In Dahal’s ‘my life under threat’ claim, many see bid for sympathy

  • Politicians, analysts say Dahal is exaggerating ‘sabotage’, a term his party used to mean ‘destruction of infrastructure’
- TIKA R PRADHAN, Kathmandu

Mar 17, 2019-

Two days after the government said it would act tough on the Communist Party of Nepal, led by Netra Bikram Chand, and its activities, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, co-chair of the ruling Nepal Communist Party, said on Thursday at a public function that his name was on top of the Chand outfit’s hit list.

“I have been told the Chand group had even deployed a team with an aim to exterminate me,” said Dahal at a function organised in Perisdanda, the headquarters of the erstwhile Maoist party. “I have sympathy for Chand and his members.”

But many believe Dahal was only exaggerating “sabotage”, a term his Maoist party used generously during the “People’s War”, and was construing it as an attempt “to kill” someone.

“Most of the former Maoists were not really happy with the government move of imposing an all-0ut ban on the Chand outfit. Many through social media showed sympathy for Chand,” a Central Committee member of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) who comes from Dahal’s Maoist party, told the Post on condition anonymity because he feared retribution. “Dahal was only making an emotional statement saying he was the target. Actually, he was trying to gain [public] sympathy for himself.”

The government made a move of cracking down on the Chand outfit and its activities after the term “sabotage” was found in the diary seized by police from Khadga Bahadur Bishwokarma. Bishwokarma is the spokesperson for the Chand party. He had been arrested multiple times in recent months before being freed.

During the insurgency, Maoist leaders used various terms and phrases for specific meanings. “Sabotage”, “annihilation of class enemy”, “guerrilla war”,“mass action” and “publicity action” are some of them.

On page 348 of a book with titled “Nepali Communist Movement and Historic Documents of People’s Revolution”, which chronicles the communist movement and the “People’s War”, the Maoist party mentions “sabotage” as “bombing or arson attacks at the administrative buildings at maximum, damaging the economic structures of local landlords and informers at minimum”.

According to former Maoist leaders who fought the decade-long war under Dahal’s leadership, they used “annihilation” (safaya in Nepali) to mean “killing” someone—and not “sabotage”.

Surya Subedi, who once served as Dahal’s secretary, admitted to the Post that “sabotage” in plain terms—during the time of war—did mean to them destruction of physical infrastructure.

“But the government understands it as the Chand party’s preparations for ‘sabotage of people’,” said Subedi, who is currently an adviser to Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa.

Leaders who have worked closely with Dahal in the past and were actively involved in the war said describing “sabotage” as “annihilation” is but nonsense.

“Dahal keeps saying that he faces threats. But Thursday’s statement that the Chand outfit is baying for his blood is pure nonsense,” said Ganga Shrestha, a former Maoist leader who is now with the Naya Shakti Party led by Baburam Bhattarai, who left Dahal’s party after the promulgation of the constitution in September 2015.

“Even if he has information that the Chand party was trying to kill him, he should not be making such statements in public. This only shows he is trying to gain sympathy for himself.”

After Dahal’s statement on Thursday, many people also took to social media to make direct or indirect references to what he had said. Some viewed it as Dahal’s bid to stay relevant at a time when he is getting increasingly concerned in the party, which is—by and large—controlled by another Co-chair and Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli.

“His statement is an indication that he is getting weaker in his party; he is exhausted and insecure,” Shrestha told the Post.

The Chand outfit, in a statement on Wednesday, a day after the government decided to crackdown on it activities, talked about KP Sharma Oli and Ram Bahadur Thapa in particular, saying that the party would retaliate if the “KP-Thapa regime” tried to suppress them.

Analysts say Chand holds more grudges against Thapa than Dahal.

Chand and Thapa’s commaridiere goes back a long way. They were once comrades in arms—for 16 years or so—as they waged the insurgency together.

Six years after the peace agreement, which brought the Maoists into mainstream politics, Chand and Thapa, along with Mohan Baidya, left Dahal in 2012 to form their own party, accusing Dahal of leaving halfway the revolutionary fight.

For two years, Chand and Thapa debated which political line they should toe “in the changed context”, with the former making a pitch for “unified revolution” while the latter insisted on “people’s revolt on the basis of people’s war”.

