Who is endangering civil peace in Nepal?

The Analytical Monthly Review, published in Kharagpur, West Bengal, India, is a sister edition of the United States-based Marxist journal Monthly Review. The May 2009 issue featured this editorial.

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By Analytical Monthly Review (India)

May 2009 -- Few familiar with recent events in Nepal would dispute that there is a serious threat to the civil peace, whose origin dates from the unilateral ceasefire obeyed by the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) from the start of Dasain 2005. [Dasain is the 10-day rice-harvest festival, held around September-October and observed in Nepal, Sikkim and Darjeeling in India, and in Bhutan.]

In fact, civil peace in Nepal has been endangered continuously since it was first achieved. But the discipline of the PLA has preserved the peace, despite -- from the outset -- repeated provocations. In December of 2005 the US-advised and -trained Rangers Battalion of the Royal Nepal Army (RNA) landed, heavily armed, in helicopters in towns in central Rolpa, the heart of the then liberated district. But PLA discipline prevailed, they withdrew, and the Rangers were permitted to leave unmolested, without even a tear or rip in their new uniforms. In the months leading up to the success of the great urban rebellion of April 2006, the "Second Janandolan", civilian Maoist meetings in the countryside were attacked from helicopter gunships, and those who today command the Nepal Army were then ordering their troops to "shoot to kill" to enforce the royal curfews in the cities. But the PLA kept its discipline. The initiative fell to the brave unarmed urban demonstrators, and it was the soldiers of the RNA who refused orders to shoot down the protesting crowds in the cities -- acts of defiance that brought the royal regime to its close.

The April 2006 temporary regime of politicians from the expired royal parliament -- leaders of the Nepal Congress party and the Communist Party (United Marxist-Leninist) (UML) -- set out to reach a peace agreement. The November 2006 agreement between the revolutionaries and the parliamentary politicians put a formal end to the civil war, and provided for a new transitional government that would hold elections for a Constitutional Assembly to draft a new constitution. This now official civil peace commenced with the agreement that the former Royal Nepal Army (now "Nepal Army") would be placed under the command of a new coalition government that would include the revolutionary CPN (Maoist), and that would "democratise the institution to make it an inclusive and national army." In the meantime, both the Nepal Army and the Peoples Liberation Army would alike be confined to barracks under UN watch, and fed and supported by the national government.

Not until April 2007 were the leaders of the Nepal Congress party, who dominated the interim regime, willing to create the coalition government with the CPN (Maoist) called for by the November 2006 agreement. The Nepal Congress kept control of the chief executive position of prime minister and the defence ministry. But no steps were taken to "democratise" the Nepal Army, now under the command of the arrogant royalist General Katawal, adopted brother of the King Gyanandra. Instead a policy of provocation began, marked by a deliberate refusal to abide by the agreement to provide the funds necessary to feed and support the PLA.  But the PLA kept its discipline and the peace, constructing its cantonments under conditions that would have provoked a mutiny had they been imposed upon the Nepal Army.

At last, elections for the Constituent Assembly were held in April 2008. The Nepal Congress party and the UML were soundly defeated.  The CPN (Maoist) won more seats than both Nepal Congress party and UML combined, and became the leading party of the Constituent Assembly with some 40 per cent of the seats.  In June 2008 the Republic of Nepal was declared by the Constituent Assembly, and the king deposed.

An interim constitution provided for a ceremonial president, and in July 2008 a minor Nepal Congress party politician was selected for the post -- qualified solely by the fact that he was a Yadav [the most numerous caste of the Tarai, historically tenants and in confrontation with their Brahmin landlords] and had not been defeated in his constituency, unlike all the more senior Nepal Congress party politicians. As for the executive positions, the CPN (Maoist) -- having won the elections -- claimed the leading positions in the coalition government previously held by the defeated Nepal Congress party. In August 2008 Comrade Prachanda became prime minister and Comrade Badal, defence minister. The CPN (Maoist) sought to preserve the all-party coalition, but the defeated Nepal Congress party leadership demanded the defence ministry and went into opposition when it was denied. From that point on they allied with the Nepal Army command, in opposition.

