Status update on opportunism

From The Kathmandu Post ( 27 September, 2013)

 A study of Baburam Bhattarai’s utterances would indicate that they are directed at destroying the people’s self-esteem. There is just no ideology there.

Last week, Baburam Bhattarai placed an explosive post on his Facebook page. Except, there was no explosion, and that’s because the intelligentsia’s reactive capacity has been eroded by years of intimidation and manipulation. The Facebook status was cleverly updated to say something vital while making it look inadvertent, which is why it is important to note the context and intention.

Bhattarai’s aim was mainly to reassure the Indian ‘handlers’ for the sake of long-term support. New Delhi is seen as an all-out player on Nepal by some, and as the focus of exaggerated ire by others. The sober citizen seeks a consistent bilateral relationship based on mutual respect that can only be ensured through contact between the political leaders of the two capitals, and by diplomats acting under transparent national policy guidelines.

The Maoist leadership, on the other hand, has sought to use any means to fulfil its goal of total control over the national population. For this, it has worked with the royal palace and with Indian intelligence. Until recently we only had anecdotal information and the writings of Prof SD Muni to prove the point, but now there is the well-researched and -documented volume by Sudheer Sharma, editor of Kantipur daily.

Terminal embarrassment

Sharma’s Prayogshala (‘Laboratory’, Fine Print, 2013) leaves very little to the imagination when it comes to the relationship between the Maoists, the royal palace and southern handlers. Backed by the journalist’s invaluable notebook and access to all the key players including the very willing intelligence-wallahs, the author describes a polity gone belly-up.

UCPN (Maoist) Chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the primary malefactor behind the ongoing great national weakening, had the gall to attend the launch of the book (of course, he was invited). There, he made confessional declarations of the kind that anywhere else would have been a matter of terminal embarrassment for a national party going in for elections. But we have long lost all sense of scale and perspective, and the brash affirmation of having worked with foreign agencies failed to exercise the literati—the same as happened to Bhattarai’s Facebook mea culpa.

Sudheer Sharma has done what a journalist does best, present analysis backed by research. What the commentators make of the disclosures in Prayogshala will be critical. All is lost if the public is made to accept that this is the ‘new reality’ and begins to adjust to the less-than-sovereign state. On the other hand, if there is a proper realisation, perhaps those responsible for the debacle will be punished at the ballot and a new chapter of geopolitical confidence will begin, as it should have in 2006.

A chatur man

Coming back to Baburam Bhattarai, the former UCPN (Maoist) vice-chair seems to have suddenly realised a need to airbrush the record of his anti-India stance of long ago. That erstwhile positioning had been meant to attract the youth to pick up the gun but now it is important to shed that opportunistic cloak. Hence, the status update.

Bhattarai was supposedly reacting to last week’s reports of Indian police raiding a Nepali household in Bardia. Starting with how his blood boiled at the news, Bhattarai then turned to faux-reflection: “In the beginning, when it came to nationalism, I too would be carried away with bravado (aabeg) rather than circumspection. Examples of this are to be found in my PhD thesis, the numerous movements I led for the United People’s Front, and the well-known 40-point demand.”

In one sentence, the chatur bahun (hyper-clever brahmin) in Baburam Bhattarai seeks to create a distance with his entire political past: all the opportunism present in waging a ‘people’s war’ against parliamentary democracy, the sparking of state terror in response, the death of thousands, mass migration of millions, and the maiming of the entire economy for nearly two decades running. In that one Facebook posting, the sly one abandons the very document (drafted by himself and presented to the Deuba government on February 4, 1996) that led the country into a ‘controlled flight into terrain’—a crash that continues in slow motion to this day.

The Facebook posting was Bhattarai’s gambit to distance himself from ultra-nationalism/anti-Indianism, but without having to answer for what the 40 points wrought on the populace. His stance is akin to that of Dahal saying ‘sorry’ for the Maadi bus blast which killed two score, but sabotaging every effort to serve justice.

Ideology of impunity

It is important to catch Bhattarai out on these sleights of hand if one is to protect the citizenry. Even as he was convincing Western diplomats that he was a dyed-in-wool social democrat, Bhattarai was telling a UK radical-left portal in October 2009 that the one-party state remained the party’s goal, to be achieved through fancy tactical footwork. (“Some people are confused about this and think we have abandoned the protracted People’s War forever and adopted a peaceful path of social development…” see: This interview is the Bhattarai equivalent of Dahal’s 2008 ‘Shaktikhor videotape’ on how to cheat the UNMIN and how to conduct electoral fraud (see: .

If Bhattarai has an ideology, it could be defined by the term ‘impunity’. He continues to try his utmost to sabotage the current government’s attempts to investigate the 2004 killing of Krishna Prasad Adhikary. As prime minister, he directed the Dailekh police to stop investigations into the murder of journalist Dekendra Thapa, despite a confession by the accused.

Most disturbingly, the ex-prime minister does not seem to care for the murder of innocents, everything justified by the need for social transformation through violence. After viewing the photograph of the dead body of the Lamjung teacher Muktinath Adhikary tied to a tree in the exhibition titled ‘A People War’, Bhattarai wrote in the visitor’s book: “To make a classless and non-historical analysis of violence is not helpful.” More than once, he has said the following in relation to the death of innocents during the conflict: “At the grinding mill, it is natural for insects to be caught with the grain.” Elsewhere, he has maintained that the talk of genocide in Cambodia was actually the result of “Western propaganda”.

Ye election observers!

The record of utterances and the actions of Baburam Bhattarai should ring an alarm bell for all engaged with the upcoming Constituent Assembly elections, including the national and international election observer force. If the observers are to serve the Nepali electorate somewhat better than the last group did in the 2008 elections, they must try and go beyond ritual. For this, it is essential to have a clear-headed understanding of the players on the field.

I will have more on election observation in relation to the CA-II elections in my forthcoming column two weeks hence. Suffice it here to present the following data from Election District No. 2 of Gorkha, Bhattarai’s constituency. In 2008, there were 85,243 registered voters, and Bhattarai received 46,272 in the ballot box. The number of registered voters for the district presently is 43,822. Go figure.

All said and done, elections are about democracy, and human rights values must inform all engaged in organising elections. As we prepare for November 19, the Nepali population and the election observation cohort may internalise the following lines of US President Barack Obama, delivered before the UN General Assembly on Tuesday:  “America… will continue to support the principles embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We will reject the notion that these principles are simply Western exports… they are the birthright of every person.” Ho ni ta!


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