Revolutionary Women in People’s War In Nepal
Posted by hetty7 on March 10, 2011
The following are excerpts from Hsila Yami (Comrade Parvati’s) 2003 essay The Question of Women’s Leadership in People’s War in Nepal. This appeared originally in The Worker #8.
The SAREV site is reproducing these excerpts for International Women’s Day, March 8, 2011.
The Question of Women’s Leadership in People’s War in Nepal
by Comrade Parvati
People’ War (PW) in Nepal. which was initiated in February 1996 under the leadership of the CPN (Maoist) has been developing in leaps and bounds. The fire of revolution, which initially sparked a few districts in Western Nepal, has swept all over the country. According to the Government’s own account, out of 75 districts in Nepal, PW has affected 73 districts. All these gains would not have been possible without the mobilization of the masses that are the backbone of the PW in Nepal.
The mobilization of women in particular is apparent in PW in Nepal. Consider their daring feats. They were the first to break the tense silence throughout Nepal caused by the first historic strike that marked the initiation of PW in Nepal on 13 February 1996. On the occasion of March 8th 1996 the All Nepalese Women’s Association (Revolutionary) (ANWA (R) dared to organize a seminar (amidst strong speculation that they would all be arrested) and to voice the need for overall revolution to solve women’s oppression.
It was after that bold step that other mass organizations started giving their own programmes. Dalit (lowest casted) women in Kalikot district in western Nepal were the first to snatch rifles from reactionary armed forces and hand them over to the local Party, thus accelerating PW in that district. The first daring historical jailbreak from the heavily fortified Gorkha district jail in March 2001 by six Maoist women is one of the rarest events, perhaps even in world history.
Until the clamp down of emergency rule in November 2001, of all the mass organizations the women’s organization was the most active and in the forefront of the movement. The successful antiliquor drive, which rocked the whole country in October 2001, in fact forced the government to negotiate with ANWA (R). Consider another feat; even before men in the party started renouncing their parental properties to the Party, women of Rolpa started forsaking voluntarily their personal jewelry (the main form of women’s property – ed.) to the local Party.
After the promulgation of the Emergency , more and more women have been raped, killed, incarcerated and disappeared. Despite all this there is a growing participation of women in PW in Nepal.
There are now objective grounds for developing women’s leadership on all fronts. Realizing this, CPN (Maoist) has created a separate women’s department under the Central Committee of the Party. The function of this department is to make policies to develop women’s potentialities to higher levels so that more and more women are able to reach policy making bodies in all the three fronts: Party, Army and United Front.
Manifestation of patriarchal values in communist party.
Since the feminist movement is the product of the bourgeois revolution, quite often communist parties tend to become hypersensitive to women’s issues. As a result they fall prey to patriarichal values even while agreeing in theory to women’s liberation. This is manifested in many ways. For example instead of taking women as reliable long- term equal partners in the communist movement it takes women’s role as supportive. As a result the Party is often found overemphasizing the class struggle at the cost of gender exploitation, forgetting the dialectical relationship between the two. There have been cases of delaying the formation of separate women’s organization or even temporarily dismissing existing women’s organization within communist parties. In parties where separate women’s organization exists, there are cases where the women’s mass front is not given the required degree of freedom so as to make their own plans and programmes, thus robbing them of initiative and creative power. This ultimately breeds alienation and tailism in the Party. This can also take place by not coordinating the women’s programme with the party programme and as a result the party propgrmme gets priority over the women’s programme.
Conservatism in the party can also be seen through relegating women cadres to only women related work, thereby robbing them of the chance to develop in party policy matters and other fields.
In the practical front, this leads to spontaneity whereby women’s issues are addressed but not implemented because one leaves it to circumstances, leading to gradualism. Often it is seen that the party does not actively intervene in the existing traditional division of labor between men and women whereby men take to mental work while women are left to do physical labor. This is also manifested in taking men and women as absolute equals by not being sensitive to women’s special condition and their special needs. This becomes all the more apparent when women are menstruating or are in the reproductive period.
