Revolution in South Asia

An Internationalist Info Project

Nepal: Interview with Young Communist Leader

Posted by n3wday on June 15, 2009


This article was published in MRZine, and is also available on Ben Peterson’s blog.

Interview with Manushi Bhattarai, Nepali Student Leader

by Ben Peterson

Below is an interview with Manushi Bhattarai.  She is part of the Maoist Ticket that swept the student elections at Tribhuvan University — Nepal’s largest.  She discusses the revolution, recent political developments, the international situation, and the role of youth.

The elections took place in March 2009.  At the Kirtipur Campus of Tribhuvan University (Nepal’s foremost), the Maoist-affiliated All Nepal National Independent Students´ Union-Revolutionary (ANNISU-R) won the presidency of the student union, and 13 of 15 members of the student council.  Manushi had the highest vote of all the winning candidates.

Manushi Yami Bhattarai is also the daughter of Baburam Bhattarai and Hisila Yami (“Comrade Parvati”), leading figures of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist).

Ben Peterson: Thanks a lot for meeting with me.  The All Nepal National Independent StudentUunion (Revolutionary) (ANNISU(R)) won the student elections at Tribhuvan University.  What did the campaign involve, and what are some of your policies as a revolutionary student union?

Manushi Bhattarai: The student union elections were a very historically important process for our organization and for the Maoist party.

There have been student elections for many years, but for some time the revolutionary student movement has not been able or allowed to participate.  We were banned.  Also we did not look at these elections simply from the point of view as elections to the student representative bodies but as part of the whole ongoing political process in Nepal.

So in those terms, we had a real breakthrough.  We were not contesting for the offices as such, but linking the student struggles to the political process.  While we were campaigning we always had this in mind.  We campaigned around the issues on this campaign, but also around the entire education system across the country.  And in these terms it all came back to the political issues that our party has been addressing for many years now.

That was how we campaigned, and I think we were successful in spreading our message to the other students.  We were coming back into open student politics after a long time.  We were new faces, with a new agenda.

People knew about our commitment and the gains our party has been able to make during the People’s War.  People can actually see the gains. We are the Republic of Nepal.

BP: So the revolutionary students were very clear about putting the elections in the context of the wider political context, the revolution.

Can you elaborate a little bit on this political process and the role of students within it?

MB: As you know, the People’s War was initiated in 1996 and since its beginning students were at the forefront of the revolutionary process.  Many thousands of students have sacrificed their education and their lives.

They left their homes, their families to participate in the revolution.  In those terms, whether it was with the People’s Army or in our party organization, students have been playing key roles in all fields.  In terms of the student organization it has been in an interesting position.

In the schools we were able to maintain our own committees and continued our organizational work.  We took up agendas and fought for them, and on certain campuses we have been very successful.  We especially try to work on the public institutions.  In Nepal there is unequal education.  Public institutions are in very bad condition, but this is where poor people, people from rural areas, or people from marginalized groups must go to study.  These areas are where our student organization is focusing.  At a national level, we have been addressing how we should move towards ending the privatization of education and empowering the public institutions.  This is all linked up with the social economic reality of Nepal, and pulling Nepal away from feudalism.  Uprooting the old system.

BP: In recent days the Maoist-led government has been basically overthrown by the unconstitutional actions of the President, and a new government has been formed by Madhav Kumar Nepal from the UML.  Has this disrupted the political process and your plans for education?

MB: Of course!  This is disrupting everything. It needs to also be analyzed in the context of the political processes.

The coming of Madhav Kumar Nepal, the people now understand this government exists as a puppet government only, backed by certain forces which do not want the Maoists to be successful in implementing revolutionary programs and policies.  Since this is a puppet government, it is aimed at pushing back the Maoists, what they have achieved, and trying to get them to go back to the people’s war in Nepal.

There are those that would like Nepal to become like another Sri Lanka.  It is all simply against our agenda, it is against making public institutions a better place, against having an equal education for all, in a way that people from all regions of Nepal can have a primary and secondary education in their own language, as they want and according to their own priorities and the necessities of Nepal, not in a way that is determined by and dependant on private institutions.

