Nepal: Rulers Malfunction, Guerrillas Advance

Revolutionary Worker #1177, December 1, 2002, posted at

Rolpa and Kathmandu . They have come to symbolize two centers of increasingly contending powers in Nepal.

In the capital city of Kathmandu, the country's ruling class twists and turns in the throes of a deepening political crisis--divided and fighting with itself over how to stop a Maoist insurgency that has been going on for almost seven years.

In the Western district of Rolpa, the heart of the Maoist People's War, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) is building base areas--military and political strongholds where millions of poor peasants are exercising a new revolutionary people's power. The insurgency, which started in 1996, has reached just about every district in the country. And the People's Liberation Army is now able to launch military raids involving thousands of guerrillas.

In recent months, Nepal's central government in Kathmandu has deepened its near inability to maintain a functioning authority. Meanwhile the People's Liberation Army has continued to carry out successful military operations, displaying new levels of organization and skill.

Monarchy Moves

On October 4, Nepal's King Gyanendra moved to assert the power of the monarchy. He removed Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, assumed executive power, and dissolved the entire Council of Ministers. Deuba had already dissolved the House of Representatives, set elections for November 13, and then cancelled them to avoid escalating Maoist attacks. Now, the king postponed the elections indefinitely and appointed a new prime minister, Lokendra Bahadur Chand--from the Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP), known for its pro- monarchist stands.

Reportedly Gyanendra had, beforehand, briefed the U.S. ambassador about his plan to dismiss Deuba and seize power.

The king's action is unprecedented in recent decades. Only once has an elected Prime Minister been removed by a monarch in Nepal. In 1960 then Prime Minister Koirala was dismissed by King Mahendra, in what is today referred to as a "royal coup." That action ushered in three decades of corrupt and autocratic Panchayat rule--a one-party rule that was overthrown in April 1990 through a popular people's movement. A constitutional monarchy, with parliamentary elections, has ruled in Nepal since then--a setup in which the King has maintained significant power, especially over the Royal Nepalese Army.

The king's outrageous move has intensified in-fighting within Nepal's ruling class. The mainstream political parties are calling the king's actions unconstitutional and undemocratic. The two major bourgeois political parties, the Nepali Congress and the revisionist Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist- Leninist (CPN-UML) are worried about maintaining their own power within any new ruling body and have so far refused to approve the new government.

Nepal's ruling class has been fraught with in-fighting and splits over how to try and crush the popular and growing insurgency. And now months and years of instability have led to a situation where the government is almost completely dysfunctional. Earlier in the year, Deuba had been removed from his own party, the Nepali Congress, by a group led by former prime minister Koirala. Deuba had replaced Koirala through an internal political coup. And Koirala had become prime minister after replacing Bhattarai (also in the Nepali Congress) through yet another inner- party fight.

In November 2001, after a major successful military offensive by the Maoists, the king declared a State of Emergency and for the first time fully unleashed the Royal Nepalese Army against the People's War. This was the start of a vicious "search and destroy" campaign in the countryside and the suspension of all kinds of constitutional rights. In the past year, thousands of people have been murdered, raped, rounded up, arrested and tortured.

Guerrilla Raids
in Jumla and Gorkha

This past year the People's Liberation Army has carried out a number of offensives against the RNA--displaying a new level of military fighting against the Royal Nepalese Army.

On November 14, successful raids by the PLA stung the embattled Nepalese regime again.

The PLA raided the town of Khalanga, the regional headquarters of Jumla, and a highly fortified police station in the district of Gorkha. The military offensive by the PLA took place just one day after the success of a three-day general strike (bandh) called by the Maoists.

In Jumla, about 375 miles northwest of Kathmandu in the Western Region, over 40 police and government authorities were killed and many weapons and other war equipment were captured. Top civil administrators, a Chief District Officer along with two Deputy Superintendents of Police were killed.

Government military personnel reported that Khalanga came under attack by an estimated 4,000 Maoist guerrillas and that the fighting continued for eight hours.

A reporter for the Kathmandu Post , quoting security sources, said the rebels surrounded Khalanga and then launched simultaneous attacks at the security bases--an army barrack, Armed Police Force base, Regional Police Unit and District Police Office--from all sides. The rebels then set fire to the District Administration Office, District Police Office, Land Revenue Office, Jumla Airport Tower, a barrack of Armed Police Force, Regional Police Unit and local branch office of Rastriya Banijya Bank.