The commander of the Nepal Army, General Katawal, refused to obey the orders of the defenvce minister and accept civilian supremacy, and the defeated politicians of the Nepal Congress party obstructed the proceedings of the Constituent Assembly. Despite these provocations, as well as a fierce campaign by the bourgeois (and foreign-connected) media that blew up every report of a village fight involving a revolutionary into a national cause célèbre, the PLA and the cadres of the revolutionary party -- now expanded through the association of smaller communist parties into the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (UCPN-M) -- have kept the peace, and kept their discipline.

In Nepal for eight months there have been no political prisoners, no political exiles, and -- by the standards of every other country in South Asia -- complete civil peace. The UCPN (M) have established their credentials with the majority of the people of Nepal, and with all fair-minded observers elsewhere, as the party of peace.  In April 2009 by-elections were held simultaneously in several constituencies of the Constituent Assembly.  Only the UCPN-M, already the largest party, improved its position.

The insolent disobedience of General Katawal reached new heights. Recruitment for the Nepal Army was commenced, in open violation of the peace agreement as noted by the UN. Ordered to stop, he refused.  Eight senior generals reached retirement age; the elected government ordered them retired and he defied the order. The fifth Nepal National Games were held at the start of April, the first in 11 years, and the command withdrew the Nepal Army teams to protest the participation of the PLA, in defiance of an order from the government.

In May, the elected government cashiered General Katawal for his insubordination. He refused to obey the order. The Nepal Congress party leaders defeated in the April 2008 elections made the ceremonial president "countermand" the order of the executive. Prime Minister Prachanda then resigned, placing civilian supremacy over the Nepal Army as the unavoidable question of the hour.

See, also, "'India Blundered, Lost the Respect It Once Earned'," Interview with Baburam Bhattarai (Outlook India, 18 May 2009).
In his defiance General Katawal enjoyed the open support of the defeated politicians of the Nepal Congress. And Indian ambassador Rakesh Sood, who, in the power vacuum occasioned by the interminable Lok Sabha [Indian parliament]  elections, publicly demonstrated the limitations of the foreign service mindset to the fullest possible degree; servile toward the United States, paranoid toward China and arrogant toward Nepal. Katawal also had the quiet backing of US ambassador Nancy Powell, who engineered a timely US denunciation of the UCPN (M) as "terrorists".

If any question remained as to the role of the United States, it was removed days after Prachanda's resignation when a report in the official media revealed that a videotape that had suddenly appeared, displaying an old, boldly revolutionary talk by Prachanda to PLA commanders, had been distributed by the Nepal Army's Directorate of Psychological Operations. Commanded by army spokesperson Ramindra Chhetri, the directorate was set up under the supervision of US "advisers" and has remained a primary US intelligence asset in Nepal.

In short, the defiance by General Katawal, the calculated sudden assertion of royal authority by the ceremonial president, the "scandalous" video portraying Prachanda in his role as a revolutionary leader(!), the betrayal by several UML politicians -- most particularly the shady Ishwor Pokharel -- who had promised Prachanda support in asserting civilian supremacy and then stabbed him in the back, suggest a coup attempt.

But a key factor was missing; there was not even a trace of public support. When General Katawal defied his dismissal, the Nepal Congress party politicians called out the "outraged" public so that the ploy with the ceremonial president would appear the result of pressure from the masses; but no one came out.

Peace is the achievement of the revolutionaries, and it is less endangered today than before the coup fizzled out. The UCPN (M) has the masses behind it, and it needs solely to preserve its discipline, as it has since it began the peace process at Chumwang in Rukum in the weeks before Dasain 2005.

One can be confident that in not too many weeks General Katawal will go, and the ceremonial president will be reduced to his proper place or disappear into the obscurity from which he was plucked. These conditions are understood by every Nepali to be the minimum required for the UCPN (M) to support a new government.

Will the feudal remnants leave the scene without a final desperate attempt at restarting the civil war? One can hope so; they are angry, fearful and stubborn, but they are not insane.

Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 05/24/2009 - 13:36


This article fails to acknowledge the simple fact that the Interim Constitution explicitly gives the president control over the military. As it chooses to omit this important fact, many of its conclusions also remain erroneous.