So eventually, a person like Madhav Kumar Nepal — or any other person, it’s not about a new person becoming Prime Minister — but anyone who comes to power in this way is bound to backtrack on our revolutionary policies.  In the education sector it will mean re-empowering the private sector.  The Maoist government had started to gain some control over the private education sector, through a new tax policy.  The new government will backtrack on this.

BP: The new government is made up of 22 parties and doesn’t have the support of the party that won the elections — how long can it last?

MB: There is no basis for this government to exist for any significant time.  The way it has been formed is without any coherent agenda or program or common ground.  For a government to be formed it should have some sort of common political ideal that is binding.  For these parties it is like some invisible hand is holding them together.  How long it will last, I don’t know.

In the Constituent Assembly, when Koirala (of the Nepali Congress) proposed M.K Nepal as the Prime Minister, you could clearly see problems already.  All the parties came forward to support the new government, but all of them had ifs, buts, and maybes.  All the parties came forward with their own baggage and agenda, which can be very different from what the UML stands for.  So it is like some invisible hand is holding them together and it can’t last long.

There is no common agenda, policy, ideology — except for the one reason, which seems to be to “teach the Maoists a lesson.”  Time will tell how this all pans out.

BP: So now there is this contradiction between the direction of the government and the aspirations of the people, as we saw in the Peoples War, the Jana Andolan, and in the election results.  How will this struggle between the revolution and the status quo be played out?

MB: The whole thing is about contradictions, that’s what justifies us, our party.  That’s why we waged the People’s War, and we have not abandoned the People’s War.  There is a continuation of the same process and struggle we started more than 12 years ago with the People’s War.  We have made some achievements, and we need to sustain those.  We need to always keep in mind the international situation, the national situation, we need Marxism Leninism Maoism and need to be thinking about what that means in the 21st-century world.  We need to keep all this in mind and we are faced with what is definitely a very challenging situation.  We have all these radical agendas, and that’s how we have been able to mobilize so many people, the whole country and now we have to do so once again.  We have worked with forces that are status quoist, that still have an attachment to feudalism, still have a tendency to look to expansionists and imperialists.  This was to do away with the monarchy in Nepal and make Nepal a Democratic Republic.  That was what the process was about.

Now Nepal is a republic, and this is a big thing.  Sometimes people forget that Nepal is now a republic and minimize the significance of it, but this is a big achievement, keeping in mind the history of Nepal.  Having said that, now we must move ahead.  Just because the monarchy is gone doesn’t mean feudal elements have all been uprooted.  That is the situation right now.  We have removed the monarchy, and to do that we had some kind of alliance with what are status quo forces, so I guess now there is a huge challenge for out party.  Now what?  Where do we go from here?  For us it is still a fight to establish a Democratic Republic for establishing a socialist system in Nepal.

We have to be oriented towards socialism, our party has said very clearly that we are oriented to socialism.

For this we have waged the whole struggle for the sovereignty of the people of Nepal.  The army issue was never about one general Katawal, it was all about the sovereignty of Nepal.

For Nepal, right now, the challenge is to internally fight with the status quo forces and externally fight against expansionist and imperialist forces.  As I said, there are many fronts, there are many challenges, but challenges always come with possibilities.  So we are confident.  We have had many fronts, the People’s War was one front we fought on, this is just another.

BP: You mentioned the international situation.  It is a very difficult situation for revolution, there is no more USSR. And China has well and truly abandoned the revolution.  So what do you make of the international situation, and in particular, are you looking to Latin America, where there are revolutions also happening?

MB: Our party, as far as I know, has some links with the parties and people there.  Personally I have been following these situations like in Venezuela and Cuba.

I would certainly like my party to have more serious links with Latin America.  I think our party hasn’t had as close links as we should have, but this is largely because there are so many differences between our situations.  There are certainly similarities, in terms of our goals and our ideals and we are all waging an anti-imperialist struggle, but we are in a very specific situation.

