Tuesday, May 22, 2007

When The Reds Start Singing The Blues

The price of power is catching up with the Maoists. Ex-rebel supremo Prachanda and his No. 2 Dr. Baburam Bhattarai are now on antidepressants, one published report tells us.
Neither has denied the report and the specifics of their maladies and treatment plans don’t really matter here. The circumstances leading up to what many considered inevitable do.
For most of us, that gory pile of 13,000 bodies would have been more than enough to precipitate a lifetime of hallucination. (The premise, as always, is that the Maoists started the violence and are responsible for everything.)
For a cluster of top comrades long deluded by a discredited ideology, the ends always justified the means. (One death is a tragedy, anything beyond is a statistic, Uncle Joe told us, didn’t he.)
If some people weren’t prepared to kill and die for their beliefs, well, they didn’t deserve to live in the first place. Battlefield brutality and turgid theorizing offered a solid synthesis for a purpose-driven life.
As long as it was lived subterraneously. The first lights of peace must have proved real distracting to our supremo. The novelty was bound to wear off sooner or later. Sooner in Prachanda’s case, once it emerged that his bite was nowhere as sharp as his bark. His royalist phobia had to be symptomatic of a larger condition.
As for Dr. Bhattarai, you could forgive his abrupt U-turn in the past because they occurred over a period of time. With all the detours, twists, jerks, twists the chief ex-rebel ideologue’s prose took within the first few months of the April Uprising, the aura of erudition had to evaporate.
In fairness, we don’t know whether Prachanda or Dr. Bhattarai have personally killed anything bigger than mosquitoes. Still the number 13,000 must have been etched deeply inside both somewhere. With the blanket of fear lifting so swiftly in the spring of 2006, the Maoists knew they couldn’t count on the docility of ordinary Nepalis.
It must be hard for the honchos to keep track of the non-government quarters gunning for their heads. How many people could really forget that hapless teacher Gyawali as he lay dying tied to that tree? Could relatives and friends of Maoist victims organizer Chilwal be lurking out there somewhere. And the widows and children of the police, soldiers and bureaucrats the “people’s war” claimed. Gaur must seem like a picnic.
And this is just the beginning. How deep does the sense of betrayal really run in the movement? When you have the prime beneficiary of Prachanda’s pro-Indian line, Mohan Baidya, criticizing the supremo’s groveling to the south, things must be real bad.
Krishna Bahadur Mahara was already in parliament in 1991. With enough scheming with the UML and others, Dr. Bhattarai could have plotted a takeover of the state faster with far fewer lives lost and more communication towers standing. The parliamentary route might even have conferred on the Maoists the legitimacy ex-communist Boris Yeltsin enjoyed. The end result of that spree of death and destruction? A seat on the table with seven former foes.
As spokesman for the government, Communications Minister Mahara has to present a unified version of events and ideas to the nation and world. How many qualifiers and caveats can he throw out without undermining his party? Sure the ends justify the means. But that sordid royal-plot CD? Even Goebbels worked within certain rules.
Then there’s Dr. Bhattarai’s defense of his wife, Physical Planning Minister Hisila Yami, in her attempt to keep the capital’s taps dry until she finds someone who looks good enough to run it. Even the Young Communist Leaguers need a decent bath from time to time, don’t they?
The larger question becomes unavoidable. When the Maoists fail to vindicate the Great Helmsman, what becomes of the Nepalis’ reputation for loyalty in times of war as well as peace? All things considered, this whole depression shtick may still be another Maoist ruse. It could help Prachanda and Dr. Bhattarai take the insanity defense at any future war-crimes trial, couldn’t it?