Nepal: The People’s Movement

In defense of civilian supremacy over the military and the democratic “New Nepal” process, the revolutionary movement of Nepal, led by the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists), has initiated a nationwide “People’s Movement” to topple the government and anti-people forces.

This comes after a Maoist-led government resigned in May due to what was essentially an unconstitutional coup by foreign powers, the political opposition, and the military.

The root cause of this conflict is the clash between the established elite and the majority of Nepal’s poor.  After the overthrow of the despised King in 2006, a process of re-founding and recreating Nepal was initiated.  However, when it came to challenging the old state and trying to create new, democratic, and pro-people state structures, status-quoist forces sought to derail this process so as to protect their own power and privilege.

This was most evidently shown when the main parties of “responsible civil society” (the elites), the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist Leninist) and the Nepali Congress, chose to back the royalist military over the democratically elected government in May.  After the NC President Ram Baran Yadav unconstitutionally reinstated the head of the military defying the government’s orders, the Maoists decided to resign from government rather than stay in a hollow office.

Dipak Sakota, Journalist with Janadisha Daily in Kathmandu, told Green Left Weekly:

Unified CPN (Maoist) has now started the People’s Movement.  And this is quite serious.  This is not just a movement but it’s a kind of decisive battle to decide who will hold the real power of Nepali state.  . . . [M]ost of the central leaders of the UCPN-M including Chairman Prachanda are in the field leading the movement. . . .   [T]he leadership of King had been removed but had not been filled by other forces. . . .  The Maoists are trying to turn Nepali state in favor of the majority of the poor and oppressed Nepali People.

After spending an extended period reaching out to the community across the nation, the Maoists have now launched a new mass movement to protect the revolutionary process.

Within the Assembly, they have blocked the new budget, until such a time when civilian supremacy has been assured.  The ministries have now already run out of funding and the state is crawling to a stop for lack of resources.

Outside of the Assembly, people are pouring into the streets.  Already there have been blockades and occupations of different local administration offices across the country.  In some areas there are reports of alternative local administrations being established.

The protests will climax with a blockade of Kathmandu and the seat of government, Singha Durbar.

In an attempt to find a peaceful way out of this conflict of interests, the United Nations proposed to Nepal’s government that it open itself for a government of national unity.  This suggestion was slammed by the current government, however, claiming that the current government already is a government of national unity, despite it being founded via unconstitutional means and excluding the party that won the elections.

Nepal’s elite, faced with the prospects of being forced to back down by the mass movement, has put the police, armed police, and military on high alert.  A meeting of high-level government members on November 3 declared that the Maoists’ protest program was in breach of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in 2006 and that it “bypasses the jurisdiction of the Constituent Assembly.”  Information and Communications Minister Shanker Pokarel told reporters: “The government is determined to ensure law and order with the help of the police force.”

These threats were denounced by Chairman Prachanda, the leader of the UCPN(Maoist).  He warned the current government against making such threats, as that mimics the actions of the now dethroned King Gyanendra.  He added that, while they have put the armed forces on high alert, the current government could not suppress the movement even if they wanted to, as the government has such small support amongst the people of Nepal.

At any rate, a colossal clash of interests is unfolding in Nepal, and the outcome of this struggle will directly affect the future direction of the new Himalayan republic.

Ben Peterson is an Australian journalist.  This article was first published in his blog Lal Salam on 9 November 2009; it is edited and reproduced here for non-profit educational purposes.

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