The geopolitics of Nepal is very specific and different from Latin America.

Having deep links with Latin American revolutionaries is a longer-term goal.  We should have those links, ideologically.  We should be having a discussion and learning from what they have been able to do, their policies and programs, but at a diplomatic level having strong links with Latin America doesn’t make much sense because of our geopolitical situation.  We are landlocked between India and China.

Diplomatic links are important, maybe in the longer term, but the policies, programs, and leadership of Latin American revolutions we have a lot we can learn from.

BP: In Nepal the youth are playing a very big role in the revolution, but at least within Kathmandu there are also many Westernized youth who look more towards Europe, the US, and India for their culture, and then also politics.  Is there a cultural clash between Westernized youths in urban areas and revolutionary youth?

MB: I wouldn’t say there is a culture clash, but as you say there is a community of upper-class pro-Western kids.  I think it’s not their fault — it’s nobody’s fault really, its just where they come from.  They are more likely to look to the USA, the UK, or India for their education.  It all really starts with education and then becomes cultural, so I think it’s more of an issue of class background.

There isn’t so much a cultural clash as a clash of class interests.  This is bound to happen as they tend to look to the West, and we the Maoists look to ourselves and the lower classes.  At some level there is bound to be a clash because they are in favor of more privatization of schools and institutions whereas we stand against that and for the betterment of public institutions.  But I don’t think . . . I think we are quite capable of talking to these youth and at least getting them to listen to our agenda.  There are some Westernized youth on this campus, and these people really just want stability and peace.  They have everything else, money, cars.  They have no problems, except for peace and stability.  So if the Maoists can give them that, then for the time being there won’t be such clashes.  These youth are basically the product of the whole system, and we should try to avoid antagonism among our generation at this time given the political situation.

BP: There are a lot of Nepalis who go internationally for education.  Does the student union have international organizations and try and organize Nepali students abroad?

MB: Our student union does have an international department which looks into this aspect and establishes links with Nepali Students studying abroad.  We believe it is not the fault of the students who leave, they just want a good education in a good environment and we know our country right now is not able to give that.  Keeping that in mind and being practical we look to make links with these students so we can encourage them to come back and use their expertise to develop the country.

BP: Are you optimistic about the future of Nepal?

MB: Definitely!  Otherwise I wouldn’t be where I am right now!

3 Responses to “Nepal: Interview with Young Communist Leader”

  1. Dirgha Raj Prasai said

    1. Dear Ms. Manushi Bhattarai !
    Congratulation for your winning in TU student election. I know, you are in favour of ‘Democracy & socialism.’ It is useful for Nepal. But, who are interested to do so? The communists are all devided in 15th parts. They are all confused. You know-The most unfortunate fact is that majority of our political leaders (Maoists, Congress, UML)are Indian agents. It is worthless to expect from these leaders to save our nationality and independence. Unless traitors and corrupt leaders dominating in the big parties are chased away, democracy and nationalism will not be secured.
    Nepalese cannot remain safe and protected by displacing monarchy that has remained the protector of the people and the main stem of Nepalese sovereignty. Former prime minister (1959-60) B.P Koirala, (founder of Nepali-Congress democratic party) after his return from exile in 1977 had said-’Monarchy was needed, not just to the Nepali Congress but to all, those who want this country safe and protected. He did not mean the ruler should be cruel. Everyone should be united and this was his policy of reconciliation’ But Girija, (former PM) BP’s own brother is breaking up the country by advocating republic. B.P. used to say that it was anti-national and treachery to incite and instigate the ethnic groups, Madhesis, Pahadis, Limbus, Rais and others to weaken the country. This was exactly what Girija has done. The country has fallen into danger because of the unholy alliance of the congress, UML and the Maoists. All the parties, the congress, UML, Maoists,Madeshi and RPP are besieged by opportunist leaders. The constitution assembly election was a grand design of India to destroy this country. It is a matter of joke that the deceitful CA and the 601 puppet members of CA do not do any good for Nepalese politics.

