The Maoist Rebellion: Nepals Civil
By Jonathan Alpeyrie
On a rock in the middle of the remote region
of Rolpa district in Western Nepal, is written with white paint
a Maoist saying: To rebel is a peoples right.
This sentence alone defines the nature of the Maoist rebellion,
a fight which has been raging for ten years now. Since February
13 1996, the Royal Nepalese government has been interlocked
in fighting against a foe who finds its strength not in its
allies but rather in its ability to adapt to new situations,
and a devout and politicize core of fighters and local sympathizers.
The Maoists have been able to rise from a small and local rebellion
to a national threat for the Royal government. They operate
in most of the countryside, in 68 of the 75 national districts,
ambushing, influencing locals and killing army soldiers and
policemen. Their progress in military and political affairs
has been very gradual, but also constant in part due to a thorough
and patient manipulation of the population. However, in order
to fully understand the rise of violence in a country known
for its peaceful past, we need to explain its past.
of the Maoist movement is not a new phenomenon in Nepal; it
finds its roots in the early political trends of India in the
late 40s, where communism was becoming significant.
1959, the Nepalese elected the first democratic parliament,
with Prime Minister Koirala at the head. He took the necessary
steps to lead his country towards a more modern and competitive
direction: education became free, and an embryonic welfare system
was put in place. Nepal was becoming a stable and prosperous
laws rarely change mentalities. Nepal is a country riddled with
an ancient social apparatus, which defines very clearly social
status between for instance the rich Brahman, and the poor Dalit
cast. Each cast has a specific place in Nepali society, negating
any social change or opportunities for the poorest. The rich
classes, often landowners, saw Koiralas reforms as a threat
to their wealth of political power and convinced the king Mahendra
to dissolve the new government.
15 1962, the king did exactly that, and retained full power
for himself. Nepal was once more a dictatorship. A few days
later he proclaimed the creation of the system Panchayat
(a supposedly democratic dictatorship), which does not allow
for the creation of new political parties within the government.
It is then that the Maoist movement took shape to balance the
political power in Nepal.
the Roots of Maoism
by Zach Mason and Zach Lown
Maoists took their influence from their Indian Kin, who were
themselves heavily influenced by the Leninist/Marxist movements
of the 1920s (Maoism is a form of communism developed
in China by Mao Zedong). Between 1962 and 1990, a quiet revolution
took shape in Western Nepal, organizing their political branch,
refining their propaganda skills directed towards the local
population. By early 1990 the Maoists leaders were ready to
expand their political and military agenda. On January 15th
1990, the political branch reunited to create the CPN. In November
1994, with the parliamentary elections, the CPN gets enough
seats to enter the government. The communist Man Mohan Adhikari
becomes prime minister; a great victory for the Maoists. Indeed,
with a firm base in the government, the Maoists now are able
to activate the second phase of their agenda.
Maoists, a popular revolution is necessary to cleanse the country
from a corrupted Royal government, which has been trying to
erase most individual rights. In September 1995, a vast propaganda
campaign was launched in Western Terai, in the form of political
meetings, meant to inform, but specifically to influence the
locals in their choice of political preferences. The Congress
party, the main political group in the Nepali government, did
not approve and maneuvered to counter this new threat. The tension
between them and the CPN rose, and the king allowed for a military
operation deep inside Maoist areas of the Western Terai. About
200 men from the security forces are deployed near Rolpa district
securing the villages near by. The locals, most pro-Maoists
but only in political views, are targeted and beaten, sometimes
shot, while others are taken away and incarcerated.
big operation in Maoist held territory was a complete failure.
It succeeded in alienating the local population, which now became
more active in the insurgency. This kind of interior policy
shows how the Royal government is unwilling to understand or
face even the worsening military situation in the country. Their
lack of military intelligence also did not predict that the
Terai population, which was never fully integrated into modern
Nepali society, would feel no loyalty to Royal institution and
join the Maoist cause more actively.
rise of tensions between the opposing parties, the Maoists leaders
activated their third and last part of their grand plan for
victory. On February 13, 1996, the three Maoists leaders, Pampha
Bhusal, Krishna Bahadur Mahara, and Baburam Bhattarai, exited
the government to go underground and start the armed rebellion.
The military branch of the CPN is created.
few raids are put together, first to give experience of the
Maoists fighters, and secondly to capture as many weapons as
possible from the Royal Nepalese army and the security forces.
The latter being often ill equipped and poorly motivated, soon
found themselves in the middle of the fighting. Between 1996
and 2000, dozens of raids were launched on security personnel,
killing many in the fighting. On September 25th 2000, one thousand
Maoists fighters attack the military camp of Dunai in Western
Terai, killing 41 soldiers. This was the first large-scale guerrilla
operation since the beginning of the armed conflict, and the
army was caught completely by surprise and unable to counter-attack.