Some experiences of women’s leadership in Nepal
Realizing the importancve of revolutionary women and their role in the communist movement, CPN (Maoist) has come forward with some encouraging results. Today there are several women in the Central Committee of the Party. There are dozens of women at the regional levels and hundreds in the district levels, and several thousands in the area and cell levels of the party. In the People’s Liberation Army there are many women commanders, vice commanders in different sections within the brigade., platoons, squads and militia.
There are separate women’s sections in the brigade; women platoons, women squad teams, women militia teams functioning in the field. In the United Revolutionary People’s Council, which is an embryonic central people’s government organizing committee, there are four women out of 37 members. Women’s participation in all levels of People’s Councils has been made mandatory.
Just to give some idea about their participation in different fields, let us take the Western region of Nepal. This region alone has 1500 women’s units. The total number of women membership in the women’s mass organization is six hundred thousand. In the military field there are ten women section commanders in the main force, two women platoon commanders in the secondary force and several militia commanders in the basic force. The team commander of the health section of the battalion force is a woman.
The women there have started a campaign called “One village, one unit, one house, one friend.” This has helped in politicizing village after villlage. Similarly in the field of production, there is a campaign called “Where there is contact, there is organization; where there is organization there is production.” Hence women are also involved in production activities. They are actively involved in conducting people’s courts where informers, drunkards, gamblers, womanizers and cheaters are punished. In such trials usually local women militias are actively involved together with the villagers. Hence one can say the objective basis for producing women leaders in various fields are ripening in western region.
Today more and more women are encouraged to rebel against their oppressive marriages, and politically incorrect marriages. Take the case of Com Shilpa, who was first a commander in a guerilla squad and later a sub-regional committee member of the party and vice-chairman of a district level people’s committee.
She had a heroic death while laying in ambush against the reactionary forces in May 2002. She dared to denounce and divorce her husband who had reneged against the revolution after being captured. There is an increasing trend of widow remarriages (condemned by orthodox Hindu tradition,ed.) .
The definition of the family of the family of martyrs has now been extended to those wives of martyred comrades who have remarried without forsaking the revolutionary cause. This has indirectly helped widows of martyred men to remarry, without feeling guilt.
Take the example of Com. Chilu, the commander of the historic women jail breakers in Gorkha in March 2001. She has remarried another comrade after losing her husband Bhim Sen Pokharel who got martyred while giving protection to Com. Basu, the first martyred politburo of CPN (Maoist).
There have been cases of husbands and wives being given challenging works. It is worth mentioning that Com. Phul Maya BK, who was a section commander of a battalion in the historic Dang Barrack attack on November 23,2001, was martyred with her husband Com. Bijok in the same battle. Also it is worth mentioning that the political commissar for the Satbaria barrack attack in Dang in April 2002 was a woman. In the course of promulgation of the Emergency and military mobilization many husbands, wives and sons and daughters have been martyred; this also indicates the level of politicalization of the family in Nepal.
For the communist movement to flourish it is not enough to produce individual outstanding women communist leaders such as Ross Luxemburg or Clara Zetkin, but also equally important to produce women communist companians like Krupskaya and Chiang Ching, who were leaders in their own field, who stood by their husbands who were leaders of the communist movement. They were not only providing their husbands with comfort and companionship but were also actively engaged in two-line struggle in the party.
We also need women like Jenny Marx who stood by her husband like a rock in the hours of political and personal turmoil , and helped him in whatever capacity she had. For in order to preserve the gains of the revolution and its continuous advancement, we need to not only produce revolutionary women leaders but also equally it is important to sustain and preserve revolutionary communist men leaders. Let us not forget that it was also revolutionary men like Karl Marx, Engels, August Bebel, Lenin, Mao etc., who provided deep analysis of women’s oppression and have shown the path of women’s emancipation.
Lastly it is important to note Mao’s remark “keep being dissatisfied, the world belongs to the dissatisfied.” This is all the more true for women revolutionary leaders who have to tread a longer and more complex path of class struggle, inner-party struggle and inner-struggle.
Com.Parvati is Central Committee Member and Head of Women’s Department of CPN (Maoist).