Will reformed Nepal Maoists influence Indian counterparts?
Sunday, July 2nd, 2006
It is too early to assess the long-term consequences of the decision of the Nepal Maoists to abandon their path of revolution and take part in parliamentary democracy. In India too several Maoist groups, known as Naxalites, pursued a similar course, forsaking armed struggle and joining mainstream politics. But that didn't prevent some of their rivals from remaining underground and trying to overthrow the government by following the classical Maoist thesis of peasant warfare against the bourgeoisie.
The possibility of the Nepal Maoists too splitting in similar fashion, with one group joining mainstream politics and others continuing with their insurrection cannot be ignored. Much depends on how successful the Maoists prove to be in Nepalese parliamentary politics. In India, the fact that the overground Naxalites have remained a marginal force in the parliamentary arena may have persuaded their underground comrades to continue their armed rebellion.
In Nepal, it will all depend on how the Maoists fare once they begin to function openly. The first thing they will realize is that the rules of an open society are completely different from what they have been used to till now in their jungle and mountain hideouts where they were in virtual total command.
Now they will see that even if they win a fair number of parliamentary seats and even be in the government, they will have to operate within the parameters of a 'bourgeois' constitution. Therefore, there will undoubtedly be groups in their ranks who will chafe at these constraints and yearn for a return to the life of the outlaw.
It is in this context that the interaction between the Nepali Maoists and the Indian Naxalites will be of interest.
For the present, the latter, who can claim the title of seniority since their movement began way back in 1967, may not have been able to fully understand the compulsions of their Nepali comrades to change their line so dramatically. Their surprise may be all the more greater because the Naxalites may have believed that the Maoists in Nepal had succeeded to a large extent in 'liberating' the countryside in accordance with the classical Maoist doctrine and were ready to overwhelm the towns as well.
Their decision, therefore, to give up their revolution and turn to parliamentary politics must have mystified the Naxalites, who have been reared from the time of the 1967 uprising in Naxalbari in north Bengal on the Maoist description of parliament as a 'pig sty'. If the Maoists are now accepting the parliamentary system, the reason perhaps is the realization that the tactics outlined in the Maoist textbooks are no longer applicable in today's world.
It is not known for certain whether the two groups have been in touch all these years, but the presumption is that they were, given their ideological affinity and the geographical proximity between their areas of operation in the two countries. But in the aftermath of the dramatic turnaround in the stance of the Maoists, it is not impossible that the Naxalites will have experienced a sense of betrayal, especially when they may have felt that the ignominious capitulation of the monarch in Kathmandu should have paved the way for an even more aggressive onslaught on the government by the Maoists.
If the Maoists have been seemingly more pragmatic than the Naxalites, the reason perhaps is that they have almost always functioned on their own without any help from outside and, therefore, have a better grasp of the ground situation. In contrast, the Naxalites were initially egged on by Beijing, which described the Naxalbari uprising as 'spring thunder' and a 'prairie fire' marking the beginning of the Indian revolution. After that, Beijing hosted several Naxalite leaders when they went there for advice on the course of their movement.
After this initial encouragement, however, Beijing seemed to lose interest in the Naxalites in the early 70s. It was also the time when the Naxalites started splitting into several factions because of ideological confusion and intense police action, which included probably the first instances of 'fake encounters' when the police were suspected to have killed many of them in cold blood.