Alarming New Development

Indian Army Intervenes Against the Nepal People's War

by Li Onesto

Revolutionary Worker #1273, April 3, 2005, posted at

On February 28, Nepal's Royal Army, backed up by the Indian army, inflicted serious losses on a contingent of the Western Division of the Maoist People's Liberation Army. This involvement of Indian soldiers in a major battle against Maoist guerrillas in Nepal represents a new and alarming development in the war.

On February 1, Nepal's King Gyanendra's declared a state of emergency, dissolved the parliament, sacked the prime minister and suspended many constitutional rights, including freedom of the press, speech and expression, peaceful assembly, the right to privacy, and the right against preventive detention. The Indian government officially denounced this move by the King and announced it was suspending military aid to the Nepalese government. But meanwhile, on the ground, it appears that India is not only still backing, but stepping up its support for and involvement in the RNA efforts to crush the Maoist insurgency.

The February 28 battle took place in Ganeshpur, in Nepal's Bardia district. The A World to Win News Service (AWTWNS) reported: "As the Maoist-led PLA ambushed a small Royal Nepal Army unit on a major highway, they found themselves surrounded by almost a thousand Royal Army soldiers and the Indian army's Border Security Force. Together these reactionaries encircled the PLA contingent, which numbered less than 200. In a battle that lasted about an hour and a half, despite being surrounded the PLA was able to resist the Indo-Nepali forces and `protect its organisation, planning and its leadership,' comrade Pravakar, the commander of the PLA Western Division said in a statement. The 32 fallen PLA fighters included comrade Jit, the Brigade Commander of the Satbaria Second Brigade of the Western Division, he said. The Royal Army seized about 28 weapons from the revolutionaries. More than two dozen RNA personnel were killed and many others wounded."

The statement by the commander of the PLA Western Division, issued on February 3, also said that the Indian Army's Border Security Force arrested seven Maoist fighters and took them back to India. The Indian government has arrested many Maoist revolutionaries in India and at the border. But this is the first time the Indian Army has seized Maoist guerrillas in a battle in Nepal.

According to the AWTWNS, the battle began after guerrillas of the People's Liberation Army spotted some Royal Nepal Army (RNA) soldiers in the Ganeshpur area near Nepalganj road, which runs between Nepalganj and Gularia. Gularia is about three miles from the Indian border and is headquarters of the Bardia District. The city of Nepalganj, about 25 miles to the west and only a couple of miles from the Indian border, is the headquarters of the Bake District and a business center for mid-western Nepal and northern India.

When the PLA saw an RNA unit west of Nepalganj, they did not know that a thousand RNA soldiers from the two nearby district headquarters had taken hidden positions around the area. And the Maoist forces also did not know that Indian Border Security Forces (BSF) were there to support the RNA. When the battle started at 4:15 in the afternoon, the hidden RNA soldiers tried to draw their trap tightly around the Maoist guerrillas, who fought until they broke out of the encirclement. Positional fighting lasted until 5:45.

Commander of the PLA Western Division Pravakar said in his statement, "We consider this incident very serious. The human and logistical losses have seriously affected the Western Division... Since all war advances through a series of gains and losses, our revolutionary war could not remain untouched by that... having given serious thought to our shortcomings in our analysis and synthesis of the comprehensive situation of that particular battle, we have to embrace the fact that we must advance through many sacrifices to turn the negative to positive. This incident has also indicated that the scale of war has developed to new heights."

King's Crimes and Censorship

Since his February 1 coup, King Gyanendra has instituted a sweeping clampdown. (See RW #1268, "Nepal: Two Futures, Two Roads" by Li Onesto.) In the first weeks thousands of people were jailed, and widespread arrests have continued with the detention of members of the parliamentary parties, trade unions, student groups, human rights activists and others.

Extreme and sweeping censorship measures and a machinery of disinformation have been instituted. As the king announced his seizure of power on the television, soldiers were being sent out to occupy newspaper offices to read over and censor news stories. Private radio stations were ordered to stop broadcasting news and opinions and air only entertainment programs. Some newspaper offices were raided to prevent their publication, and journalists have been detained.

A press directive from the king said: "Invoking Sub Clause 1 of Clause 15 of His Majesty's Print and Publications Act, and taking into consideration the nation and national interest, His Majesty's Government has banned for six months any interview, article, news, notice, view or personal opinion that goes against the letter and spirit of the Royal Proclamation on 1 Feb 2005 and that directly or indirectly supports destruction and terrorism. In line with the provisions of the Print and Publications Act, action will be taken against anyone violating this notice."

