On September 5th, 2002 MR received a letter, that we believe from internal evidence to be authentic, from Dr. Baburam Bhattarai—who is one of the leaders of the revolutionary forces in the Nepalese civil war. In the nine months since the last communication from Dr. Bhattarai (http://www.monthlyreview.org/0102bhattarai.htm) was received, the civil war in Nepal has deepened both in scope and brutality. It now extends from one end of the country to the other. The Royal Nepal Army has executed many hundreds—perhaps thousands—of kids in the countryside in faked encounters, “disappearances” and in aerial bombing of civilian gatherings. In this atmosphere the remaining democratic political forces of all tendencies, including the majority faction of the right-wing Congress Party, refused in May to permit the legal extension of the state of emergency. The state of emergency suspends freedom of thought and expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, the right against preventive detention, the right to information, and any right to judicial review of acts committed by the armed forces. The dictatorship of the usurper King, exercised through a minority faction of the Congress party headed by Sher Bahadur Deuba, refused to accept this outcome. On May 27, 2002, parliament was dissolved, the state of emergency extended by decree, and an election called for November 13th.
The emergency decree purportedly lapsed on August 28, but reports so far indicate that nothing has changed.
This then is the current situation in Nepal addressed by Dr. Bhattarai. The absurdity of a “democratic” election to be held without freedom of press or assembly, and with armed forces engaged in mass murder that cannot be reviewed by the courts. Not that judicial review given the dictatorship’s control of the courts would much matter; the Nepal Supreme Court has dutifully blessed the dissolution of parliament, extension of the emergency, and the outrageous state of emergency “election.” Participation of the political parties in this farce remains uncertain. There are, as ever in Nepal as elsewhere, no shortage of opportunists hoping for office under even the most disgraceful of conditions. Meanwhile, all decent forces not themselves engaged in the civil war are urging negotiations leading to an end to the conflict. In this letter Dr. Bhattarai responds affirmatively to these requests, but spells out the basic facts that condition the possibility of a return to peace—above all the refusal of the royal forces to subject the continuation of the monarchy to a democratic decision, and the intervention of Indian and U.S. intelligence operatives into the affairs of Nepal. In regard to this last critical state of affairs, Dr. Bhattarai refers to an important web article by Wayne Madsen, CounterPunch columnist and a former naval officer who used to work for the NSA, at U.S. intelligence has blocked access to this site. We therefore reprint the piece here http://www.monthlyreview.org/0902madsen.htm to accompany this letter from Dr. Bhattarai.
Rejoinder on Some Current Issues
The virtual civil war between the monarchist and democratic forces in Nepal has now been a matter of serious concern for all the enlightened citizens and political forces inside the country and the whole of the international community. The recent spate of “joint statements” calling for a negotiated settlement by all and sundry in Kathmandu and new initiatives, both overt and covert, by the international forces, amply testify to this. However, there is seen a discernible lack of clarity on some cardinal issues and outright misconception on many others. This is quite probable given a long spell of emergency rule, with suspension of all civic and democratic rights including the right to information, and a sustained disinformation campaign by the royal army-controlled media. It is, therefore, imperative that some of these misconceptions and lies be demystified and cleared and the real facts be put across, so that the path to a genuine political solution to the vexed problem may be paved.
The Reality of “Civil War”
The first step towards the solution of the reigning problem is its correct identification or diagnosis. But the dilemma of our pacifists on the question has been no less hilarious than that of the proverbial blind men’s speculation about the “elephant.” Is it “terrorism?” Or an “insurgency?” Or a full-fledged “civil war?” Without indulging in any semantic acrobatics, we can safely assert that what is going on is a full-fledged civil war. If you honestly and intelligently follow the definition and categorization of “war” in any international law books or articles of various Geneva Conventions and Protocols on war, you have no way but to acknowledge the ongoing fierce armed conflict between the Royal Nepal Army (RNA) and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) all over the country as a complete civil war.
It is no secret that the whole country is now divided between two armies, two states, two economies and two cultures. Whereas the RNA is mostly confined to district headquarters, urban centers and roadside areas, the PLA controls the rest of the countryside, which constitutes more than two-thirds of the country. Regular armed clashes, between the two rival armies are reported from 73 out of the 75 districts. Local people’s power are being exercised by a network of revolutionary People’s Committees, which is coordinated at the central level by United Revolutionary People’s Council (URPC), an embryonic Central People’s Government Organizing Committee under the leadership of CPN(Maoist).
