SLUG: CQ 8-027 FOCUS: Nepal Maoist Insurgency
TITLE= NEPAL: MAOIST INSURGENCY (CQ)
BYLINE= SUBHASH VOHRA
(Editors: Resending to include OPT material)
INTRO: Nepal, a small South Asian nation of 23 million people, landlocked between the world's two most populated nations, India and China, is facing a guerilla war by Maoists rebels who want to abolish the monarchy and establish a communist system in this poor country.
On October 4th, Nepal's King Gyanendra dismissed the country's elected government saying it failed to deal with the Maoist rebellion and put off general elections that were scheduled for November.
VOA's Subhash Vohra takes a look at the Maoist insurgency in Nepal and prepared this report, presented by
TEXT: With the world's highest mountain, Everest, and spectacular scenery and wildlife, Nepal has been a popular tourist destination. But now the country is the focus of a violent rebel movement.
Almost 7,000 people have died since 1996 when the Maoists launched a bloody insurgency. Maoists now hold about a quarter of the country and are increasing their control of rural areas.
Most of these Maoists are young people from peasant families of dalits, low-caste Hindus, and make up twenty per cent of Nepal's population.
Several leaders of these Nepalese Maoists come from lower middle class families. Many of them are educated and were influenced by leftist ideas while studying in India and other countries.
Although the movement was initially inspired by the revolutionary notions of the late Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong, many analysts today say the rebels are building on popular discontent in the country:
Actually this Maoist insurgency has nothing to do with the Chinese or Russian communism. It is grown out of utter frustration of the rural people of Nepal with the system of democracy as well as with monarchy. "
Satish Kumar, an expert on South Asian affairs in New Delhi, says the growth of the Maoist movement in Nepal should be seen as a failure of mainstream politics to meet the needs and aspirations of the country's rural poor, including land reform. The rebels want re-distribution of land, with sixty percent of crops going to farmers and forty percent to landlords.
///BEGIN OPT/// The Maoists contend that the multi-party democracy, which was established in 1990, has failed to improve the living conditions of people in villages. They accuse corrupt politicians and rich landlords of oppressing and exploiting the
low-caste poor. ///END OPT///
Carl Coon is the former U.S. Ambassador to Nepal:
This is basically, I would say, a revolt of people out in the countryside who are beginning to realize that in an essentially feudal way of life, change is not only overdue but inevitable. I sympathize with that point but I cannot sympathize, of course, with the violence and the techniques these poor people are using to express their frustration. That is utterly unacceptable."
In the rural areas controlled by the Maoists, rebels are getting some support because they are helping peasants retake their land from the powerful landlords. In many cases, these landowners have forced illiterate people to sign land-transfer documents for non-payment of long-standing debts.
But the government says the rebels are using force and intimidation to achieve their goals.
Jai Pratap Rana , Nepalese Ambassador to the United States, says, "It is a movement based largely on fear. People are afraid of the guerrillas":
Of course, the Maoists have been taking advantage of the open atmosphere of democracy. The Maoists did undertake some programs to help the people, and that - to a certain extent- gave them some sympathy among the villagers. But it is no longer there. These days , Maoists have been resorting to intimidation, extortion and all kinds of brutalities. The villagers are running away from there. There is a huge concentration of displaced people (refugees) in the district headquarters and in Katmandu itself."
Nepal has been a monarchy for most of its history and largely isolated from the rest of world. Rivalries within the royal family are also to blame for many problems facing Nepal today.
The country has just recovered from last year's palace massacre. It is believed that Crown Prince Dipendra killed his father and mother, the king and queen along with seven other members of the royal family before killing himself.
The explanation was that the prince was drunk and outraged because of royal opposition to his choice of bride. But the vast majority of Nepalese did not believe the official story.
King Gyanendra ascended the throne in June 2001 soon after the massacre. Last month, he dismissed Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba's elected government because of its failure to reach a peaceful settlement with the Maoists. He appointed Lok Bahadur Chand caretaker prime minister to run the country.
In 1961, the present monarch's father, King Mahendra, overthrew Nepal's first-ever elected government and banned political parties. Democracy was only re-introduced 10 years ago after three decades of absolute monarchy. Many people in Nepal fear a return to political oppression.
Chitra Krishna Tiwari, a former professor of political science in Nepal and now a freelance columnist in Washington, explains the difference between the two situations:
There is one major difference between King Gyanendra's action and his father King Mahendra's takeover in 1960s. At that time action may have been undemocratic but it was not unconstitutional. But this time King Gyanendra's action is called unconstitutional by several experts and analysts.
Several countries have expressed their support for the Nepalese government's efforts to deal with the challenge to the democratic system. Nepal's neighbors, India and China, have offered their help in dealing with the Maoist insurgency.
///BEGIN OPT/// Nepal's former Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba was in Washington earlier this year, seeking U.S. military and economic assistance in dealing with the insurgency. ///END OPT/// The United States plans to double its aid to Nepal to cope with this challenge.
Former U.S. Ambassador to Nepal, Carl Coon, says economic assistance is surely needed, but it is crucial that the country's leaders work on the basis of a broad-based political consensus:
///COON ACT TWO///
Economic aid and other forms of assistance can be important. But they can only be important on the fringe. The real change has to happen in Nepal itself. Nepal is a friend of America. The most important thing American people can do is to continue to support Nepal and express sympathy for what it is doing, express hope that democracy continues to become more deeply rooted. "
Until a few months ago, the Nepalese government and the Maoists were making some progress in talks. Three demands were put forward by the Maoists; the monarchy must be abolished; there must be an election for a constituent assembly which should write a new constitution; and, in order to have these elections, the present government must resign and an all-party interim government should administer the elections.
The government rejected these demands and insisted the Maoists must first renounce violence. The Maoists accused the government of not being serious about the talks, broke the ceasefire and resumed their attacks.
The new Nepalese government says it is ready to talk peace with the Maoist rebels if they come up with a formal proposal.
The United States and the European Union have also urged the new Nepalese government to ensure early negotiations with the Maoists with a view toward integrating them into the political process, thereby leading to the conditions for free and fair elections.
That was FOCUS, written by Subhash Vohra and presented by.. ..
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