Nepal: Big Brothers Stare Down The Maoist Menace


September 26, 2009: The Maoists are trying to bring down the government via widespread agitation. This is being done  with a new Maoists fighting force formed around the Young Communist League (YCL). For the last three years, more and more cadres (full time Maoist members) have been assigned to the YCL. There are now several thousand of these cadres, running gangs of YCL members all over the country. These groups literally act like street gangs, using fists clubs, shouting and throwing things  to intimidate police, government officials and anyone else who gets in their way. The favorite YCL tactic is to disrupt public (and media) events by prominent government politicians. Other political parties have formed their own gangs, but the YCLs are the most prolific, best organized and most violent.

Since walking away from running the government in May (when they tried to replace the senior commanders of the army), the YCL has been trying to seize absolute power via street violence. The Maoists insist that the new government (led by the Communist Party) is not legitimate, and only the Maoists (with most members in parliament, but not a majority needed to form a government) can form a government. To this end, Maoist legislators disrupt parliament, making the government appear ineffective, and unable to rule. Meanwhile, per the 2006 peace deal, 19,000 members of the Maoist armed groups remain in disarmament camps, awaiting the new constitution and resolution of the current deadlock.

The Maoists are also seeking to exploit nationalist feelings, especially Nepalese fear of India and China. In truth, Nepal only exists because India, and to a lesser extent, China, have never bothered to march in and take over. Both local superpowers are nervous about the growth of Maoist power in Nepal, and the risk of a Maoist takeover, with Nepal becoming a base for radical groups. India already has its own Maoist terrorists, with nearly 600 people killed from Maoist violence so far this year. There has always been some communication between Nepalese and Indian Maoists (which is how the movement got started in Nepal), but Nepal becoming a Maoist dictatorship would change that. India will not tolerate Nepal as a separate country if Nepal is the source of support for violent groups within India. China is not concerned about Maoist radicals (who are reviled and despised in China), but with Tibetan separatists. There are 20,000 Tibetan refugees living in Nepal, and these serve as a recruiting pool for more violent Tibetan separatist groups. China had just marched into Tibet in the 1950s, and took over. Many Tibetans have still not adjusted to Chinese rule. China expects Nepal to keep these Tibetan refugees under control, or else. Both the current Nepal government, and the Maoists, say they understand. But some more radical Nepalese Maoists do not agree with this, and believe China is in need of another Maoist revolution (having already suffered one in the 1960s).

In Nepal, the Maoists are highlighting the role of Indians in Nepalese life, especially among the ethnic Indians (Mahadhesis) of southern Nepal. To that end, Maoists have stirred up violence against the appointment of two Indian priests to run a Hindu temple in the south, rather than Nepali priests. This has caused divisions in the Mahadhesi community, and anxiety in India.

Maoist activists have made a big fuss over a politician (a Hindu taking the oath of office in Hindi instead of Nepali). This is another battle in the war between Maoists and ethnic groups (most of the population) that oppose them. For example, the Hindus (Mahadhesis) of southern Nepal, make up about a third of the population, are poor, and want to get something out of all the changes underway. The Maoists consider the Mahadhesis opportunists, trying to grab a share of power after the Maoists did all the work. Joining the Mahadhesis are the tribal peoples (of which the Ghurkas and Sherpas are the most famous), who also want to see some changes in their own situation. Leaders of these ethnic factions are competing with each other for followers.

There is also much anger against the Maoists by the majority of the population. The Maoists are led by upper caste Hindus, as are the political parties. The Maoists are seen by the tribes, and lower caste Hindus (like the Mahadhesi) as violent, radical and untrustworthy. The political parties are seen as corrupt. The caste system (there are four castes, plus about a fifth of Hindus who have no caste and are "untouchable") is illegal in India, but still a major factor in social relations, and politics in Nepal.

The Maoist antics have fed a revolutionary atmosphere. But this has excited everyone. Even the monarchists have taken to the streets, and a minor revolutionary group even tried to bomb the U.S. embassy (with a crude device that was found and defused).

The government has revised the death toll for the ten years of Maoist violence (after getting data from many isolated parts of the country.) The new total is 16,278 dead (a 25 percent increase from the previous estimate of 13,000).


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