So the media in Nepal is forbidden to criticize the king and the RNA in any way—there can be no news or commentary "made directly or indirectly" about the security forces "that is likely to have negative impact on their morale." Violators are subject to arrest and the government is monitoring telephones, radio, fax and e-mail and other forms of electronic communication. A number of websites have been blocked so they cannot be viewed in Nepal, including: (the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), (Revolutionary Worker/Obrero Revolucionario)

Many news organizations in Nepal are self-censoring, not even mentioning current events. Some publications have run stories that do not immediately appear to be about what is going on, but upon closer read clearly contain hidden political commentary by analogy. Some publications have come out with articles full of blank white spaces— where paragraphs have been taken out by government censors.

All this has made it extremely hard to know what is going on, especially in the countryside where the RNA is stepping up its brutality against the people. Human rights organizations have already documented widespread human rights abuses by the king's army—the burning of villages, on-the-spot executions, rape and torture. In 2003 and 2004, the United Nations working group on disappearances said Nepal had the highest rate of disappearances in the world. Local human rights groups have documented that over the past five years, more than 1,200 people have vanished—most of these clearly at the hands of government forces.

Many news articles about the situation in Nepal have pointed out that the extreme censorship will make it easier for the king to carry out even more human rights abuses, as well as spread all kinds of disinformation aimed at propping up the RNA and vilifying the Maoists. After the battle in Bardia, the monarchy falsely claimed that they had killed 50 Maoists or more. Foreign news organizations repeated this—even though they have few, if any, ways to verify such reports. At the same time, official news reports of the battle have suppressed any news of the number of dead RNA soldiers and the fact that Indian soldiers were involved. The monarchy knows that such news of Indian troop involvement would arouse widespread anger and expose the king's capitulation to Indian domination and expansionism.

Last December, the Indian army invaded Nepal unofficially in the western part of Gularia, destroying houses and committing abuses against Nepali women. On another occasion, the Indian army arrested revolutionary cadres in Kanchanpur district, in far western Nepal.

Indian Domination and U.S. Concerns

There is a long history of Indian economic and political domination in Nepal, and India has long been the main supplier of military aid to the RNA. And since the Maoist People's War began in 1996, India has increasingly provided Nepal's army with weapons, surveillance and communications equipment, helicopters and training. The India Army has also trained Nepali soldiers in jungle and guerrilla warfare at India's Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School which is regarded as one of the best jungle warfare establishments in the world (even U.S. military personnel have trained here).

The military relationship between Nepal and India is very much stamped with Indian domination, and all this has intensified as India has become more worried that the Maoists in Nepal could actually seize power. Even with millions of dollars of military aid from the U.S., UK and India, the RNA has been unable to defeat the Maoists who now control and are running parallel governments in 80 percent of the countryside.

There are around 50,000 Nepali Gurkhas in the Indian Army today. Up until recent years this was more than the total number of soldiers in the RNA. Now, with the help of the U.S., UK and India, the RNA has increased its force to around 70,000.

Since the 1970s, the chiefs of the Indian and Nepalese armies are made honorary generals of each other's army— ensuring that India's army of over a million soldiers will dictate over the RNA. And until a few years ago, all RNA officer cadres used to be trained in India. Only recently Nepal's army set up its own military academy. But Nepal officers and other ranks still undergo training in various defense institutes of India. And in fact, Nepal army personnel constitute the largest number of foreign soldiers training in India.

The Indian government has also played a big role in hunting down, arresting and extraditing Nepalese Maoists who are in India. Maoist guerrillas from Nepal who were being treated in Indian hospitals have been arrested. And a number of top leaders of the CPN (Maoist) have been picked up and imprisoned by Indian authorities.

The Afterword of Dispatches from the People's War in Nepal discusses the freedom and necessity of India to intervene in Nepal and the geo-strategic dynamics brought about by the growing Maoist insurgency:

"As part of the U.S. quest for world domination, the `war on terrorism' serves as an all-purpose umbrella under which numerous interventions are being justified. The political and ideological program of the Maoists in Nepal clearly has nothing in common with the reactionary politics and religious fundamentalism of groups like al-Qaeda. But this hasn't stopped the U.S. from using the pretext of `combating terror' to justify military action against any and all insurgencies which threaten U.S. interests — including genuine revolutions aimed at overthrowing oppressive governments.

