Revolution in South Asia

An Internationalist Info Project

Peterson: Showdown Intensifies Between Old Elite & a New Nepal

Posted by Mike E on April 26, 2009


We have received the following eyewitness report from Ben Peterson who has been traveling through Nepal. The original title of his essay is “Nepal: Elite revolt threatens democracy.” Ben’s reports are gathered on his own blog Lal Salam. Kasama posts this because it is of interest. As always, posting does not apply an agreement with the analysis.

“Suresh Kumar Ale Maga, a UNCP-M member of parliament [says that] for the Maoists, a New Nepal meant “a Nepal on the way to socialism”. 

“Following its victory in the by-elections on this program, the UCPN-M has pressed ahead with plans to restructure the state. The existing structures, inherited from the monarchy, have proved resistant to change. This has sparked fierce resistance from the opposition, the foreign embassies and the army. This has put the ongoing peace process, as part of which the PLA agreed to end its armed struggle, in jeopardy.”

“Facing attacks from various sides, the Maoists have responded with ongoing, daily street demonstrations across the country. The core issue is the need for control by the elected government over the state, with its entrenched bureaucracy.”


by Ben Peterson, from Kathmandu (25 April 2009)

Less than two weeks after the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M) won by-elections in six constituencies across Nepal, it is facing fresh resistance by the old elite.

The elite is seeking to stop the UCPN-M-led push for a “New Nepal”. This has included front-page exposures of a coup plot to overthrow the elected Maoist-led government.

The centre of the storm is the moves, begun on April 19, by the Maoist-led coalition government to remove the Chief of Army Staff Rookmangud Katawal.

This follows a long dispute between the military high command and the elected civilian government. Katawal has refused to implement government instructions.

The April by-elections proved that the program of the Maoists for a New Nepal has popular support.

Occurring in six constituencies that had been left vacant in the past year, these polls took place in a range of areas across the country, encompassing different ethnic groups and where the main political parties are powerful.

This meant the elections gave a good reflection of the political mood. Although only a fraction of people could vote, and the small amount of seats at stake would not affect the balance of power within the parliament, these elections were crucial because of the results were seen as significant in the wider political struggle.

Despite what was widely predicted, rather Maoist support dropping, it increased. This is despite constant media attacks on the government and its current inability to implement most of its program.

The Maoists retained two previously held seats and won a third. The other three seats went to the right-wing Nepalese Congress, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified-Marxist-Leninist and the Madheshi People’s Rights Forum.

The popular uprising and a Maoist-led “people’s war” brought down Nepal’s centuries old monarchy, opening the way for constituent assembly elections one year ago. Against expectations, the Maoists, whose support is based on the poor, won the largest number of seats.

Since then, right-wing forces, backed by foreign powers, have sought to weaken the Maoist-led government and drive back the momentum for genuine change.

The UCPN-M has deep roots within poor communities. It is linked to the average Nepali through its work in local areas, among youth, women, peasants, and in the trade unions. So far, the campaign by the right-wing forces that dominate much of the state and media have failed to sever this link.

The perspectives of the UCPN-M for a New Nepal include creating secular, democratic republic; a new democratised military based on merging the formerly royalist Nepal Army with the Maoist People’s Liberation Army (PLA); and fighting discrimination against ethnic minorities, women and the lower castes.

A minimum wage has already been created and the Maoist program promises to guarantee employment. National industry will be prioritised to promote development. Workers will have the right to take part in management.

The Maoists also promote land reform based on the principle of “land to those who work it”.

The public education system will be expanded and made free at lower levels. Private education institutions charging high fees will be regulated and phased out. Ethnic minorities will have the right to education in their own language,

A literacy campaign has been launched by volunteers, to combat an illiteracy rate around 50%.

Recognising that health is a human right, the Maoists plan to significantly develop the healthcare system from its current decrepit state — especially in poor rural areas.

Suresh Kumar Ale Maga, a UNCP-M member of parliament, told Green Left Weekly that, for the Maoists, a New Nepal meant “a Nepal on the way to socialism”.

Following its victory in the by-elections on this program, the UCPN-M has pressed ahead with plans to restructure the state. The existing structures, inherited from the monarchy, have proved resistant to change.

This has sparked fierce resistance from the opposition, the foreign embassies and the army. This has put the ongoing peace process, as part of which the PLA agreed to end its armed struggle, in jeopardy.

Facing attacks from various sides, the Maoists have responded with ongoing, daily street demonstrations across the country.

The core issue is the need for control by the elected government over the state, with its entrenched bureaucracy.

There have been many controversies involving the army. In February, the army recruited several thousand soldiers against the orders of the government, the supreme court and the interim constitution — and in direct violation of the peace process.

The army again challenged the government when it reinstated eight generals on March 16 who where retired by the defence ministry.

Finally, the army staged a boycott of the recently held National Games when the PLA was allowed to compete.

The open disloyalty of the military towards the elected civilian government represents an obvious threat to democracy. For the ongoing security of Nepal, it is essential that the military be restructured and brought back under the control of the government.

The Nepali Army has changed only in name from the old Royal Nepali Army, which backed an anti-democratic coup to reinstate absolute royal rule in 2005.

The retirement of chief of army staff is an initial step in a process aiming to create the new democratic armed forces.

The key issue is the struggle to create new, democratic state structures.

