10, 2007
Note: I wrote this commentary in September 2002, when the Maoist insurgency in Nepal was running rampant violence and was at it's peak. Six years since then, having won the largest number of seats in the Constituent Assembly election, the Maoists are at the cusp of power. Will they finally renounce violence and enter the worldstage of civilized political forces? The time will tell.
Maoist Insurgency and Political Bosses:
Extreme Culture of Violence and Corruption
By Ajay Pradhan | September 27, 2002
Two distinct groups dominate Nepal's current political scene. Both claim to be champions of the poor people. Let me be blunt - there is little evidence that supports their claim. In fact, both are working to the detriment of the country. One group, in the name of people's movement, is doing it's best to shove it's radical political philosophy down people's throat. Everyone knows the members of this group as Maobadi. They used to be smart (now they are only brutally violent). They correctly identified the pervasive forces of poverty -- factors that can directly and only be attributed to the other group. I am compelled to call that other group Khaobadi. You might want to call them political leaders belonging to mainstream establishment, yet fragmented, political blocks.
Maobadis and Khaobadis are not working together; they are working in parallel streams but to the same result -- destruction of public faith in political process. This erosion of public faith is because of the escalating violent culture of Maoists and the entrenched culture of corruption perpetuated by political bosses, their bosses, and their bosses' bosses. They have both hidden agenda replete with ulterior motives. Public welfare is not one of them. Predictably, they rhetorically and almost monotonously try to have you believe otherwise.
Maobadis pronounce they are people's party -- working to improve the welfare of the proletariat. They want to build a different kind of a nation state. Their purported mission is the demolition of economic stratification because, as they claim, too few people hold too much wealth and power. They want to shift that power to the people and redistribute wealth from rich to the poor. What else is this argument but, as we all, of course, know, the Maoists' political mantra recited too often? Is it a wrong assertion? I have to admit not, even though I wish it were.
I would like to venture away from the predictable and familiar vein of argument. I cannot but admit that many of the issues they have raised are legitimate. Despite each and every five-year plan's emphasis on the agriculture sector, have the peasants not been left behind in economic progress and remained in subsistence condition? Has BCN (Bahun-Chhetri-Newar) nexus not dominated Nepal's politics, bureaucracy, army/police, and commerce? Has Civil Code (Muluki Ain) not blatantly supported patriarchal inheritance? Has capital and social expenditure, for the most part, not neglected rural regions? Has bureaucracy not largely remained for the elite, of the elite, and by the elite? Have foreign aid moneys not been unabashedly misused to line the pockets of the elite bureaucrats and corrupt politicians? Have minister after every other minister not been corrupt? (Maybe there are exceptions - and if there are exceptions, that's what they are -- exceptions!) And, last but not the least, let's face it, has monarchy not been, for the lack of a more elegant word, a sucker -- a leech? What is the long-lasting sociopolitical exigency that demands perpetuation of the throne whose heirs have only embarrassed Nepal abroad and insulted and murdered its subjects under the influence of alcohol? Frankly, the institution has become costly, useless, uninspiring, unmotivating, and, arguably, redundant.
So, the Maoists have indeed raised legitimate issues. But, that is very plain and simple for everyone to see. Their benevolence stops there. The million dollar question is, Why have they raised those issues? Because they want to solve poor people's problems? I much doubt it. In fact, I think they are just taking up these issues to throw dirt in people's eyes. They say they want to effect a shift of power from the elite to the poor. But, in reality, they are just using the poor people and issues close to their heart, so that they have something to legitimize their real intent. And, their real intent is not shifting power from elite to the poor, but, in the name of the proletariat, they want to usurp power themselves.
Maoists were smart, as I pointed out in the outset. But, their unbridled hunger for power has pushed them to the extreme and converted their revolutionary zeal into violent terrorism. Correctly demanding universal education for all children, yet terrorizing teachers, even beheading some, is antagonistic. Using their rural charisma or force or whatever to mobilize poor peasants to fight against elite domination, yet not embracing democratic means of using those peasants to canvass support for their legitimate causes, is another antagonism. I mean, come on, if they can convince so many poor peasants to fight for them, even sacrifice their lives, I'm sure they could bring about tumultuous political change without having to resort to abhorrent violence.
Gullible, vulnerable poor people from rural areas with little to lose either do not recognize Maoists' real intent or do not want to even try. They have become a mere vehicle for Maoists, yet they either do not know it or do not even care. They have been so neglected by the politicians, the Khaobadis, that they have become disillusioned. And, as long as they remain disillusioned, government's use of force (read Shahi Nepali Sena) to eradicate Maoist insurgency will not be successful. As long as the feeling of social injustice and unfairness is pervasive, Maoists will continue to exploit the feeling to perpetuate their movement through cycle of violence. Will the Maoists be successful in getting what they want? With what they are doing, I doubt it. Their violent movement is like a brushfire -- it will stop burning eventually. Not because firefighters were successful, but because there was no more forest left to burn. By the time Maoist insurgency goes the way the Naxalites of North Bengal did, Nepal will have seen more misery. Maobadis will have caused the misery, but the actual culprits, as the history will tell us, will be the Khaobadis, the political bosses that see it as their birthright to do as they please.