"The U.S., Britain, and other imperialist powers have provided the Nepalese regime with political and military support exactly because they know that a Maoist victory would reverberate throughout the Indian subcontinent and the world. This is a region of extreme instability where a Maoist `regime change' in Nepal could interact in unpredictable ways with the hostility between Pakistan and India, the conflict in Kashmir, relations between India and China, and other guerrilla insurgencies in the region, especially those in India.

"The often antagonistic relationship between India and China is certainly a factor in this developing scenario. Nepal is strategically situated between the Tibetan region of China and the northern border of India. Because of this, both of these major powers view Nepal as a kind of `buffer,' over which each has jockeyed for influence and power as a way of challenging and defending against the other.

"India would be seriously threatened by a government in Kathmandu run by Maoists (who have already stated that one of the key goals of their revolution is to end Indian domination). And the New Delhi government worries that China would try to take advantage of any kind of upheaval in Nepal to strengthen its hand against India and in the whole region."

All this has been intensified by King Gyanendra's extreme move on February 1. The Indian government has been in constant, daily contact with Washington DC and London. And when Condoleezza Rice recently visited India for state-to-state talks, Nepal was on the agenda.

On March 2, Donald Camp, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the South Asia Bureau of the Department of State, went before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee onInternational Relationsto defend the administration's decision to continue providing U.S. military assistance to Nepal on the grounds that the support is necessary to ensure the effectiveness of the security forces against the insurgency. Camp said, "Nepal confronts the real possibility that a brutal Maoist insurgency might seize power" and "The United States shares with other friends of Nepal—particularly India and the United Kingdom—the firm belief that the Maoist insurgency must be resisted and addressed." And the U.S. Ambassador to India, David Mulford, recently stated that the U.S. wants India to play a "leading role" in Nepal in the wake of recent developments.

All this underscores the significance and dangerous direction indicated by the recent involvement of Indian soldiers, joining the RNA in battle against the People's Liberation Army.



Dispatches from the People's War in Nepal

by Li Onesto

"This unique, intimate look into the People's War in Nepal provides invaluable background to the world's most vigorous Maoist movement, and insight into the theory and practice underlying contemporary Maoism elsewhere in South Asia and globally."

Gary Leupp, Professor of History at Tufts University and
Coordinator of the Asian Studies Program

"In her dispatches from the ongoing revolutionary war in Nepal, where she was the first, and longest-staying, foreign journalist to report from the Maoist-held areas, Li Onesto keeps up the committed, conscientious revolutionary journalism of John Reed, George Orwell, and Agnes Smedley. Probably the best, if not only, account of how the Maoists built their organization and movement, and of how they operate and govern."

Stephen Mikesell, author of
Class, State and Struggle in Nepal: Writings 1989-1995

"This lively, exciting and enlightening presentation of the true portrait of the Maoist insurgency in Nepal will help people to understand the real state of affairs behind the `People's War' waged by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) to liberate the Nepalese people from all kinds of exploitation and repression."

Padma Ratna Tuladhar, independent left leader, senior human rights leader and one of the facilitators in the peace talks between the Government of Nepal and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)


A Maoist revolution has been raging in Nepal since 1996. In 1999, Li Onesto became the first foreign journalist to travel deep into the guerrilla zones of this Himalayan country. Allowed unprecedented access, she interviewed political leaders, guerrilla fighters, villagers in areas under Maoist control, and relatives of those killed by government forces.

This book is the result of her journey. Illustrated with photographs, it provides an invaluable analysis of the social and economic conditions that have fuelled the revolution and profiles some of the key people involved.

Millions in Nepal now live in areas under guerrilla control. Peasants are running grass-roots institutions, exercising what they call "people's power." Li Onesto describes these transformations—the establishment of new governing committees and courts, the confiscation and re-division of land, new cultural and social practices, and the emergence of a new outlook.

Increasingly, the UK and us have directly intervened to provide political and military support to the counter- insurgency efforts of the Nepalese regime. Onesto analyzes this in the context of the broader international situation and the "war on terrorism."

Dispatches from the People's War in Nepal is available from:

Pluto Press
345 Archway Road, London N6 5AA

University of Michigan Press
839 Greene Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Insight Press, Inc.
4064 N. Lincoln Avenue, #264
Chicago, IL 60618

Dispatches is also available from and Revolution bookstores.
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