New Thunder in Nepal

Ceasefire Ends, New Fighting Begins

Revolutionary Worker #1212, September 14, 2003, posted at

A seven-month ceasefire in the People's War in Nepal has ended, and across the Himalayan countryside there is now intensifying fighting and tit-for-tat battles between the People's Liberation Army and government forces.

In a press statement issued on August 27, Prachanda, Chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), exposed the "cold-blooded killings of party members by the Royal Nepalese Army during the ceasefire period," and the government's refusal to seriously discuss the Maoists' main demands.

A ceasefire and negotiations started on January 29, 2003. By any objective standard, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) abided by the "spirit and letter" of the ceasefire and the code of conduct both sides had agreed to--while the royal government repeatedly broke that agreement. Government forces continued to arrest and murder Maoists, refused to honor its agreement to keep RNA soldiers within five kilometers of their barracks, declared it would never accept the end of the monarchy through a constituent assembly and the establishment of a republic, and demanded that the People's Liberation Army (PLA) hand over their guns.

Then on August 17, even as a third round of talks was taking place, the Royal Army murdered 19 Maoists in cold blood.

This crime took place in Doramba village, Ramechhap district in eastern Nepal, 75 miles east of Kathmandu. According to a press release by Amnesty International, 19 Maoists had been meeting in a house when security forces arrived on the scene and opened fire. One Maoist was shot dead and 18 others were taken into custody. The royal army then took the 18 to Dandakateri in Daduwa, some two hours walk away, where they were lined up and shot dead one by one. Among those killed was Baburam Lama, the chief of the district people's government (created by the new revolutionary people's power).

This blatant murder and violation of the ceasefire was a continuation of what the royal army and police had been doing all through the ceasefire. While the government pretended to negotiate in good faith, its army and police killed at least 50 people, arrested and disappeared hundreds, looted villages and gang- raped women.

Many people were killed in fake encounters and many activists, including leaders in the new revolutionary people's government, were arrested. The Maoists also reported that the royal army went into villages disguised as Maoists, asking people for shelter or other assistance--and then those who offered help were terrorized. RNA soldiers, disguised as Maoists, also looted villages and attacked peasants, trying to turn the people against the revolution.

In all these ways, the royal army not only continued to break the ceasefire--but was in fact, provoking and resuming war.

PLA Launches New Wave of Attacks

The day after Chairman Prachanda's August 27 statement, there was an ambush on a security patrol, attacks on two military commanders, and the seizure of four million rupees from a bank. Several other actions by revolutionary forces were also reported on this day--marking the beginning of a new wave of military actions against the royal army, police and reactionary institutions in different parts of the country.

It was not surprising that after the end of the ceasefire, one of the first major clashes between PLA and RNA soldiers took place in Rolpa, the heart of the People's War. According to news reports, fighting broke out when 200 Maoists attacked an army patrol. Fighting lasted for a couple of hours--then a second clash in the evening reportedly lasted several more hours.

Actions against the government were also taken in the cities. In Kathmandu, an RNA colonel was killed and another wounded.

In the week after the ceasefire ended, there were daily reports of fighting between guerrillas and government forces, attacks on police and army posts, bank robberies, seizures of arms and ammunition, and, in the city, strikes--which shut down shops and schools and brought traffic to a halt.

The Maoists have announced a general strike for September 18 to 20, and propaganda activities from August 28 to September 10, to be followed by a "people's mobilization" and people's actions (janakarbahi). The nationwide general strike has been called by the CPN (Maoist), the People's Liberation Army and the United People's Revolutionary Council, under the slogan "march forward on the path of struggle for complete change."

Crackdown and Moves Toward a New State of Emergency

In November 2001, after the 9/11 attacks in the U.S., the Nepalese government, headed by the Nepali Congress, quickly labelled the Maoists "terrorists," imposed a nationwide state of emergency and mobilized the royal army for the first time against the People's War. Over 5,000 people were killed in the following year alone, until the ceasefire was announced in late January 2003.

Now the royal government looks like it is moving toward a new state of emergency and another campaign of murder and brutality against the people. And the King and his army will have the backing of the U.S. and other foreign powers, like Britain and India, who have already given a lot of political and military support to try and defeat the Maoists.

The U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu issued a statement against the attacks on the royal army and other actions, saying, "terrorist acts like these are exactly what earned the Maoists a place on the U.S. Terrorist Watch List." As the A World to Win News Service points out, "These words, too, are revealing. If millions upon millions of peasants and others seeking emancipation from more than two centuries of grinding feudalism and imperialist exploitation and repression are labeled `terrorists,' then this is another indication that America's `war on terrorism' is a global offensive against the peoples of the world."

A dusk-to-dawn curfew has been declared in many parts of the country. In some areas security personnel have been issued shoot-on-sight orders against curfew violators. The government has banned all protest rallies in the Kathmandu Valley, designated "riot-prone areas," and banned gatherings of more than five people.

There is not much reliable news about what the royal army and police are doing in the countryside at this point. But in the cities, there is a huge crackdown on any and all forms of protest--including demon- strations by mainstream political parties that have been part of the government.

Part of the complexity of the political scene in Nepal is that throughout the ceasefire and negotiations, the main parliamentary parties have been locked out of the official government and have been organizing ongoing campaigns against the royal government.

