May Day rally in Kathmandu, May 1, 2009.
By Stuart Munckton
May 9, 2009 -- “This is not just a Maoist movement”, said Green Left Weekly’s correspondent in Kathmandu, Ben Peterson. “This is threatening to become a new people’s movement, like the one that swept away the monarchy.”
Peterson was commenting on the large number of daily demonstrations across the country to demand respect for the people’s will. They have come in the aftermath of the May 3 resignation of Prime Minister Prachanda and other members of the government belonging to the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M).
Peterson described the events as a “soft coup”.
The resignations were forced by the insubordination by the military high command, backed by the president and sections the coalition government. The UCPN (M), which had led the coalition government until its members walked out on May 3, had tried to use constitutional means to sack the chief of the army, General Kul Bahadur Katwal.
The army high command had refused to obey instructions from the elected civilian government. The high command refused to implement key parts of the peace accords that, in 2006, ended the armed conflict with the UCPN (M)-led People’s Liberation Army.
Sections of the high command in the Nepalese Army, infamous for its human rights abuses during the armed conflict, even spoke openly to the Times of India on April 24 about an aborted plot for a military coup against the elected government.
It is difficult to imagine a more blatant threat to democracy. If the military is not subordinated to an elected civilian government, but is allowed to defy it openly on central issues, then there is no democracy — merely military rule with a civilian government as window-dressing.
However, Nepalese President Ram Baran Yadav from the conservative Nepalese Congress party (NC), issued a decree countering the UCPN-M decision to remove Katwal from his post. This is despite the fact that under the interim constitution, the power of the president is largely ceremonial.
The result was the creation of two military heads: the Maoist-appointed head and Katwal, who, backed by the president, refused to recognise his sacking.
Coalition partners, such as the social-democratic Communist Party of Nepal (United-Marxist-Leninist), despite internal divisions, failed to support the UCPN (M) decision.
With little choice, the Maoists called a press conference announcing they were withdrawing from the government. The Maoists called for street protests to defend democracy.
Just over a year since the historic declaration of a republic, which brought people out into the streets in celebration, Nepal has been thrown into a fresh political crisis.
The monarchy was overthrown through a combination of the decade-long Maoist-led “people’s war” and the 2006 mass democratic uprising. A central demand of the Maoists was for elections to a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution to create a “New Nepal”.
The central role of the UCPN (M) in the democracy movement, and the degree to which the poor identify with it, resulted in the Maoists winning over 1 million votes more than their nearest competitor.
Seeking the widest-possible consensus, the UCPN (M) established a broad coalition government. However, the UCPN (M)’s proposals for a peaceful and democratic pro-poor transformation of Nepal that were endorsed at the ballot box have been frustrated by opposition within the parliament, the state and even the coalition government.
The cause of the crisis is the moves of the elite, based in the political and military establishment, that seek to frustrate the popular mandate for a New Nepal based on equality and social justice.
The Nepalese elite are backed by the government of neighbouring India and the United States — both of whom fear the example of radical, pro-poor change in the region.
India, in particular, played a big role in bringing the Maoist-led government down. The former king and leaders of NC and the CPN (UML) all visited India under various pretexts in the weeks before the anti-Maoist coup.
For the poor majority, the program the UCPN (M) seeks to implement includes an increase in workers’ rights, land reform for the peasants, equal rights in a federal structure for ethnic and national minorities, access to education and health care, and a plan for extensive pro-people economic development.
In the lead-up to the crisis, while the bureaucrats and opportunist politicians were moving to stab the UCPN (M) and its poor supporters in the back, the Maoist deputies were out in the countryside talking to the poor to gather proposals for the new constitution.
For all concerned, the stakes are high.
The elite, and their foreign backers, are terrified of the consequences of implementing the 2006 peace accords. These require the integration of PLA fighters into the existing army to create a new, democratic armed forces.
This could mean the military would no longer be a weapon in the hands of the elite to violently repress the struggles of the poor.
The poor, however, have every reason to fear the continuation of the unreformed old army, which committed great crimes against the people.
The situation remains uncertain. The UCPN (M) is refusing to take part in any government and are boycotting parliament until their demand for the sacking of Katwal is met.
It is likely to prove difficult for the opponents of the UCPN (M) to form a coalition government to replace the one that has now collapsed. The UCPN (M) alone controls 40% of the seats in the assembly. Also, the main point of unity among the other parties is opposition to the Maoists. All this makes it difficult for a government to be formed without them. However, the situation is not simply determined by parliamentary numbers. Rather, the greatest difficulty facing the elite is the genuinely popular support the Maoists enjoy.