    From the very beginning I respect Dr.Baburam. But, now he is going to destroy his great personality. Why Dr. Baburam Bhattarai is following the sucidal path ?

    It is nothing but a paradox that they wanted to make a new constitution from the constituent assembly when they could have gained everything they wanted by amending the constitution of 1990. All sector of the country has become restive and chaotic after the Pandora’s box of constitution assembly was opened. Even after hundreds of people killed and hundreds of other injured and maimed and Terai befalling into flame of ethnic, sectarian and communal disturbances and physical infrastructure worth billions destroyed the Girija-led government did not want to take any responsibility. Those lost than a dozen Madhesis who are bent on splitting the Terai from the country are none other than agents of RAW, who have done nothing for the Terai. The nationalist people of Terai once should find and punish these Quislings.

    The formation of Nepal is a collective effort of its monarchs and the people. But, When B.P. Koirala was Prime minister (1959-61), the Indians started cheating Nepal taking advantage their friendship with him. King Mahendra would not have dared to take the step of 1961 if the country had not fallen into a deep crisis. 48 years ago, King Mahendra had sacrificed himself to save the country. After the King took over power in 1961 he started so many reforms like- He banned foreigners from buying land and property in Nepal, Indian soldiers that were positioned here on the pretext of protecting Nepal were removed with any condition, Nepalese currency were made compulsory in transaction instead of Indian currency, the construction of East-West Highway was started when before that Nepalese had to use Indian route to reach from one district of Nepal to another. When Hindi language was almost gobbled up, Nepalese language was restarted the official language and was made compulsory in curriculum. More than 50 industries were established. Land reform programme was implemented and the civil code outlawed all kinds of discriminations and untouchables. Why the Congress & Communists are forgetting the contributions of King Mahendra ? I think, they have no answer.
    King Mahendra saved Nepal(1961) from the clutches of India. King Mahendra and Congress leader B.P. Koirala have become history and we should be able to evaluate history without prejudices and biases. Now, King Mahendra’s partyless system and BP’s India-leaning policy have become obsolete. However, it is not mandatory we should be able to blend King Mahendra’s nationalism and BP’s democratic socialism to strengthen parliamentary democracy. If the Maoists really want to save the country and make it prosperous, they must take a constructive path, reinstating the monarchy and work along with the king. The Nepalese are and fell protected only when there will be monarchy. The monarchy was pivotal in integrating Nepal, establishing democratic and just society at par with the modern world. So, the monarchy must be reinstated. There would be the acceptance and restoration of benevolent and people-oriented monarchy. Only this option will open the doors for political resolution in Nepal.
    Thank you.
    Dirgha Raj Prasai

  2. Balaram Basnet said

    Dear M. Bhattarai !
    You are very young. You have to study a lot. Your father has been coming and going with the Indian RAW. He is going to destroy the country’s identities. So, you can yourselfly decide the future of Nepal.
    1st of all, think, what kind of Nepal you want ? You can’t find the sovereign Nepal without the monarchy.
    If you want sovereign Nepal, you should also support the opinion of Mr. Dirgha Raj Prasai. He has written so many articles about the sovereighty and the identities of Nepal. Once,I was also republician, but, seeing the notorious activities of the party leaders I gave-up the opinion of republic. So, I request to all try to reinstate the monarchy for the security of Nepalese sovereignty.
    Thank you.
    Balaram Basnet.

  3. Ramananda Jha said

    Dear Mr. Dirgha Raj Prasai !
    I read the interview of Miss M. Bhattarai, daugther of Dr, Baburam Bhattarai as well as your comment. But why you wrote the comment ? You are a strong nationalist. Communists never support your creative suggetions and opinion. You know, Dr. Bhattarai is the agent of RAW. He is a destroctor not creater. He wants to destroy the identities & sovereignty of Nepal. I think, the antinationalist communists, the agents of RAW can’t success in their attempts. So, please, don’t pass your golden time for the culprits.
    Thank you.

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