Is it just not ridiculous and an exercise in self-deception to brand or dismiss such a revolutionary political movement as mere “terrorism?” Where on earth, or in history, have “terrorists” enjoyed such widespread mass base? It is all the more intriguing that the Belgian government should fail to see through this objective reality and should agree recently to supply sophisticated weapons to the RNA in utter contravention of the 1998 Code of Conduct of the EU barring sale of weapons to parties engaged in “internal conflict.” If it is not “internal conflict,” what is it, gentlemen?
The failure of the civilized world to recognize the ongoing armed conflict between two belligerent powers as “civil war” or “intra-state war,” has prompted the RNA to indulge in widespread war crimes in the form of wanton execution of hundreds of prisoners of war, massacre of thousands of non-combatants in fake encounters and brutal torture, rape and arson against civilian population, and yet go scot free. A number of national and international human rights organizations have chronicled such war crimes, which have so far been conveniently suppressed under the emergency rule.
Hence the first and foremost task of any well-meaning pacifist eager to initiate a process of negotiated settlement should be to acknowledge the conflict as a “civil war” or “internal war” and to invoke the provisions of international law, conventions and protocols to check such war crimes.
The Core Issue: Monarchy vs. Democracy
Secondly, the core issue of the conflict, or the basic political agenda of the war, ought to be grasped correctly. For, as the good old Carl von Clausewitz had formulated, ‘war is the continuation of policy by other (i.e. violent) means’. However, there have been two diametrically opposite sets of misperceptions about the ultimate political goal, or the nature, of this war. Whereas the one motivated (or ill-informed?) section prefers to believe the ultimate goal of this war to be nothing sort of a communistic republic, the other keeps on harping it to be mere pressure tactics to get a larger share of loaf within the present monarchical dispensation. Both the views are certainly not only wide off the mark of the objective reality, but also have effectively blocked any meaningful dialogue towards a satisfactory political solution to the problem so far.
Anybody who closely and correctly follows the official documents and public statements of the Party and the United Front, starting with the well known 40-point demands of the then United People’s Front (the precursor of the current URPC) submitted in 1996 to the latest statement of Chairman Prachanda, should have no difficulty in comprehending that the bourgeois (capitalistic) democratic revolution is the immediate political agenda and abolition of monarchy is the core issue of the entire project. Of late, the immediate demands have been crystallized into: an interim government, election to a constituent assembly and institutionalization of the republic. The feudal autocratic monarchy has been principally targeted because it is the historical bulwark of all class, caste, gender, national, regional and religious oppression and main impediment to all round democratization of the polity, economy, society and culture.
Of course, there is widespread illusion and misconception about the so-called “constitutionality” of the traditional monarchy after the restoration of the deformed and disabled parliamentary system in 1990. Subsequent events, particularly those after the infamous palace massacre of June1, 2001 and more specifically the dramatic dissolution of parliament on May 22, 2002, should, however, dispel all such illusions and establish beyond doubt how the monarchy controls the real power of the state. We have always maintained that the faulty method of constitution-making by the nominated representatives of the King in 1990 and the continued allegiance of the RNA to the feudal palace, have enabled the monarchy to retain absolute power and for ever dangle a Damocles’ sword over the parliament. Recent course of events have fully corroborated this and some more are likely to follow in the near future. Hence it is our considered view that unless a new constitution is made by an elected constituent assembly and the country’s armed forces are kept under the unqualified control of the people’s representatives, no form of democracy can flourish and sustain in the country. This should clarify for once and for ever that the current fight in Nepal is an historical fight between feudal monarchy and progressive bourgeois democracy as witnessed in 1648 Britain or 1789 France. And nothing more, or nothing less!
