Biplap: The people will have to struggle once again
Posted by Alastair on November 7, 2011
“I’ve said it before, there’ve been many revolts in Nepal but none have been managed properly. We were hoping that this time would be different… The people will have to struggle once again for their rights.”
From the Kathmandu Post [Intro by Ekantipur writers]
Although the recent seven-point agreement has been hailed as a breakthrough in the peace process almost universally, Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai and Maoist party Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal face trenchant criticism from the hardliner camp within the party for an alleged “surrendering” of the Maoist combatants. In this context, Maoist Standing Committee member Netra Bikram Chand ‘Biplab’ spoke with Gyanu Adhikari about his reservations on the agreement. A second-generation ideologue known for spending most of his time with party activists, and preferring a humble lifestyle to a luxurious one, Chand is considered a pillar of the Baidya camp in the Maoist party.
What are your reasons for your opposition to the recent seven-point agreement?
The seven-point agreement is against peace and people’s constitution. We saying this is not based on suspicion, guesswork, revenge or other whims against Baburam Bhattarai and Prachanda. Whatever proposals they’d put forward in the party — especially regarding farmers, land, industrial economy, youth, national sovereignty, rights of the indigenous people and formation of a national army after integrating the two armies — they’ve made a u-turn. Agreement that cannot accommodate people’s aspirations won’t lead to peace.
Since it’s not possible to keep two armies in the country for sustained peace, what alternative did you propose?
The fundamentals of the current integration are incorrect. We first said let’s give all of the 19,000 PLA soldiers an opportunity to join the Army. The party said we should make some sacrifices for compromise so we came to a figure around eight to ten thousand. After that we had three demands. First, there should be unit-wise integration, which means it’s done at the division, brigade or battalion levels. Second, integration should be done along with the arms — that the PLA wasn’t deprived of whatever weapons it had. Third, after unit-wise integration, we wanted the command system to be of the PLA.
But wouldn’t that have created two armies within the Army, one belonging to the Maoists and other to the existing Army?
We’d also said that a national security policy should be formed after the PLA was merged with the national army. The national army would stay under that security policy. But the present agreement does not even include a national security policy.
What would this national security policy include?
Many active laws of the Army date back to 2016 BS (1958 AD). They’re very old, and they’re based on the old forms of the state. Those should be changed. Also, what should be the scope of the Army? What should be the mandate of the Army? What should be system that it has to operate under? All of these things should be done on a new basis.
Are you saying that the current process will not lead to a national army?
Certainly not. We’ve called the current process surrender. The PLA will not have weapons or leadership position or stay within a distinct structure — it’ll be confined to digging roads, securing some homes and carry bags like porters.
So what kind of national army do you envision?
In Nepal, there have been three armed revolts against the state. NC formed its own army. Former Marxist-Lennists (CPN-ML) gathered a fighting force, and then we have the PLA. Other than this, Prithvi Narayan Shah formed an army during Nepal’s expansion or unification—whatever you call it. Till this day, the existing Army structure, policy and programmes were the conception of that time. Congress tried to change that but it couldn’t. It dissolved its own army. CPN-ML became CPN-UML. And then there’s us. What Nepal needs is a national army and national security policy that evaluates these processes of history as well as the world system.
Last week, Minendra Rijal said the integrated soldier’s role is only a temporary arrangement. Once a new constitution is made, roles can broaden and change. What do you say to that?
I think it’s very clever, but it’s an illusion. It can confuse the people and also make the Maoists feel good. But that’s not an honest answer.
Because as soon as you raise the question of integration, you have to focus on the Army. Postponing serious issues does not help. The time to solve them is now. In any case, whatever’s been happening shows what kind of constitution is going to be made.
However the integration happens, can’t the constitution-writing process yield another solution that’s closer to your vision? Why not raise the debate in the Constituent Assembly?
Yes, then why become frantic to integrate the armies? Let’s give work to all 19,000 PLA soldiers. Why can’t we do that? The PLA has been doing nothing for the last five years. It could’ve been utilised for development. People’s attention at the moment is how to empty the cantonments. They think there won’t be peace otherwise, but that’s not the reality.
But wasn’t emptying the cantonments necessary to move the constitution-writing process forward, as Nepali Congress and CPN-UML have demanded?
Well, the basis of the constitution is the PLA. If there was no PLA, there’d be no Constituent Assembly. Without the efforts and struggle of this scale, the basis for new constitution wouldn’t have existed. The force that created the basis for new constitution, how can that same force be an obstacle to the constitution? This is unthinkable.
On a different topic, will the ideological differences in the Maoist party lead to a split? What’ll be the conclusion?
The path chosen by comrade Prachanda and Baburam does not honestly implement party policy and decisions. Their path is outside of the party policy. If they don’t correct their mistakes, we cannot accept their ways. They’ve taken a u-turn from Maoists values regarding the state, stepped back from constitutional values, commitment to farmers and national sovereignty. Without a course correction, I don’t see them fulfilling Maoist’s goals and objectives, and the possibility of them not leading our movement becomes strong.
Where do you think Bhattarai and Dahal deviated?
Our policy was people’s republic. They’ve accepted democratic republic and parliamentary system. They did this in the four-point agreement with the Madhesi Morcha. Our friends in Congress have made it clear that democratic republic means a parliamentary system and that’s true. Also, what kind of constitution do we make? Is it going to be people’s constitution or the usual one tweaked here and there? They didn’t want to work for a people’s constitution. They’ve told our cadres clearly that a revolution is not possible.
You’re talking as if the constitution is already made.
The different agreements that have been made so far, they already give a picture of the constitution.
Based on your roadmap, how do you see peace process moving forward?
I’ve said it before, there’ve been many revolts in Nepal but none have been managed properly. We were hoping that this time would be different. But because of the immature and short-sighted leadership of Congress and UML, and the deviation of Prachanda and Baburam, this time will be no different. The people will have to struggle once again for their rights.