By David Hoskins
Nepal’s communist revolutionaries walked out of that country’s interim government in mid-September and announced immediate plans to launch street protests. The walkout followed the government’s rejection of a 22-point set of demands by the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M) that were meant to ensure free and transparent polls for planned Constituent Assembly elections in November.
Three weeks later, on Oct. 5, the government announced the November elections would be postponed.
The Nepali Congress Party and other reformist parties objected to two key points in particular. These basic points would have declared Nepal a republic before the polls, to ensure that the monarchy does not interfere with elections, and would have established a proportional representation-based election system. Nepal still has a king, despite massive protests against the monarchy last year.
The government’s rejection of these demands, say the revolutionaries, risks providing cover to the criminal supporters of King Gyanendra in the army and among underground terrorist units, allowing them to disrupt elections, and has created an unnecessary crisis in election preparations.
Other organizations have voiced support for the CPN-M’s electoral demands. Amik Sherchan, chair of the People’s Front Nepal, has stated that the 22 prerequisites were legitimate and that “the Maoists were left with no option but to launch a program of strong protests to establish a republic.” People’s Front Nepal is a semiunderground leftist organization and a member of Nepal’s interim government.
The CPN-M remains in Nepal’s interim parliament, where it has become the second-largest party since pulling out of the government. Three other groups, including the militant Communist Party of Nepal (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist), have merged with the CPN-M since it withdrew from the cabinet. The CPN-M has emphasized the need for a single revolutionary communist party to fulfill the aspirations of Nepal’s workers and oppressed.
Maoists call street protests; student organizations join
After all four Maoist ministers announced their resignations from the government, the CPN-M called for street agitation to begin on Sept. 25. Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, a leading party official, declared that, “Efforts to declare a republic from the parliament have failed. Now we will declare a republic from the streets.” The CPN-M has promised to hold actions in all of Nepal’s 4,000 villages and at every district administration office in order to advance their people’s agenda.
The actions are being unrolled in carefully crafted phases. The first phase was held from Sept. 19 to 21, when the Maoists held a door-to-door public awareness campaign surrounding their demands. A week of rallies began in the capital on Sept. 22 and was planned to spread geographically. The revolutionaries are preparing to launch an exposure campaign to reveal corrupt government officials and business people.
Students, too, vowed mass participation in the street protests. The All Nepal National Independent Student Union-Revolutionary (ANNISU-R) laid out its own protest agenda. Public hearings in schools and universities began on Sept. 19 and were expected to continue until Oct. 3. Motorcycle rallies across the country began Sept. 29 and torch-lit rallies were to follow.
More than 4,000 soldiers in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had earlier walked out of their cantonments to protest in favor of the 22 demands raised by the revolutionaries. The PLA is the armed wing of the CPN-M and has voluntarily confined itself to a U.N.-monitored cantonment during the peace process initiated by the revolutionaries. More than 30,000 PLA soldiers are stationed in 28 cantonments around the country.
Revolutionaries champion people’s needs
Many of the government’s ruling parties fear an embarrassing setback in the polls at the hands of the revolutionaries. The popular program advocated by the Maoists and the revolutionary student and youth organizations has done much to earn the support of Nepal’s oppressed workers and peasants.
The revolutionaries have consistently exposed corrupt landlords and held them accountable in People’s Courts set up around the country. For many of Nepal’s poor, this is the only system of justice available to them.
The revolutionaries have been in the vanguard of the fight to abolish Nepal’s brutal feudal monarchy. The CPN-M initiated 10 years of armed struggle which, combined with the street protests it helped coordinate, brought an end to King Gyanendra’s absolute rule late last year. He had clung to power with the support of the U.S., Britain and India. The revolutionaries continue to be the most consistent force advocating the total abolition of Nepal’s monarchy and the establishment of democratic republicanism with fair elections.
Additional campaigns have established free health care in poor districts and the creation of a Health Team Project coordinated by the PLA’s medical department to create units of medical specialists and support staff in rural areas.
In August the Young Communist League (YCL) mobilized 600 cadres over a course of three days to collect tons of garbage from the streets of Kathmandu.
Nepal’s poverty cries out for revolutionary change
Nepal is an impoverished country of 29 million people that until recently was ruled by a feudal monarchy dominated by the huge capitalist state of India to its south. Only 10 percent of Nepal’s population has access to electric power. More than 85 percent of the people live in rural areas without running water or basic sanitation.
Malnutrition is rampant among children and at least one-third of the population lives below the official poverty line. While literacy runs a little less than 50 percent, it is only 39 percent among women. Meanwhile, Nepal’s infant mortality rate currently exceeds 63 deaths per 1,000 live births.
Nepal ranks among the 50 poorest countries in the world. The poor living conditions have fueled the militant consciousness of the masses and paved the way for revolutionary forces to enjoy a mass base of support for the armed struggle launched by the CPN-M in 1996.
In light of the accomplishments of the revolutionary forces in providing for the basic needs of Nepal’s suffering people, it comes as no surprise that many in Nepal’s ruling parties are hesitant to compete with the CPN-M at the polls on a level playing field.
The author is a member of Fight Imperialism Stand Together (FIST) youth group in Washington, DC
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