The Maoists and the Massacre

KATHMANDU: Seven weeks after the massacre of Nepal’s King, Queen, and others in the royal family by the crown prince, the country seems to be coming apart in violence. Seventy Nepali police are held captive by Maoist guerrillas, against whom Nepal’s army are now fighting for the first time. Bomb explosions have brought the rebellion into Kathmandu, the capital, helping to force the resignation of Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, who seemingly controlled a solid parliamentary majority. Will Nepal’s chaos bring the world’s last Maoists to power? The timing of the royal massacre could not have been worse for this kingdom of 23 million people wedged into the Himalayas between Asia’s two mutually suspicious giants – China and India. With over 70 different population groups packed within it, Nepal was seen as held together by its monarchy. That picture may or may not have been accurate, but the royal family undoubtedly was the one constant in Nepal’s fluid politics. Nepal’s political instability has its roots in a parliament that, since its restoration in 1990 after a three-decade hiatus, has failed to solidify a dominant role. Over the past eleven years ten different governments, half of them coalitions of political parties of all types, have come and gone. Since 1999, the Congress party has controlled an absolute parliamentary majority, yet intra-party wrangling has caused it to drift aimlessly. Scant economic development and a lazy bureaucracy mired in corruption work hand-in-hand with Nepal’s irresponsible political class to undermine public support for Nepal’s governmental system. None of this may sound out of the ordinary among developing countries, but there is a crucial difference here: five years ago an extreme left-wing group, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), began a violent uprising. The insurgents are active almost everywhere. Only a few remote mountain districts remain quiet. Nearly 1700 people have died in ambushes, killings of “class enemies,” and police operations. Five districts in west Nepal are controlled by the Maoists. By December 2000, the rebels had established their own ‘people’s government’ in these districts, complete with minor development projects, ‘people’s courts’ and social policing against alcoholism, usury and so on. Until the Maoists began their ‘People’s War’ in February 1996, they were but one among a dozen communist factions in Nepal. Since launching their rebellion, their progress has been phenomenal, due as much to ideology as to advocacy of the rights of ethnic communities marginalized by the state. This explains their strong hold on power in west Nepal with its large population of Magars, Nepal’s largest ethnic group. Since 1996 successive governments have responded with force to the Maoist threat. Perhaps the pitiful weaponry at first fielded by the Maoists inspired that choice, as victory seemed to be something that could be achieved overnight. But the Maoists soon captured better weapons during raids on the police. The Maoists also began to utilize booby-traps and other explosives. Training in the use of these, say the police, was provided by Maoist groups in India. More important, the Maoists also buy weapons from India’s illicit arms bazaar. Because Nepal’s police more or less declared that they cannot defeat the Maoists on their own, after much maneuvering, the government deployed the army under an Integrated Internal Security and Development Program (IISDP), reportedly modeled after the ‘hearts and mind’ strategy pursued by the United States during the Vietnam War. Nepal’s plan envisaged pursuing economic development projects with security for them provided by the army. Initially, the insurgents steered clear from confrontations with the soldiers. Now that the army has been dragged into the conflict, the prospects for peace are receding fast. A negotiated peace is, of course, the only alternative to violence and, goaded by public opinion, the government and the Maoists have made noises about holding negotiations. Hopes were raised last February when the Maoists held a national conference to outline their (still vague) plans and policies. Besides elevating their leader, who uses the
http://prosyn.org/MdNTOfv;
  1. Patrick Kovarik/Getty Images

    The Summit of Climate Hopes

    Presidents, prime ministers, and policymakers gather in Paris today for the One Planet Summit. But with no senior US representative attending, is the 2015 Paris climate agreement still viable?

  2. Trump greets his supporters The Washington Post/Getty Images

    Populist Plutocracy and the Future of America

    • In the first year of his presidency, Donald Trump has consistently sold out the blue-collar, socially conservative whites who brought him to power, while pursuing policies to enrich his fellow plutocrats. 

    • Sooner or later, Trump's core supporters will wake up to this fact, so it is worth asking how far he might go to keep them on his side.
  3. Agents are bidding on at the auction of Leonardo da Vinci's 'Salvator Mundi' Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

    The Man Who Didn’t Save the World

    A Saudi prince has been revealed to be the buyer of Leonardo da Vinci's "Salvator Mundi," for which he spent $450.3 million. Had he given the money to the poor, as the subject of the painting instructed another rich man, he could have restored eyesight to nine million people, or enabled 13 million families to grow 50% more food.

  4.  An inside view of the 'AknRobotics' Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

    Two Myths About Automation

    While many people believe that technological progress and job destruction are accelerating dramatically, there is no evidence of either trend. In reality, total factor productivity, the best summary measure of the pace of technical change, has been stagnating since 2005 in the US and across the advanced-country world.

  5. A student shows a combo pictures of three dictators, Austrian born Hitler, Castro and Stalin with Viktor Orban Attila Kisbenedek/Getty Images

    The Hungarian Government’s Failed Campaign of Lies

    The Hungarian government has released the results of its "national consultation" on what it calls the "Soros Plan" to flood the country with Muslim migrants and refugees. But no such plan exists, only a taxpayer-funded propaganda campaign to help a corrupt administration deflect attention from its failure to fulfill Hungarians’ aspirations.

  6. Project Syndicate

    DEBATE: Should the Eurozone Impose Fiscal Union?

    French President Emmanuel Macron wants European leaders to appoint a eurozone finance minister as a way to ensure the single currency's long-term viability. But would it work, and, more fundamentally, is it necessary?

  7. The Year Ahead 2018

    The world’s leading thinkers and policymakers examine what’s come apart in the past year, and anticipate what will define the year ahead.

    Order now