And it won’t be otherwise to try to clear a small but widespread misunderstanding about us at this juncture. It is often reported that we have since then dropped our cardinal demands of the republic and the constituent assembly, and are left with that of a mere interim government. Please note, ladies and gentlemen, this is not only utterly false but just ridiculous. How can we leave out such core issues, and that too after so much sacrifice? Then why should we wage the war at all? Yes, during the course of negotiations last year we had agreed not to discuss the question of republic for the convenience of the other party, but had reserved our right to take the issue to the people during the elections to the constituent assembly. Our goal of the republic was retained, but only the means to achieve it was agreed to defer to the constituent assembly in place of the negotiating table. And that is just that. As regards the constituent assembly, the issue was just raked up when it was not spotted in one of the public statements of our Party Chairman recently. Is it necessary and logical to chant all the demands publicly all the time? By no means. Therefore, let it be clear to all that the three demands are interrelated and constitute a single whole of the immediate political agenda of the democratic revolution, and remain valid to this day. If somebody wants to believe otherwise and live in a fool’s paradise, it is his/her choice.
In the Vortex of International Conflict
Thirdly, we would like to draw the attention of our pacifists towards the real source of danger of sucking the internal conflict of Nepal into the vortex of larger international conflict. Unless we correctly identify the role of international forces in the internal political dynamics of the country, it may not be possible for us to find genuine political solution to the problem. It is, however, quite disheartening that a large section of our intelligentsia (mostly Western-educated) and political parties fail to recognize the disastrous ramifications of the increasing hobnobbing of the ruling monarchist forces with the external powers and instead tend to cast unfounded aspersions against the revolutionary forces.
In this context it is first of all important to realize the obnoxious role of the international forces in carrying out the heinous palace coup d’tat of June1, 2001. There is now increasing evidence of the involvement of the CIA in the coup. (See Wayne Madsen, “Comparison Between Recent US-Backed Coups”). The recent patterns of judgment by the Supreme Court of Nepal in favor of Sher Bahadur Deuba and that of the Supreme Court of Venezuela in favor of the leaders of the failed military coup there (see Frontline, August 31-September 13, 2002) provide a strong resemblance of judicial manipulations by the CIA. Overtly active involvement of the US government in shoring up the RNA and in prodding its allies (or satellites?) to do the same, is there for all to see. Hence such interventionist approach of the sole superpower of the world in a geo-strategically sensitive zone sandwiched between two super states, India and China, naturally heralds the danger of the country getting sucked into the vortex of intermittent conflict.
The growing strategic stranglehold of US imperialism in Nepal is basically designed to encircle China in the long term and to oversee India. This way both the giant neighbors are bound to get provoked and Nepal would be in an unenviable position of antagonizing everybody. Though in the shorter term the pro-US monarchist forces may boast of support from all foreign powers, that is just transitory and soon the regime would be isolated from all. Even in India there is growing resentment against the pro-US tilt of the Hindu fundamentalist BJP-led regime, and the recent support gained by the monarchist regime from the expansionist ruling classes of India may not last long.
It is in this context that the CPN (Maoist) and URPC have addressed to all foreign powers, particularly our two giant neighbors India and China, not to bolster the feudal autocratic regime and hinder the all round democratization process in the country. The days of seeing the feudal monarchy as the factor of stability and peace are already over and now only a fully democratic and republican Nepal can guarantee sustainable peace and stability in the Himalayan region. Similarly, only by keeping the foreign powers out and letting the Nepalese people decide their own destiny themselves can the current conflict be resolved satisfactorily.
Let the gentlemen of “Foundation of Nepalese in America,” among others, grasp this truth more firmly.
Emergency and Election are Antithetical
Fourthly, there are some questions raised whether the emergency and elections can go together and whether there is any chance of our participating in the so-called midterm parliamentary elections in November. The plain answer to both is an emphatic “no.”
It is a matter of common sense that an emergency rule, which suspends all civic and democratic rights of the people, is just antithetical to any form of election. Moreover, it is quite comical to note that the previous parliament was dissolved unceremoniously because it had refused to extend the emergency rule further, and the new parliament is to be elected under the emergency rule so that it can obediently endorse further emergency rule in future. So what is the use of any election or parliament if you are going to have indefinite emergency rule at the whims and fancy of the RNA? Just to hoodwink the gullible public, or the international community?
Now there should be no illusion to anybody that the limited democratic rights and parliamentary institutions gained after 1990 people’s movement have been virtually usurped by the autocratic monarchy through its monopoly control over the RNA, and they can be regained and expanded not through any farcical elections under the aegis of the very same RNA but only through a new people’s movement of greater heights and intensity.
