Nepal Maoists’ insurgent movement no longer ‘People’s War’?

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS,

Kathmandu : After the fall of their eight-month government, Nepal’s Maoist party now faces the prospect of literally losing their ‘People’s War’ as the sustained insurgency staged by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) for 10 years to end monarchy may soon be officially termed an ‘armed conflict’.

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When Nepal promulgates a new constitution next year, it will henceforth refer to the ‘People’s War’ that killed over 13,000 people and destroyed property worth billions as an ‘armed conflict’. With this official version of the guerrilla war that started from 1996, Nepal’s history from next year will modify itself yet again with the adoption of the statute-approved description.

The former guerrillas have been waging a losing battle since last month after they tried to sack the chief of the army, their former arch enemy, and failed. They have been dealt the new blow by a parliamentary committee entrusted with vetting and drafting terms for the new constitution.

Nabodita Chaudhari, chair of the committee for determining bases for cultural and social solidarity, told the media after a meeting of the panel Monday that following dissent among the lawmakers over the expression ‘People’s War’, the issue had been put to vote.

With 10 members of the 42-member committee absent from Monday’s meeting, the Maoists lost the vote as the ruling parties – the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist, Nepali Congress and Communist Party of Nepal-Marxist-Leninist (CPN-ML) – objected to the Maoist-coined term.

CPN-ML lawmaker Ranadhwaj Limbu came down heavily on the Maoists, contending that to call the uprising a ‘People’s War’ would be tantamount to justifying killings, abductions and other excesses perpetrated by the former guerrillas for a decade as well as the destruction of infrastructure meant for the people and built with their voluntary contribution.

The Maoists are expected to oppose the decision despite losing the vote. They are accusing the ruling parties of being responsible for a greater number of murders, rapes and kidnaps during the conflict and trying to devalue their pro-people’s movement.

With ‘People’s War’ being voted out, the Maoist army of over 19,000 guerrillas is also likely to be given a lesser name now by the statute makers instead of the PLA.

The new setback comes as the Maoists are on the warpath, demanding the ouster of the President Ram Baran Yadav, who saved the army chief, Gen Rookmangud Katawal, from being sacked, and caused their government to fall.

On Tuesday, an ethnic organisation affiliated to the Maoists, the Kirati Rastriya Mukti Morcha, shut down six districts in eastern Nepal, demanding a debate in parliament on the constitutionality of the president’s move.

Udaypur, Khotang, Bhojpur, Sankhuwasabha, Solukhumbu and Okhaldhunga districts were hit by the general strike, the fourth in four days called by the protesting party.

Despite the strikes, Nepal’s parliament refuses to call a debate on the president, saying the matter is already in court.