The simple fact is that dozens of people have been killed (including many journalists) and hundreds injured and threatened by the Maoist militia (Young Communist League or YCL). In several indisputable cases, rival activists have been killed by armed Maoist PLA fighters. To declare that the Maoists have simply respected the cease-fire flies in the face of much contrary evidence. Unlike many others, today’s victim made the news:

A Nepali Congress cadre Uma Kant Hamal, 55, has been killed in Jumla Friday night. NC has claimed Hamal was killed by YCL cadres. Hamal was abducted from his house at Friday midnight by a gang of 20 – 25 people. His body was found in a wood near his house Saturday morning. nepalnews.com May 23 09
Why this article fails to report ANY of the many cases of abductions, deaths, and threats is a matter of distorting facts.

Blaming the US for the release of the intraParty video of Prachanda (when he admitted to have purposely inflated the number of Maoist fighters in order to bias the process of integration of the armies) is also a way of dismissing a serious breach of truth—a vital element in the peace process--on the part of the Maoist leader. The video is available at:

By the way, in the video, he threatens other activists who disagree with Maoists with beatings.

The remarkable unity of 95% of the people of Nepal in defeating the monarchy is one of their great resources. It should be treasured by all--especially by revolutionaries. Clearly the Maoists sought to take unilateral command of the country by firing General Katawal a few months ahead of his mandatory retirement. Katawal is certainly no saint—and neither is his second-in-command they sought to be his replacement. The CPN UML (United Marxist- Leninists) proposed firing all 3 top generals and bringing in a completely new army leadership, but the Maoists rejected that offer and instead created a crisis leading them to resign.

The Maoists have made great contributions to the end of the monarchy, to liberating hundreds of thousands of poverty-stricken people from the throes of feudal bondage and crass capitalist exploitation. They have spearheaded the liberation of women and the struggle for national independence. They have organized village councils and patiently participated in a government of national unity.

Yet their sectarianism today remains an obstacle to their own realization of the creation of a unified hegemonic bloc capable of leading the whole society.

The new PM, Madhav Kumar Nepal of the CPN UML—is a former Maoist ally and staunch anti-imperialist. If they cannot work with him properly, then it is not the fault of reactionaries and foreigners, but of themselves and foreign “comrades” who seek to stoke the fires of sectarian conflict in Nepal that will help no one, not even armchair revolutionaries cheering collective setbacks from the sidelines.

The article's very title: "Who is Endangering Civil Peace in Nepal?" indicates that a constitutional crisis is being used as a pretext to blame foreigners and reactionaries for the looming possibility of renewed civil war. The sad legacy of Pol Pot hangs over Maoists everywhere. In Nepal, their commitment to the peace process and multiparty democracy has been significant. Let’s hope they are able to contain their own hard-liners.

Submitted by Terry Townsend on Fri, 06/05/2009 - 11:50


Maoists to merge with CPN-MLR
Kantipur Report
KATHMANDU, June 2 - As a preparation to encourage left parties' polarisation, the Unified CPN (Maoist) has intensified unification procedure with the fringe leftist parties.
The Maoists has intensified official unification process with the leaders who had left the CPN (ML) some months ago.
Maoist leaders Mohan Vaidya, Dinanath Sharma and Barsa Man Pun responsibile for the unification held discussion with the CPN -ML Revolutionary (MLR) leaders at party headquarters Buddhanagar this morning.
At the meeting, the leaders decided to formally declare the unification with the MLR on June 9.
Prior to the unification, a four-member taskforce has been formed for the preparation and oraganisational working division, Maoist spokesperson Dinanath Sharma informed.
The taskforce comprises Sharma, Pun, MLR leaders Keshab Raj Nepal and Padam Bhandari.
Earlier, Ram Acharya, Dinesh Panthi, among over a dozen central members had left CP Mainali-led ML and formed the revolutionary party.
The CPN (Maoist) and CPN (Ekata Kendra Masal) had united on Jan 13 and adopted Unified CPN (Maoist) as the new name following the unification.