Their association did not last long. Chand left Thapa and Baidya in November 2014 to form his own party—the Communist Party of Nepal—to what he calls “take Nepal’s revolution forward”.

And what annoys Chand more is, according to an analyst, Thapa is now the home minister at whose behest the government has launched a crackdown.  

Two years after Chand left Thapa and Baidya, Thapa decided to return to Dahal’s party in 2016 and went on to become the home minister, from what looks like “comrades in arms to comrades at war”.

“Dahal’s statements have always been extraordinarily self-centric,” said Khagendra Prasai, a discourse analyst. Dahal also questioned on Thursday: “What will happen to the federal democratic republic [of Nepal] if I am killed?”

“Dahal actually was trying to rationalise the government move of cracking down on the Chand outfit when he said his life was under threat,” Prasai, who holds a PhD in discourse theory, told the Post. “Second, there is no doubt that he wants to earn sympathy.”

Though there were some sporadic arrests of Chand supporters, the government crackdown on the outfit’s activities started only recently—especially after two blasts in the Capital within weeks. One person died in the first explosion at Nakkhu on February 22. The Chand outfit owned up to both the explosions as well a series of arson attacks on telephone towers of Ncell, a private sector mobile company. Earlier, the Chand group had also attacked some foreign-funded projects.

The recent blasts, just ahead of the second summit scheduled for March 29-30, had become a major cause for concern for the government.

“The [home] ministry has the documents it obtained from Khadga Bahadur Bishwokarma. The documents show the Chand party had bigger plans. That’s why the government made a move of acting tough on the Chand outfit,” Subedi, the adviser to home minister, said.

A key leader from the Chand party, however, told the Post on Friday that attacking any individual or leader was not in their scheme.

“We had not adopted any strategy to what they are calling annihilate,” Mohan Bahadur Karki, a politburo member of the Chand party, told the Post hours before he was arrested on Friday. “We had extended our apology after an individual was killed in the [Nakkhu] blast, because the attacks were symbolic… to remind the government that it should not let injustice continue. We are well aware of the fact that we can never justify killings,” he said.

Twelve years after the peace deal, the country still carries the legacy of war, with conflict victims endlessly awaiting justice. The debate whether the Maoists’ “People’s War” was right or wrong continues. Dahal has said time and again that the circumstances today are quite different from those when the Maoists launched the war and that it would be a futile exercise if Chand tried to replicate that.

Nearly 16,000 people were killed during the decade-long conflict. Dahal on Thursday also said: “Biplav should stop trying to become another Prachanda.” Biplav is the nom de guerre of Chand and he continues to carry that name; while Dahal during the war went by the name Prachanda.

“As a matter of fact, we wanted to work in close coordination with our former colleagues, including

Dahal,” said Karki. “You can see also in our press statement that we have talked about the Oli-Thapa regime,” said Karki.

But the way Dahal keeps repeating that his life is under threat continues to baffle many, as he, as one of the top leaders of the country and a two-time prime minister, has sufficient security arrangements in place.

“It’s a bit unnatural for a powerful leader of a party ruling the country with a majority, who is surrounded by security personnel, to say that Chand is attempting to kill him,” Geja Sharma Wagle, a security expert, told the Post. “It is understandable that there can be an increased security threat when violent activities rise in the country. But should a leader of Dahal’s stature make public statements regarding life threats?” Wagle wondered. “It looks like he wanted to seek political sympathy,” he added.

“Security threat of ‘that level’ has not been created for Dahal yet; this is a psychological threat, a self-proclaimed one.”

Even after Dahal’s public statement saying he was under threat, the government, however, has not made any change in his security arrangements.

Santa Kumar Darai, who manages and coordinates Dahal’s Secretariat, told the Post that security arrangements for the former prime minister have remained the same. “We have not added new security personnel.

Nor is there any discussion to do so anytime soon,” Darai, a former Maoist commander, said. According to Darai, currently around 60 personnel were deployed from Nepal Police and the Armed Police Force for Dahal’s security.

The Central Committee member, who comes from the Maoist party and refused to be named, said Dahal has an uncanny tendency to play victim. “When he said his life was under threat, he was once again speaking the language of victimhood—only to gain some sympathy for himself.”

Published: 17-03-2019 10:22

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