The basis of the opposition to such moves is the question of power. People in positions of state power in Nepal, be it in the bureaucracy, judiciary or military, feel threatened by the process of change.

The political opposition unites those within the fabric of the old society seeking to prevent the creation of the new. Resistance to change in the military is part of the struggle of the rich and powerful. The elite views the military as its armed gang to insure against radical change.

However, recent Nepalese history has that the real power in society is not to be found at the top. Rather, it rests in the people.

There have been demonstrations every day by Maoist supporters calling for Katawal’s retirement. Combined with the by-election results, it puts beyond doubt the fact that popular sentiment is behind the government and supports change.

3 Responses to “Peterson: Showdown Intensifies Between Old Elite & a New Nepal”

  1. Chandra Raj Gurung said

    Dear editor,
    I can’t believe the Maoist’s new Nepal. We,Nepalese people are suffering from the lawlessness, theft,robbery and killing. A person does not feel safe to travel. Is this the symbols of new Nepal? Actually, Maoists are going to dertroy prestige and sovereighty of Nepal.They have no any ideas to build the nation. In the context of Nepal federalism with ethinics group will be the causes of desintrigate among the unity. The ethinic division of Nepal will create only ethnic leaders, not national leaders.

    We are Nepali brothers and sisters but the ethnic division will make us Bahuns, Chatri, Gurungs, Magar, Tharus, Newers, Limbus, Rai, Tamang and Madhsis etc, except Nepali.They are going to desintrigate the country unity.
    I request to the Maoist -Mr. Suresh Aale Magar, to think creatively for the development and prosperities of Nepal & Nepalese people in broad sense.
    Thank you.
    Chandra Raj Gurung

  2. Nepali said

    A lopsided view presented by Ben Peterson. I really doubt if he has travelled much part of Nepal. And even doubt on his integrity, being a journalist. His article is rather inclined towards the left-wing. Mr. Peterson has either deliberately tried to mask the real face of the Maoists, or failed to understand them. He has tried to show ‘theoritical plans’ that maoists have to develop Nepal. But, how are they trying to transform Nepal? By intimidating people to vote for them or face the consequences? By killing the journalists, attacking on the media house? Every other day, these maoists are involved in something – killing opposition party’s cadre or by beating them really bad; trying to meddle with the religion; looking to capture the whole state by demoralizing the national saviour, Nepali Army. These are only few examples. Had Maoists been that interested in developing country, they would have resumed the writing of constitution rather than falling in controversies, one after another; would have tried to implement their development programs. Budget Speech, which the Maoist’s FM presented, which had shown day-dream to ordinary Nepalese, is nothing but a total failure. The govt. is unable to commence the projects, which they have envisoned, while the resources were there, granted. People are fearing to invest on market. The future is uncertain. I’d like to ask Mr. Peterson if he has even encountered any of this problem. Is this a New Nepal that all the Nepalese had wished for? I wish Mr. Peterson had written rather an unbiased article about Nepal.

  3. To my dearest detractors.

    Some would say that this is a lopsided view. And many would say that my “journalistic integrity” is compromised. I confess these things openly. But i only say this because if to have “journalistic integrity” means i need to echo the lies and propaganda that is printed every day in the medias mainstream then i want no part of it. I set out to find and tell the stories of the real Nepalis, the Nepalis who live in poverty, the Nepalis who are discriminated against just because of their sex, caste, nationality or profession. I pledge now to always be lopsided- i will always carry a bias- but the bias i carry will always be towards the toiling people of the World, and to give those without a voice a chance to tell their stories- the real stories of Nepal.

    I have traveled widely in Nepal, I have been to Rolpa, Chitwan, Sindhapulchowk, Dang and of course Kathmandu. I have talked to people of all walks of life, from farmers, to workers, politicians and the unemployed. Men and women, Dalits, Cheteris and Bramins. I have seen the real Nepal. The real Nepal is one that is starving for change. That is why they SUPPORT the Maoists. Not because of intimidation, but because the Maoists, and only the Maoists, have gone to the people with a dream, a vision and a plan for creating a Nepal that is free from exploitation and poverty.

    I have looked- but could not find- the people in fear of the Maoists cadre. I have looked for but have not found the intimidation that is daily described in the Media. What i have found, without even having to look are simple people that are willing to fight for a better life. I found people increasingly angry because the old elite and the political opposition delay and derail every single attempt by the government to bring relief to the people. I have found the people who have been beaten, raped and had their families killed by the (royal) Nepal Army. (which was described as the “National Savior” above)

    This is the real Nepal. The real Nepal will not be found in the pages of the Himalayan times. The Real Nepal will not be found in the tourist quarter or the cocktail circuits of Kathmandu. The real Nepal is a elegant beast that has been shackled into a system that everyday exploits, brutalizes and violates it even more. The Nepali people have had enough of this and now refuse to take it any more. The chains that restrict them are bucking under the strain of an entire people rising for something better.

    To those who cant see this, especially those from within the proud people of Nepal, i can only beg of you to open your eyes. You need only look as far as the women who will now look you in the eye, the dalits who can now be active in their communities and the workers with a new sense of pride in what they do, to see that the New Nepal- which is being built despite all the opposition tries to do- can be something more beautiful than we could possibly imagine.

    Thank you- and for your own sake- wake up to the reality you are living in.
    Ben Peterson

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