CPN-MAOIST POLICIES Malala Yousafza has been in the news because she is fighting for her life. The 14-year-old Pakistani girl was shot on her way from school. Her prominence stems from the diary she wrote for BBC in 2009 about life under the Taliban. They had banned girls’ education, and her writings that chronicled the ensuing suffering were heralded as retaliation against the brutal Taliban regime.
My first thought when I read this news, after wishing Malala well, was a sense of relief that something so grave would not take place in Nepal. We might have our problems, but at least we had not degraded to such barbarism that 14-year-olds had to fear for their life just for wanting to go to school.
That sense of relief, however, is short-lived as I am reminded of Nepal’s recent history. ANNISU-R “activists” and cadres associated with the newest Maoist faction (CPN-Maoist) have burnt down school buses carrying children, dousing petrol on the bus with children still on board. They have also targeted schools with foreign names for vandalism and extortion.
Instead of meaningful engagement with concerned stakeholders, the hoodlums have made exorbitant demands and used disproportionate violence to create a culture of fear. Thankfully, no one has been shot, yet, but can anyone say with confidence that they will never cross that line?
THE TALIBAN REGIME
It is said that the Taliban was first mobilized in Afghanistan when its leader, Mullah Omar, heard that a local governor had abducted two teenage girls, who were later raped. Omar’s forces rescued the girls and the governor was summarily hanged. If the story is genuine, Taliban’s emergence appears to have been motivated by a sense of justice and the need for the emancipation of the oppressed.
Taliban’s subsequent degeneration into a totalitarian force capable of rape, torture, and mass murder does not need elaboration. Even today, the Taliban have no problems targeting civilians, with UN estimates suggesting they are now responsible for up to 80 percent civilian deaths in Afghanistan.
The violence they perpetuated was extremely pervasive, with women having to bear the brunt of extremist policies. Women could no longer attend school or seek employment (except for medical services), and were forced to wear burqas. They had to be accompanied by a male relative outside their homes. Ironically, the protectors of women had become their greatest suppressors.
I am not equating ANNISU-R or CPN-Maoist directly to the Taliban, yet. However, the path to extremism is neither straight-forward nor predictable. When the current Prime Minister handed over his 40-point demand to then-PM Sher Bahadur Deuba, very few people expected Baburam Bhattarai to lead his followers into the woods and wage a bloody civil war.
There is no denying that most of the demands, understood on their own, were both relevant and legitimate, and many Nepalis frustrated with the political status quo quietly rooted for the Maoist utopia of a more equal society. However, the guerrillas employed terrorist tactics and began subjugating the very people they claimed to represent. To be fair, government forces were equally guilty of heavy-handedness and disregard for basic human rights but the Maoists failed to provide a dignified alternative. Stories of rape, torture and murder of innocent civilians during the civil war continue to reverberate today.
Given the continued propensity for violence that ANNISU-R and CPN-Maoist have repeatedly shown, there is no guarantee that they will not walk a more dangerous, unsavory path in the future.
This reemphasis on branding ANNISU-R and CPN-Maoist as terrorist outfits is contextual, based on their current activities. Others, including sister wings of Nepali Congress, CPN-UML, and UCPN (Maoist), have engaged in violent activities as well, and they should be equally condemned. However, at this moment, ANNISU-R and CPN-Maoist pose a violent threat to the well-being of the nation.
If they are unchecked, the CPN-Maoist could shove their misguided “morals” on us and regulate what we think. I hope we will retaliate before a Nepali Malala gets shot .
Most recently, they have sought to ban Indian license plate vehicles and Hindi movies from Nepal. The ban on Indian vehicles has hindered the passage of consumable goods from India, including disrupting LPG supply as Nepal does not have appropriate vessels to transport LPG. Similarly, the excuse that many Hindi movies are insulting to Nepali people is actually far more insulting to Nepalis. Are we not judicious enough to determine good and bad for ourselves? Banning all Hindi movies because some of them might be insulting to some of us is tantamount to throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
The ban on Hindi movies, in and of itself, does not pose as serious a threat to consumers, especially in today’s internet age where people can stream, download or buy pirated copies. The problem is larger, and more systemic. After all, what authority does this vigilante group have to pass such edicts? How can they claim jurisdiction over these matters?
Their only source of legitimacy is their brute force, which they wield without judicious consideration. Given the disregard they have exhibited towards the future and livelihoods of children, teachers, entrepreneurs, workers and civilians in general, they are on a slippery slope towards becoming seasoned terrorists.
If ANNISU-R cadre and CPN-Maoist truly believe in their mission, they must act as agents, not enforcers, of change. If Hindi movies really undermine what it means to be a Nepali, they must engage with people on the ground, hold discussions, convince people, and then feed that information to decision makers. Given Maoism’s rich history in propaganda, they could also counter Hindi influence through soft power by producing their own films and documentaries.
Similarly, if they truly believe that schools with foreign names do not deserve a place in Nepal, they must convince parents, guardians and the general populace rather than threaten hardworking citizens and destroy valuable infrastructure. They should also invest in effective, competitive transport mechanisms to replace Indian vehicles to ensure smooth delivery of commodities.
Most people recognize though that these activists are not genuine about their cause but want to score cheap “nationalist” political points. This is also a ruse to extort businesses at the expense of the masses to fill party and personal coffers.
As things stand, ANNISU-R and CPN-Maoist cadres brandish their weapons to subjugate the citizenry into submission, thereby perpetuating a culture of systemic, chronic violence. Nepalis are clearly an enduring bunch, as we deal with one blow after another without retaliation. This violence and these violators have become an accepted part of our everyday lives. Today they want to dictate where we go to school and what we watch. Left unchecked, tomorrow they are likely to shove their misguided “morals” on us and regulate what we think and who we are. I can only hope we will retaliate before a Nepali Malala gets shot, burnt, or worse.
Before some readers brand me as “anti-Maoist” for critiquing these particular actions, if the party renounces violence, engages meaningfully with people at the grassroots, and proposes deliberated plans and policies to bring the nation out of this quagmire, I will gladly be the first in line to become a card-carrying member. Given the dearth of meaningful political leadership in this country, we could use a party that actually works for its people, rather than just invoke their name to perpetuate a violent, extortionate racket. So far, though, CPN-Maoist has not been that party.