Peterson explained that recent events have only increased support for the Maoists. He said ordinary people he had spoken to everywhere, regardless of party affiliation, are furious at the actions of the president and the opportunist behaviour of parties like the CPN (UML).
He said the overwhelming majority of Nepalese people believed the undemocratic actions that had occurred had been organised by foreign forces like the US and India. There is incredible anger at those political parties that have allowed themselves to be used by foreign powers.
'The mood is angry'
The UCPN (M) has called for protests in the streets until its demands have been met. "The protests have been many and all over the place”, Peterson said. “They are organised by a whole range of different groups. Every different group has its own protest. The mood is angry.”
The protests ranged from involving hundreds, to tens of thousands, he said. However, he emphasised that these protests occurred simultaneously — there could be dozens of protests in Kathmandu at any one time. “Many of the people I have spoken to at the protests were not Maoists”, Peterson said.
As example of the mood, he explained: “The other night I was at the bus park, and about 20 people just waiting around for a bus spontaneously started chanting against the president.”
The foreign media have attempted to play up protests by right-wing NC supporters. The Sydney Morning Herald even featured a photo of an NC supporters protest with the caption “People’s Power”. Peterson said that before the UCPN (M) left government, there were some tiny protests involving a few hundred people at most. Since then, no such protests had occurred.
In some cases the police have attacked protesters, including tear gassing a demonstration by the pro-UCPN (M) Young Communist League. Police repeatedly attack attempts by protesters, mostly Maoist women, to demonstrate in front of the president’s offices. Protests in that are have been banned, resulting in regular clashes.
However, the state has held off from trying full-scale repression.
So far, the UCPN (M) has also held back from full-scale mobilisations. It has yet to organise a centralised, all-out demonstration that calls the greatest numbers onto the streets together. However, as the likely futile negotiations by the anti-Maoist parties drags on, that could be about to change.
[Read Ben Peterson's blog at www.maobadiwatch.blogspot.com. This article first appeared in Green Left Weekly, issue #794, May 10, 2009.]
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Nepal's Huge Maoist Rally: "Now We Will Capture the State"
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Thanks to Revolution in South Asia for this article
The following report on Sunday's rally is from Telegraph Nepal, not from the Maoists themselves. Caution needs to be taken in a period of disinformation. However this news is important, and so we are posting it here.
Nepal Maoist threaten Revolt, State Capture: Sunday Mass meets
The wounded Maoists party had organized huge rallies in major centers of the country, on Sunday May 17, 2009. The rallies later converged into mass-meets wherein the Maoists leaders mostly criticized their political opponents. President of the Republic Dr. Ram Baran Yadav and Mr. Madhav Kumar Nepal- the UML leader who in all likelihood is to lead the country as the next prime minister- were the Maoists' major targets.
Caretaker Prime Minister and the Maoists party chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal addressing a sea of Maoists cadre in Kathmandu repeatedly called the UML and the Nepali Congress as the agents of the foreign Gods.
"As per the dictates of their foreign masters, the dejected and rejected UML and NC leaders are forming the next government", said a pretty annoyed Dahal. "Their heads will be always down as they have surrendered to their foreign masters, we have resigned but yet our heads will always be up", said Dahal.
Addressing the Nepalgunj gathering, the Maoists Party Central Secretariat member Mr. Chandra Prakash Gajurel said that his party will now take on the path to conclude the incomplete decade long rebellion led by his party.
"Out from the government is an opportunity for us to complete the revolution, President Ram Baran Yadav has given the Maoists the golden opportunity to bring the revolution to an end through Peoples' Uprising III", he said adding "Gyanendra gave us the opportunity to wage Peepholes' Uprising II".
"Now we will capture the State, which is the prime objective of the Maoist party," Mr. Gajurel told while addressing a gathering in Nepalgunj, May 17, 2009.
Similarly, addressing a mass-meet in Biratnagar on Sunday, Mr. Narayan Kaji Shrestha Prakash- Maoists party leader, alleged that Madhav Nepal-a senior UML leader, was an Indian agent.
"Mr. Nepal is being lifted to the seat of the prime minister as per the dictates of his Indian masters", said Mr. Prakash.
Lila Mani Pokharel, another Maoists leader in Dhangadi threatened to grab the UNMIN monitored weapons housed in the cantonments now.
"If the reactionary move continues, we may have to finally grab our weapons", said Pokharel.
"The Maoists were very simple when they were in the government, out of the government we have become dangerous", also said Pokharel.