The PLA's successful assault on Khalanga was the fourth raid on a district headquarters.

In Gorkha, about 95 miles west of Kathmandu in the Middle Region of the country, at least 23 policemen were killed and 10 others were seriously injured. Two assistant sub-inspectors of police, three head constables, and 18 constables were killed the battle.

The attack on Gorkha is particularly significant since this is an area where the Royal Nepalese Army first implemented its (unsuccessful) Integrated Security and Development Program--a combination of counter-insurgency operations and so-called "development initiatives" aimed at undermining Maoist influence.

Threats and Challenges

The PLA is now at the level of fighting in brigades (of several hundred soldiers). The reactionary government has been driven out of and has virtually no presence in most of the countryside-- not only in Maoist strongholds in the Western Region but also in the Eastern and Middle Regions. Outside of Kathmandu, the RNA has control mainly over the district capitals and some parts of the Terai region along the southern border with India.

Ten million people now live in areas where red power dominates, out of a total population of 23 million.

The Nepalese government, widely known for its rampant corruption and nepotism, is politically isolated and the King's recent move, taking back even the small reforms that had been granted after the anti-monarchical movement of 1990, further exposed the reactionary nature of the government and has led to even more instability.

The parliamentary parties are fighting to see who can outmaneuver each other to control the oppressive reins of power. Meanwhile the continuing advances of the PLA have pushed the government to plea for international help. And the imperialist powers, worried about the threat of a Maoist victory in Nepal, have been quick to provide financial, political and military aid to the Nepalese regime.

The People's War in Nepal has now been made part of the "enemy" in the U.S. global "war on terrorism." And the U.S. has been actively involved in giving concrete aid to the reactionary Nepalese regime.

Just this past year: A team of U.S. military advisers toured Nepal with generals of the Royal Nepalese Army. President Bush sanctioned $20 million in economic and military assistance to Nepal to fight the Maoist insurgency. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell went to Nepal to meet the king, prime minister and top military leaders. Prime Minister Deuba went to Washington, DC to meet with Bush. The U.S. has set up an FBI spy agency in Delhi, India. And the U.S. administration has hinted at plans to put a military outpost in Nepal itself, asserting that "Nepal is a country of strategic importance."

USA ambassador in Kathmandu, Michael Mailinowski, has compared the Maoists in Nepal to al- Qaida terrorists and said, "Nepal is once again in the global terrorism map of the U.S."

The U.S. recently helped the RNA purchase a new STOL (short take off and landing) aircraft from a Poland-based aircraft manufacturer, and the U.S. Air Force was used to deliver the aircraft to Nepal. And it has just come out that when Deuba visited Bush, a deal was made to provide the RNA with thousands of U.S.-made M-16 rifles. 5,000 of these rifles were delivered in August.

Britain, meanwhile, is playing a big role to promote and justify international support for the counter- revolution in Nepal. Britain's Foreign Office Minister Mike O'Brien recently told reporters, "The Maoists will not be allowed to win here in Nepal; they cannot be allowed to win." O'Brien has said that the "Maoist terrorists" are the biggest threat to human rights and need to be defeated at any cost.

In June Britain hosted an international conference (attended by major imperialist powers, including the U.S.) to discuss international aid to help combat the Maoists in Nepal. O'Brien recently went to Kathmandu for a follow-up meeting to that conference and said Nepal would be getting military aid "in accordance with our view that terrorists must get the message that the international community will not allow them to take over Nepal."

India, which has long dominated Nepal economically and politically, has put large numbers of troops on its border with Nepal and has been hunting down, capturing and arresting Maoists who have crossed the border into India. Already, more than 40 Maoists have been deported by India to Nepal--to almost certain imprisonment, torture and possible death.

All this points to the serious threat of even more direct intervention by the United States and Britain, and the real possibility of an invasion by the Indian Army.

All this underscores the importance of building international solidarity with the struggle of the Nepalese people for liberation. And all this highlights the need for actions by people around the world to expose and stop imperialist efforts to attack and defeat the People's War in Nepal.

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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