Monday, May 30, 2011

The Difference The Maoists Have Made

You can’t say the Maoists’ arrival in the political mainstream has not changed anything. When needed, the hardest-line political force has been flexible enough to ensure repeated extensions of an assembly long beyond the life its progenitors – the sovereign people – intended.
Contrast that with the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML, who during Nepal’s second age of democracy (1990-2002), were congenitally disposed to dissolving parliament, to the point of self-annihilation, midway through its five-year term.
If the intention of the 2005 12-point agreement between the Seven Party Alliance and the Maoists was to push the former rebels into the democratic process – as Maila Baje felt from the outset – then it has proved a succeeded. Not because democracy per se has prospered in Nepal by their arrival. But because of the Maoists’ progressive emaciation.
The signal lesson, however, pertains to the evolution and growth of the Maoist insurgency in Nepal. There are still those who romanticize the former Nepalese rebels, mostly ensconced in the West and South. Guilt-ridden faculty-lounge discussants that refuse to believe that communism as that great balancing force in world affairs collapsed of its own dead weight. Ideological kooks who insist that communism collapsed only because it lacked the right kind of leaders. Those involved in the magnification and outright manufacture of all manner of grievances to secure funding for a career in newly proliferating disciplines.
Yet Nepalis increasingly recognize how the Maoists grew through the direct patronage of domestic – from the right to the left – and international forces that had their own agendas in shaping the post-1990 change.
Those who thought the Terai – that supposed cauldron of ethnic resentment and alienation – would be the first to erupt discounted how the open border would dissuade a key patron. Lighting the spark on the northern border in the guise of an ideology with specific connotations to the Great Helmsman there would give a degree of plausible deniability to the rebels’ real sponsors.
This, of course, is not to denigrate or deny the real grievances that simmered beneath the surface. But how many societies in our times with deeply ingrained political, economic, social and cultural grievances have descended into outright armed insurgency? And grievance is no static sentiment, as the Brahmins and Chhetris have demonstrated in recent weeks.
The leadership must be credited for our Maoists’ success. But the paradoxes here too abound. Supreme commander Prachanda’s ferocity and flexibility are lauded for the building of a ragtag band of malcontents into a formidable fighting force. Yet, according to reports now trickling out of Maoist quarters, Prachanda would start wailing at the first hail of gunfire on either side on the few fronts that he was actually involved in.
The hefty prose Dr. Baburam Bhattarai composed in defense of the insurgency has surely enriched the world of Nepali letters. But, then, a brief perusal of Mao’s own collected works would suffice to indicate how much more his forte lay in art of translation than conception.
On the eve of the tenth anniversary of the Narayanhity Carnage, the Maoists’ chief ideologue stands by his original story that the surviving members of the royal family had a hand in the massacre against a vast geopolitical conspiracy. That’s laudable, considering the swiftness with which politicians are generally known to change their stories. But when the best Dr. Bhattarai, five years after claiming to have dragged the mainstream parties on the path to New Nepal, can do is emphasize the urgency of forming an inquiry commission, then you have got to think. Are the rest of us really that stupid?