In October 2002 (before the ceasefire), King Gyanendra dismissed the elected prime minister and replaced him with his own candidate. In May, street demonstrations forced the King to appoint another prime minister--also from the pro-monarchy party. A coalition of the five main political parties called for a boycott of the government and a campaign of protest against the King's unconstitutional move.

An information bulletin by the Internationalist Nepalese Solidarity Forum describes the situation, "The parliamentary parties [who are now protesting the King] were the partners of the murderer and criminal monarch in imposing the state of emergency, dissolving the parliament and providing higher authority to the monarch in a different manner. Now there is no constitution. There is no rule of law. There is no system of responsibility but anarchy and the royal military dictatorship. The King appoints the prime ministers and ministers in the style of the 15th and 16th century absolute monarchs..."

Hundreds of opposition activists have been arrested in Kathmandu, including senior leaders of the Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist Leninist). Both of these parties had been part of the government before the King dissolved the parliament and were instrumental in carrying out the vicious counterinsurgency campaign against the people during the 2001-2002 State of Emergency.

The police have also attacked the National Students' Union (NSU), the student wing of the Nepali Congress--rounding up more than 200 of them and taking them to unknown locations.

After the ceasefire ended, leaders of the Nepali Congress stated they didn't want to "put further pressure upon the government in terms of security management in the valley and want to act responsibly at the time of crisis." And the CPN(UML) softened its stance even more--Madhav Kumar Nepal, head of the CPN(UML), said, "Although we don't trust the king who repeatedly betrayed us in the past, I think we have to give him another chance and be responsive to the current deteriorating political situation."

The five-party coalition announced it would hold its demonstration not against the king but as a protest against the restrictions on public assembly. But this conciliatory stance didn't protect these opposition parties from being attacked. On September 4, when thousands protested, defying the government's ban on mass gatherings, they were attacked by the police.

When a reported 3,000 protesters converged at a major city junction from several different directions, the police arrested at least 1,000 people. The UML says 800 of its members were arrested, while the Nepali Congress said 700 of their people had been apprehended. Those arrested included the General Secretary of the Nepali Congress and a senior leader of the CPN(UML).

U.S. Intervention and Support for the King

As the People's War has advanced over the last few years, the U.S., Britain, India and other foreign powers have dramatically increased political and military support to the Nepalese government in its efforts to defeat the Maoists. Now that fierce and widespread fighting has resumed, these powers are even more concerned that the Maoists could seize power. They know that a Maoist victory in Nepal would have far-reaching and strategic repercussions throughout the South Asian region--and beyond.

The Maoists agreed to the ceasefire and negotiations from a position of real strength. Even under the brutal State of Emergency and a vicious "search and destroy" campaign by the RNA, the People's Liberation Army was able to wage huge battles--some involving thousands of guerrillas--and win battles against the RNA. The Maoists had set up new people's governments and extended areas of control beyond their strongholds in Rolpa and Rukum in the West. And even the mainstream press has had to admit that the guerrillas now control most of the countryside--and that the government only has power in the cities and district headquarters.

Within days after the ceasefire ended the U.S. and British moved to directly intervene in the situation.

On August 31, the U.S. and the British ambassadors went to the home of Nepali Congress leader Girija Prasad Koirala and asked him to unite with the monarchy and the government to fight the Maoists. The two ambassadors argued that the Maoist People's War is a bigger problem than the Royal intervention of October 4, 2002.

Kantipur reported, "The ambassadors asked the NC leader, his party, and the other parties waging a joint agitation, that going for a confrontation with the government now would only would strengthen the Maoists' hand... High-level Nepali Congress sources, requesting anonymity, said that Koirala asked the ambassadors to use their good offices to ensure restoration of the House of Representatives which could pave the way out of the crisis..."

The ambassadors reportedly said the King and Prime Minister would restore the democratic system-- but only after the Maoists have been dealt with. The ambassadors also visited the head of the CPN(UML) to deliver a similar message.

Throughout the seven-month ceasefire, the U.S. worked to defeat the People's War in Nepal. Right before the ceasefire started, the U.S. began joint military exercises with the Royal Nepalese Army--in the western region, in the heart of the People's War. While negotiations were going on, the U.S. continued to give military aid and training to the Royal Nepalese Army.

Even after the Nepalese government retracted the "terrorist" label on the Maoists--while negotiations were going on--the U.S. pointedly added the CPN(M) to its "terrorist watch list." In early August the U.S. increased its defence aid to Nepal from a couple of hundred thousand to $17 million--aimed at building the Royal Nepalese Army into a more effective counterrevolutionary force. The RNA received 5,000 M-16 rifles from the U.S. and a promise of 8,000 more. Development grants for projects termed "insurgency relevant" were increased from $24 million to $38 million. During this time the U.S. also forced Nepal to sign a five-year "anti-terrorist" agreement--in which the U.S. will provide arms and training to the counterinsurgency forces. And according to the World To Win News Service , 200 U.S. soldiers have been in Nepal serving as "advisors."


The People's War in Nepal has continued to advance and now with the end of the ceasefire, and the instability of the reactionary royal government, there is an even greater threat of further intervention by the U.S., Britain, and India.

Prachanda spoke to this danger in his August 27 statement where he said, "We specially request all `genuine peace-loving' international organizations and people to raise voices against the increasing foreign interference and dictatorship of the old feudal regime in Nepal."

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