Revolution in South Asia

An Internationalist Info Project

The Maoist Face of New Nepal

Posted by Mike E on May 28, 2008

‘Fierce one’ ousts king to become new power in Nepal

KATHMANDU (AFP) — After 25 years underground and a decade of armed struggle across Nepal’s jungles and hills, Maoist leader Prachanda has become the most powerful man in Nepal and is set to lead a new government.

On Wednesday, Nepal’s newly-elected constituent assembly was set to implement a long-standing Maoist demand — abolishing the country’s 240-year-old monarchy and turning the country into a republic.

Prachanda, who signed up to peace in 2006, has had trouble shaking off his ruthless warlord image.

But many believe he is now the right man to rebuild the impoverished Himalayan country wedged between giant India and Nepal after the deadly civil war that ravaged the country’s economy.

“It is Prachanda who really set the agenda for a constituent assembly, republicanism and federalism,” said Sangraula, who writes for Nepal’s best-selling Kantipur daily. “He wants to move Nepali society forward.”

The Maoist chief is now in his strongest position yet.

Last month, he led his party to an upset victory in polls to elect a body to write a new constitution, the next step in a peace process launched in 2006. Commentators said the result showed impoverished Nepal was desperate for radical change.

The Maoists snatched 220 seats in the 601-member assembly, twice as many seats as their rivals and election favourites, the Nepali Congress.

That success was a long time coming for the 53-year-old Prachanda, who spent more than two decades living underground.

Born into a high-caste but poor farming family, Prachanda — whose real name is Pushpa Kamal Dahal — was driven to politics by the extreme poverty he witnessed in rural Nepal.

Married with three children, his interest grew in the communist groups that emerged in the country in the late 1960s after the father of the current King Gyanendra banned political parties.

The chaotic Cultural Revolution in neighbouring China inspired him, as did Peru’s Shining Path Guerrillas, who also took their inspiration from the revolutionary theories of Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong.

Although he never fought in combat himself, he became chief military strategist of a group of rag-tag rebels and built it into a fearsome force that took control of large swathes of Nepal’s countryside.

Their ideology appealed to Nepal’s low-caste, women and ethnic minority groups, but the rebels also used indoctrination, intimidation, murder, kidnapping and extortion to cement their control, human rights groups say.

He has had trouble shaking off his image of being a ruthless warlord, especially as young Maoist activists continue to be accused of beating up their rivals and extorting money.

The United States still classes his group as a foreign “terrorist” organisation, and many in Nepal are still uneasy.

“During the People’s War there were many excesses — many, many innocent people were killed on the suspicion of being spies,” said columnist Sangraula.

“In some way the Maoist party glorified violence. There was too much and unnecessary violence, for which Prachanda is responsible.”

The man slated to head Nepal’s next government has said his dream is to create a more inclusive country, but he may also suffer from the weakness for clan politics common in South Asia.

His immediate family members are already embedded in Maoist politics, with his wife and daughter both holding seats on the constituent assembly sworn in Tuesday.

In spite of the question marks that still surround the former teacher, Prachanda is for now the face of a “New Nepal,” a popular Maoist slogan.

7 Responses to “The Maoist Face of New Nepal”

  1. Anon said

    Pretty biased article, overall… to be expected I suppose.

    I didn’t understand this bit, “The man slated to head Nepal’s next government has said his dream is to create a more inclusive country, but he may also suffer from the weakness for clan politics common in South Asia.

    What exactly is this about?

  2. Nando said

    The reactionary press in Nepal harps on Prachanda’s background (which is obvious to Nepalis in his real name.)

    They imply that he uses Prachanda in order to be more inclusive and to hide the brahman implications of his given name.

    (I have seen it compared to Tito, who used his nom de guerre to not be too closely associated with one ethnicity within Yugoslavia).

  3. NSPF said

    “…but he may also suffer from the weakness for clan politics common in South Asia.”

    I suppose this is in reference to the fact that there are other members of his family active in politics and two of them are also members of the Constituent Assembly. The reporter probably wants to create a paralel to Nehru, Bhutto, and other dynastic famillies in the region. The implications intended are venomous.

  4. AusWatch said

    fucking propaganda – I don’t see why there’s a need to repeat such slanders.

  5. redflags said

    AusWatch – the world is full of ideas we won’t or don’t agree with. Noting how the bourgeois press (which is to say most of the world’s journalism) covers these events isn’t “repeating it” – but noting it.

    These events largely speak for themselves. The people of Nepal and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) have cast off the monarchy after a successful people’s war. They have been unorthodox, as was pretty much every successful revolutionary movement that has preceeded them.

    We don’t need to protected from bad ideas – we need to engage them and overcome them in struggle. So, if it’s just fucking propaganda – break it down!

  6. Mike E said

    Moderator note:
    We have posted a discussion about whether to tightly chaperone wrong ideas on the Kasama blog

  7. Lets the new government eliminate the poverty from nepal.

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