This operation, marking an important date for the war, dramatically
escalated the violence and intensity.
to wage such a war, the Royal government sought a peaceful solution
and demanded a cease-fire. The Maoists accept. The easily won
agreement is not, contrary to popular belief at the time, a
victory for the king. The Maoists use the cease-fire to regroup,
and reorganize their forces while the government tried to find
a peaceful exit to the conflict. The rebels are now stronger
than ever, with a 10 thousand man army, better armed, more experienced,
motivated with a political and ideological agenda, and now operate
from a secure area.
1st 2001, the prince Dipendra killed the entire royal family
before turning the weapon on himself. The dead kings brother,
Gyanendra, assumed full control over the Congress party and
the rest of the government. People in Kathmandu took to the
streets, further destabilizing the government in place.
infiltrators entered the capital to agitate the locals, while
radio communiqués were sent through out the country to
convert army officials and soldiers to join the Maoist cause,
but in vain, most remained loyal.
later on July 7th, the Gyanendra was crowned the new king of
Nepal. The next day the Maoists launched a series of attacks
in Western Nepal killing 41 security forces personnel, and capturing
hundreds of firearms. Four months later the rebels withdrew
from the peace talks. The Maoists are determined to overthrow
this new government.
far from popular in his home base of Kathmandu, found it more
and more difficult to control the country side, the rebels are
attacking not only in the Western Terai but also in the North
East regions, and the South on the Indian border. Between November
25th 2001 and December 26th 2002, 495 security personnel were
killed, as well as 201 soldiers, 131 political figures, 34 professors,
and a few hundred civilians.
other side of the battle line, the casualties were heavier,
with 4,132 Maoists soldiers and sympathizers killed. Both sides,
tired by four years of fighting, agree for another round of
peace talks. A new treaty is signed on January 29th 2003, and
the Maoists gain precious time to reorganize their fighting
force, which had taken heavy casualties. After four months of
negotiations, the Maoists withdraw again from the talks and
launch another offensive, which continues to this date.
the Maoists were given enough time to expand, and then consolidate
their stronghold in Western Terai. The Maoist land has become
in less than 10 years a country within a country, with its laws,
army and political leaders. They have been so successful; in
fact that 90% of the population in the region is pro-Maoists,
effectively cutting out most governmental influence.
is organized in a Marxist fashion, with the political branch
or CPN making distinctions between farmers, militias, soldiers
(PLA), and the political branch. Each has a specific job contributing
to the war efforts. The militias are drawn from younger Nepalese
aging between 15 and 18 years of age, often young boys and girls
who have no father figure, and therefore easily influenced to
join the Maoists troops. Indeed, the region has been emptied
by a steady flow of young men leaving for India to find work,
leaving their families to fend for themselves. The Maoists have
been quick to see this new trend of human activity within their
grip on the countryside, the Maoists effectively control more
terrain than the government, who only has been able to assert
its power in the big cities and the Kathmandu valley. The rebels
on the other hand have made concerted efforts to draw the countryside
to their cause. By January 2003, 68 of the 75 administrative
districts were affected by the fighting, putting a heavy strain
on the already damaged economy. Neighboring India is also not
helping the situation, by selling a lot weapons to the Royal
Nepalese army, and purposely not controlling their Northern
border effectively. Indian Maoists smuggle large caches of illegal
weapons to their political kins in Nepal by buying local border
officials. It almost seems that India has an interest in keeping
Nepal down economically and therefore destabilizing the region.
in Nepal is taking a turn for the worst; both sides have been
more efficient in killing each other, tactics have changed and
weaponry becomes more ample. With both armies increasing in
size and aggressivity, the fighting becomes bitter and casualties
are on the rise.
beginning of the war in early 1996, more than 11 thousand people
have died, and civilians are the first to suffer from the conflict.
No one knows for sure the exact number of death in the civilian
population, however it is safe to say that perhaps as much as
half are civilian casualties. Often, they find themselves in
the middle of fighting, sometimes being forced to help the Maoists
in their struggle by supplying them in food, lodging, hiding
places and of course troops. Hearing this, Government forces
will deploy army intelligence officers who often use force and
beatings of the locals to attain information. On one hand, the
locals have to help the passing Maoist rebels, but they cannot
give away any information to the government soldiers, which
would mean death at the hand of the Maoists. They are in an
this war end when both sides are unwilling to negotiate and
concede? Nepal is sadly taking a dangerous path. Both sides
are becoming effective killing machines, drawing an entire population
to their cause, one politically and ideologically, the other
socially by proposing money to its new recruits. Hatred already
runs deep in some of the Western parts of the Terai, as many
Maoists have joined the PLA in response to Government abuses
against the local population. It is common to see young militias
or PLA fighters join the Maoist forces because Royal soldiers
killed their parents. It is revenge. Meanwhile, the war drags
on, and may continue for decades. The possibility of a complete
split of the population within Nepal would be disastrous, announcing
many more years of suffering.