As regards the question of participation on the farcical elections, if at all they are held even within the confines of RNA barracks, they would only help to legitimize the royal military dictatorship. Whereas the mainstream Nepali Congress Party led by Girija Prasad Koirala has so far rightly seen through this royal conspiracy and reserved its final decision, it is quite intriguing and shameful that the opposition UML has hastily jumped into the election bandwagon. There are reasonable grounds to suspect that this most opportunist revisionist clique has been enticed by the royal palace and some foreign powers to provide a ‘liberal face’ to the royal autocracy and be pitted against the revolutionary forces in a “diamond-cuts-diamond” manner. In that case it would only mean the degeneration of the UML clique into social fascism, whose tragic end only the future will reveal.
It is in this context that the CPN (Maoist) and URPC have recently proposed a broad political conference of all political parties, organizations and noted individuals opposed to the royal military dictatorship to find a political solution to the problem. We believe that time is now ripe for the democratic forces, both within and outside parliament, to take initiatives in their own hands and determine their destiny by themselves.
War and Negotiation Can Go Together
Fifthly, there have been some queries and suggestions as to whether we should not announce a unilateral ceasefire and call off the proposed “Nepal bandh” (general strike) for September 16, given our repeated offer of negotiations for a political solution. Again we would say an emphatic ‘no’. Because we believe war and negotiation can and should, if need be, go together.
As is well known, war and negotiation are just different means for a political end. And past history of all great revolutions testify that the two means are not contradictory but complimentary. In our case, too, ever since the then government refused to negotiate over the 40-point charter of demands and the People’s War (PW) was initiated in 1996, war and negotiation, in one form of the other, have been continuing and will continue till the aspired political end is met. We, therefore, appreciate the recent calls of the ten parliamentarist parties, a dozen ‘wise men’ headed by Himalaya SJB Rana and others for a negotiated settlement of the problem, but fail to understand how we could clap with just one hand without the other side responding.
Also there have been repeated insinuations that since we had broken off the formal talks last time it is now our turn to make a new gesture for the resumption of the talks. We would again firmly reject such insinuations. What is basically missed, even by the enlightened political souls, while making such allegations is that talks are not held between two belligerent groups just for a tea party but for concrete political solutions to the shared problem. It should be known to everybody that the other party by not agreeing to our political proposals (the aforesaid 3-points demand, which was later slashed down to 2-points) and not advancing any alternative proposal of its own had in effect closed the door for any political solution and broken off the talks. We had formally pronounced this full two days in advance, before resuming the armed actions. So it is just ridiculous on the part of Deuba to make repeated outbursts against us on this question.
As regards the current countrywide mass actions and the proposed “Nepal bandh” on September 16, these are the legitimate protest actions against the large-scale war crimes committed by the RNA. The “Nepal bandh” is an indigenous form of mass political strike evolved over the years, which we feel is the most appropriate at the current juncture.
On the So-called Military and Political Wing
And finally, there has been persistent disinformation campaign about the so-called contradiction between the military and the political wing of the Party. Again we would say this is totally baseless, preposterous and mischievous. Furthermore, we should proudly proclaim that in the contemporary revolutionary world our movement would perhaps be the most unified and centralized, where every military and non-military action takes place according to collective decision and plan.
Rather what our opponents fail to comprehend is that we have an integrated politico-military mechanism and no separate ‘military’ and ‘political’ wing as wildly speculated. Whereas organizationally we are committed to ensure a concentric construction of the Party, the Army and the United Front under the supreme and unified leadership of the Party, the well-known dictum about the relation between the Party and the Army has been : ‘ The Party commands the gun’. So there is no objective basis for any friction between the political and military fronts.
Another persistent rumor has been that Com. Badal is the ‘military commander’ and he is opposed to the Party leadership. It is quite interesting to note that now one Maj.—Gen. Ashok Mehta (retd.) of the Indian army, who should enjoy access to RAW briefings, has also joined this rumor-mongering race. Gentlemen, we just pity your poor source of information! You are free to indulge in self-deception and live in a fool’s paradise; but Com. Badal, a senior Party leader, is neither a ‘military commander’ nor is he ever opposed to the Party leadership. If you still want to grind the rumor-mill, what can we do?
September 4, 2002
[The author is Standing Committee Member of CPN (Maoist), and Convenor of United Revolutionary People's Council. Nepal.]