A dream deferred

  • The UCPN (Maoist), once championed as the harbinger of change, has demoralised and disappointed its supporters
A dream deferred

Sep 11, 2014-

With the polity sharply polarised on every real issue, there is much scepticism about Baburam Bhattarai’s attempts to broker consensus on disputed constitutional issues. One observer has labelled it a search for compromise, and rightly so. One party, once the party of revolution and seen as a harbinger of change, has little left to put up for compromise, except its own identity. The other parties, the establishment of the Nepali state, are flexing their newly-acquired power of numbers in such a way that there is already a presentiment among the public that flag of retrogression will flutter over the humiliation of the defeated agendas of revolution. Going by what the ruling coalition has to offer on the table of consensus building, it seems that anything less than submission will not be accepted as a compromise.  

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?

Thus wrote Langston Hughes in reference to the Afro-American movement. How accurately this poem resonates here in Nepal may be the only consolation, the realisation that the struggle of the subaltern everywhere has to time and again face this problem, that there is no easy victory. So, was all in vain? The 10-year long insurgency, the thousands of lives lost, suffering, torture, imprisonment, disappearance, 12-point agreement, the April movement, the fall of the Hindu monarchy, the acclamation of a secular republic, the Madhes uprising, federalism, the first Constituent Assembly, the 90 percent completed draft of the constitution, what of all these?

Then and now

The most contentious issue is of federalism. What did ‘restructuring the state’ mean in 2006, when the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed? In 2007, when Madeshi demands were being met and the new Republic was being renamed a Federal Democratic Republic, what did the word ‘federalism’ signify? What has the word come to mean now—devolution of power or decentralisation? Or, five developmental regions renamed into provinces? What about the question of identity meant to solve the problems of alienation and the exclusion of marginalised ethnicities and regions from the old state structure? What about the assertion of the right to self-rule? If compromise is not about give and take, but simply phrases that can change meaning over time, according to the altering balance of power, then probably it’s time to revise our dictionaries.

Now, Prachanda, the UCPN (Maoist) chairman, has begun to express frustration about the intentions of the ruling Nepali Congress-CPN-UML coalition. But he too cuts a sorry figure of a grasshopper that sang and danced all summer until the day winter arrived. His party is in a mess, embroiled in unending factional struggles and his cadres highly demoralised. The thrashing his party received in the second CA election has only added to his problems. Ironically, his hopes hinge, for the moment, on the Mohan Baidya-led CPN-Maoist, a splinter group of his own party, and a non-participant in the CA II, but nonetheless, an important member of the peace process.

And Baidya may have his own agendas for undermining Prachanda. Many of those who left with Baidya had pledged to teach Prachanda, a fitting lesson for using, ignoring, and then insulting them. Whether the interplay of egos will come between the need to unite for survival has yet to be seen. But if the two Maoist parties manage to chart a common programme on constitution writing, then it will inspire enough confidence in their mass base for action. This, added to the Madhesi-Janajati alliance, could act as a deterrent to the regressive slide of the NC-UML coalition. This, however, is a proposition that is easier said than done.

Increasing demoralisation

Those who actively participated in the aforementioned movements are demoralised because of misrule by the parties after the fruition of those movements. The so-called revolutionary parties, chiefly the Maoists and Madhesis, utterly failed to perform. That the NC-UML thwarted every attempt at reform is obvious, the Rookmangud Katawal case being a chief reminder. But the incapacity of the ‘revolutionaries’ to calculate how time eats away at revolutionary enthusiasm is beyond comprehension, their nonchalance unforgivable. This has been a major cause behind the revival of old-school political parties.

The manner in which the recent news of Bhattarai’s only daughter, Manushi Yami, joining Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) for her PhD was received by the public and the party rank-and-file is enough to gauge dissatisfaction. During the insurgency, the Maoist party played the role of a guardian, looking after the needs of its predominantly young cadre base. With its entry into the peace process, each was left to their own means; those close to power benefited the most while others languished into oblivion. Many faults that the Maoist movement has come to be synonymous with—the notorious financial irregularities from the topmost order to the lowest rungs—have origins in this negligence.

The dejection among combatants as women, Dalits and those from poor backgrounds who had gained the most politically during the insurgency were pushed back into their old confines, has taken its toll in eroding the revolutionary character and image of the Maoist party. The agendas of cadre management have cropped up in each and every meeting, but were never addressed, postponed time and again for when the revolution was ‘accomplished’. Today, Prachanda and Bhattarai can play the blame game as much as they like, but they are both equally responsible for this predicament.

Hope for a comeback

The only hope left for a resurgence of revolution may be the mortal fear of death. It may sound exaggerated, but it’s true because counter revolution will come back with a vengeance and everyone knows it. Excesses apart, the decade-long insurgency was no tea-party. The Maoists have earned countless enemies. Even after the initiation of peace process, the Young Communist League, on its entry into Kathmandu, launched a ‘Crime Control Campaign’ that had infamous ‘dons’ cringing with fear.

Hate-mongering is increasing. Some time ago, a UCPN (Maoist) member, Satya Narayan Adhikari, was beaten almost to death by a Congress sympathiser in Kapan, Kathmandu just because he was a Maoist. Last year, with the CA elections approaching, an activist from the Maoist student wing, Rashmi Rai, was raped and murdered by those affiliated to the Congress in Solukhumbu, basically because she and her father were Maoists. This went largely under-reported in the Kathmandu-based media. The UCPN (Maoist) leadership, too, has not taken up such issues seriously till date.

But if these isolated incidents are any indication, there are reasons to be concerned. Those who justify the ‘encounter’ murder of Chari today because he was a goonda will tomorrow definitely be inclined to justify such attacks on Maoists because they were once labelled ‘terrorists’. Alas, we who wish for a peaceful transition into a new era can only pray for a Bollywood styled comeback.


Gajurel is a member of the (UCPN) Maoist intellectual wing

Published: 12-09-2014 09:23

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