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Nepal: A people in transition

Gautam Navlakha and Anand Swaroop Varma

(Original: Economic & Political Weekly, August 12 2006)

Damn them, praise them, hate them or love them, the Maoists in Nepal are here to stay. The April 28 transfer of power to the Seven Party Alliance seems only the first act in the real life drama unfolding in Nepal; there are many more to follow.

Crossing into Nepal from the border town of Jayanagar (Bihar) to Siraha in June brought us in touch with new facts on the ground. We were greeted by a red arch of the communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) announcing the public meeting at Rajbiraj. There were many more all along the way as we travelled from Siraha to Rajbiraj, a distance of about 200 kms, on the Mahendra highway. We gave up counting after 27.

Rajbiraj is an industrial town in the Terai, also called Madhesh. It was considered an area where the Maoists were said to be relatively weak. Its peasantry has suffered feudal exaction, neglect by the government and nearly a quarter of their population denied citizenship rights. In this part of Madhesh, Maithili is commonly spoken. When we reached the town at around 10.30 am, it seemed as though it had been taken over by the Maoists. Posters, flags and arches were everywhere. Buses were making their way to the “rangshala” ground where the meeting was to be held. Maoists volunteers could be seen at street corners. By the time the meeting began at 1 pm, the ground was chock-a-block, with people perched on the stands and the walls of government bungalows that are on one side of the rangshala. Estimates of the crowd varied between 80,000 and 1,00,000, mostly from the surrounding villages. This was remarkable because neither the posters nor the other announcements had claimed the attendance of the top leaders. Only three members of the Maoist negotiating team and 13 central committee (CC) members were authorised by the CPN (Maoist) to address public meetings. The other leaders, CC as well as regional committee heads, remained engaged in party work. Thus, those who came, even out of curiosity, were there to listen to what the Maoist leaders had to say about their politics rather than to gawk at the top leaders. The meeting was telecast live by Kantipur TV. In addition, loudspeakers had been put up throughout the town to enable others to hear the speeches.

Mass Line in Action

Management and security at the meeting were provided by unarmed People’s Liberation Army (PLA) personnel and activists of the Madhesh Rashtriya Mukti Morcha (MRMM). The police and the Nepali army remained out of sight. This is how meetings are being organised by Maoists throughout Nepal including the one in Kathmandu on June 2, which drew, even opponents admit, six to seven lakh people.
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September 20, 2006 - Posted by | articles

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