When the then CPN (Maoist) announced its ‘people’s war’ in 1996, few took its threat of an armed revolt seriously. On February 13 the same year the party officially launched its decade-long insurgency with armed attacks at four different government installments around the country. The Sher Bahadur Deuba-led government decided to tackle the ‘law and order problem’ with heavy hand. That strategy backfired as the Maoist ranks began to swell with those directly affected by the state’s disproportional response.
By the time the war officially ended in 2006, up to 17,000 Nepalis had lost their lives. Now the Mohan Baidya-led CPN-Maoist has raised the threat of another armed insurgency. Most of the party’s central committee members speaking in course of the ongoing central committee meeting have called on party leadership to clearly announce formation of the party’s own ‘army’. This demand came in the wake of Party Chairman Mohan Baidya’s presentation of a political document which outlines the formation of an “armed force” when necessary. As party General Secretary Ram Bahadur Thapa clarified, the inclusion of the word ‘army’ instead of ‘armed force’ would imply that all political options have been exhausted and there is no alternative to an armed struggle.
CPN-Maoist is unlikely to take any drastic decision before its General Convention slated for Jan 9-12. But the radical views being expressed at the central committee meet does indicate souring mood of its rank and file. With the Baburam Bhattarai refusing to budge to the opposition demand of vacating the government, the resentment of the breakaway party continues to rise against the mother outfit, which it accuses of deviating from the ‘revolutionary’ course. Irrespective of the immediate feasibility of an armed revolution, the threat must be taken seriously by all stakeholders in the political process. For ignoring its voice could force CPN-Maoist into a corner and make the party more liable to carry out its threat. Make no mistake.
The threat is credible. Baidya’s party consists of most top Maoist leaders directly involved in battle operations during the decade-long insurgency. These leaders enjoy big support among former PLA and YCL. If the party leaders feel marginalized in the current process, there is a distinct possibility of formation of a sizable ‘army’ from among former Maoist combatants who feel cheated by the mother party’s decision to invite Nepal Army into cantonments, in what they have labeled a ‘surrender’. CPN-Maoist would also look to cash in on the ire of the over 4,000 ex-PLA members disqualified in UMNIN verification.
Considering what is at stake, every effort should be made to enlist the support of CPN-Maoist in all important political decisions on breaking the current political and constitutional deadlock. We certainly don’t agree with CPN-Maoist leaders’ threat of another armed revolt and with their seemingly childish protest methods like banning foreign movies and Indian number-plate vehicles. But we are also under no illusion that CPN-Maoist could emerge as a big impediment to future democratic process if party leaders feel sidelined by the mainstream actors. The country cannot afford another armed revolt. All stakeholders should be mindful of this hard truth