Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Maoist movement gets a fillip in India

The prediction of Gwynne Dyer has come true. From thousands of miles away in London, the veteran columnist wrote in 2006 that the Maoists in Nepal 'are only miles away from taking over power'. The victory of the Maoists has belied the expectation of most diplomats in Kathmandu who were given to believe that the people of Nepal revered the King as incarnation of god. They would not vote for the party that declared an end to the centuries old monarchy in its election manifesto. Election results came to the consternation of Maoists' rivals - Nepali Congress and associates, who have long ruled the impoverished country-and most commentators as well.

Until King Gyanendra bowed to mass upsurge two years ago, the Maoists had fought guerrilla war against government forces for a decade. The US government had declared the Maoists 'a terrorist group'. Former US president Jimmy Carter, who was in Nepal as election observer during the voting, has expressed the hope that his country would change its attitude towards the Maoists and recognize the elected government in Nepal. During the Maoist insurgency, India used to accuse China of arming, training and financing the Maoists, whose aim is to overthrow the world's only Hindu monarchy and establish a people's republic. Sunanda K Datta Ray, the former Editor of Statesman, as back as 2002, saw the rise of Maoists as 'a danger for India in Nepal'. He wrote (International Herald Tribune June 6, 2002), "That is why Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's government agreed to … give full military and political support to Nepal to fight the guerillas." BJP in a resolution on April 18 said, "Now Nepal is being declared a secular state. We hope Nepal will not become anti-Hindu and anti-India." It said India should keep a watch on the developments in Nepal and take 'timely steps'.

Indian media manifested a shock at the Maoist victory. "There is a collective shock in the Indian government about the Maoists sweeping to power in Nepal … India read the tea leaves so desperately wrong," commented Times of India. India's concern is not without reason. First, it sees the end of 1950 peace and friendship treaty with Nepal. Second, which is considered more perilous, is Maoist rule in Nepal will encourage the Maoist movement in the Indian States, especially those bordering on Nepal, which are heavily infested by Maoists.

Under the Indo-Nepal peace and friendship treaty people of both the countries could freely travel across the border and reside in either place, and do preferential trade. India maintains security posts in Nepal's northern border with China and Indian military mission in Kathmandu for ensuring its security needs. Any traveler to Kathmandu will find the business and economic interests wholly controlled by the Indian nationals. Indian currency is accepted in hotels and by retailers. Maoist leaders have recently sounded about scrapping the peace and friendship treaty and review of water and irrigation agreements with India, which they consider detrimental to the interest of the country. Young Communist League, the youth front of the Maoist communist party, is louder in demanding the scrapping of the peace treaty and withdrawal of Indian troops, estimated at 6,000, from the Nepalese soil at Kalapani close to border with China.

Indian institute of conflict management in its recent report said Maoist violence affects a total of 192 districts in 16 states. Former chief of Intelligence Bureau said nearly 40 percent of India's landmass and 35 percent of the population are affected by the Maoist insurgency.

Reuters reported on August 10, 2007 "77 percent of people earn Rs 20 a day in Shining India" that gave rise to Maoist insurgency. Jagmohan writing in Frontline in its February 2, 2008 issue said Maoist movement has entered a stronger phase.

Three major groups - Maoist Communist Centre, People's War Group and CPI (ML) - have merged to form a united outfit, CPI (Maoist), with the objective of seizure of power. It supports the struggle of the sub-nationalities for self-determination, other legal rights politically reiognised.

This being the internal situation, the worries of New Delhi have intensified. Bangladesh is a close neighbour of Nepal but has no common territorial border. Political observers here do not see the prospect, even in distant future, of Maoist movement and has little or no impact of the emergence of Maoists in power in Nepal. The ideology had long melted away with the passing of hardcore Maoist Abdul Haq and Mohammad Toaha who had worked underground since 60s (Toaha later shunned the path and was placated by Ziaur Rahman to be elected to parliament).

Their followers have been derailed from the true Maoist ideology and few are still thriving in southwestern districts on extortion in the name of class struggle.

Police intelligence says most of the activists have fled across the border or returned to normal life under strict vigilance of the law-enforcing agencies.

Political observers here keenly monitoring the developments in Nepal believe that whatever Maoist leader Prachanda had said so far, he is to walk the extremely tightrope in dealing with India. He cannot nor is likely to venture for scrapping the peace treaty or throw out Indian soldiers from the Nepalese soil until and unless he has secured alternative supply lanes to his landlocked country.

It is widely speculated that king Gyanendra will live in political asylum in India, which, however, has been dismissed by his press secretary. But will he live at home as a commoner? Prachanda has already urged the king to leave the palace or be forced out. In the event New Delhi grants Gyanendra political asylum, India will become the home of two giant adversaries, one of China and the other of Nepal, with governments in exile. New Delhi has virtually accorded Dalai Lama's office at Dharmashala the status of a government in exile. A deputy secretary-level officer from the foreign ministry remained deputed to the court of Dalai Lama to percolate the government policy and guide the Dalai Lama . One lakh Tibetans allowed to live in India are seeking independence of rom China.

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