– Kul Chandra Gautam, Subodh Raj Pyakurel, Kanak Mani Dixit
We three citizens come from diverse backgrounds and express ourselves, not always with the same voice, on numerous current social and political issues. Lalrakshak, the magazine backed by the UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, in its Magh-Falgun 2068 (February 2012) issue attacked us three with cover portraits and the accompanying declaratory headline, “These are the peoples’ enemies.”
Against the backdrop of the Maoist party not having formally renounced violence, its continuing use of force and ‘physical action’ throughout the country, and its vocal threats of ‘revolt’ even as it leads the government, we have sought to understand why this mouthpiece magazine of the senior-most party leadership has embarked on this campaign against us.
The ruling party would have everyone believe that all patriotic citizens are Maoists, and that only Maoist thinking is progressive and people-oriented. In line with its attempts to forcibly apply its agenda, the Maoists named their violent armed insurgency as ‘people’s war’, their organisational structures as ‘people’s government’, and their kangaroo courts as ‘people’s courts’. It was party policy to label whoever challenged the official line as ‘feudal’ and ‘regressive’, and, in the worst case, ‘people’s enemies’.
We have not heard of the Maoist party having formally abandoned its policy of eliminating (‘safaya’) its opponents. While underground, the party’s practice in relation to those it wanted to eliminate or disgrace through ‘physical action’ (bhautik karbahi) was to first humiliate such individuals in front of the cadres. In the present context, a party which has the announced agenda of introducing a ‘people’s constitution’ through revolt, has sought to instil fear among independent-minded citizens by labelling us ‘people’s enemies’. Simultaneously, the party seeks to excite and incite its own cadre.
We do not believe that the mouthpiece magazine would take the extreme step of using the ‘people’s enemy’ attack without the explicit consent of the party chairman. However, we will not be cowed by this attack and will continue to express our opinions. It is only cowards who seek to counter ideas with guns, swords, threats and intimidation.
Why this enmity?
Why would the Maoist leaders attack us unarmed citizens with this incitement to violence, even as they themselves move around with security provided by the state and surrounded by bodyguards? While we three have been expressing our independent opinions on the peace process, human rights and constitution-writing, each of us have been individually opposed to the Maoist party’s initiation of the armed ‘people’s war’ and its agenda against pluralistic democracy. Clearly, our positioning became even more unwelcome as the party began to cheat on the 12-Point Agreement and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
The immediate cause for ‘enmity’ may have to do with some of our recent positions. Kul Chandra Gautam consistently argued that the Maoist chairman’s involvement in Lumbini be more transparent, that the party abandon the violent politics, and stand by its commitments on the peace process. Subodh Raj Pyakurel has held a steadfast position against Maoist human rights excesses, and is strongly opposed to the ‘general amnesty’ agenda. Kanak Mani Dixit’s latest writings about Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s ambitions to become a directly-elected president or prime minister could have earned him the party’s ire, enough to be termed a ‘people’s enemy’.
The attack on us three citizens seems to be part of a plan by the senior-most Maoist bosses to instil fear in the broader civil society, an attempt to force submission among independent citizens including journalists, rights activists, intellectuals and local leaders in the districts. What the Maoist leaders forget, of course, is that since 1990 the people of Nepal have been breathing the oxygen of freedom. The party may not allow the breeze of free thought to blow among its rank-and-file, but the broader Nepali society now revels in its independence. There is no way that Nepal will be converted into a ‘people’s democratic paradise’ like North Korea or a former Albania.
True, in some places, amidst a stifled atmosphere some citizens may maintain momentary silence, but the party would be mistaken to believe this as acceptance of its agenda and actions. In fact, because of the corrupt and extortionist proclivities of the Maoist party and cadre, we sense there is an underground volcano developing everywhere against their excesses. This hardly does the UCPN (Maoist) itself any good.
Don’t need protection
The Maoists developed their party as a militarist organisation, and have proved unable or unwilling to develop democratically after coming above ground in 2006. This is the reason why the party seems to require imaginary enemies, as a means to keep the cadre united through fear. And so, at different times, the party has declared the United States, India and the Nepali Congress as its enemies. Today, the party is even more imaginative as it goes against ordinary citizens whose only ‘fault’ is to have expressed their opinions freely.
On 5 February 2012, we wrote a letter to Baburam Bhattarai, not as Maoist leader but as prime minister of all the people. We did not seek individual protection from the state in relation to the incitement by the Maoist mouthpiece. Instead, we asked the head of government with responsibility to protect the citizenry to give a public reaction to the Lalrakshak coverage. We also sought appropriate action against a magazine and editor affiliated with the prime minister’s own party for using the cover of press freedom to incite violence.
The neglect shown by Prime Minister Bhattarai to our twin demands indicates his personal lack of sensitivity towards humanitarian issues and the fundamental freedoms. There was a phone contact from the Prime Minister’s Office promising us security, but that was not what we had asked for.
This is what we say to the party that attacks us as ‘people’s enemies’: It does not behove those who sit protected by their circle of gunmen to try and scare free-thinking citizens by hurling abuse and threats. A citizenry which has conducted two people’s movements, in 1990 and 2006, will never accept a police state.
Some may say that the ‘people’s enemy’ attack is the work of only one faction within the Maoist party. If so, why have the other factions not spoken? Frankly, we fail to see differentiation within the Maoist leadership when it comes to the use of violence in politics—some are openly aggressive while others stand in silent support. Lalrakshak has spoken for them all, in its attempt to scare the general populace while picking on a few.
At this penultimate moment of the writing of the new constitution, we have no evidence to suggest that the largest party in the Constituent Assembly has abandoned its violent ways. If the UCPN (Maoist) genuinely seeks a progressive social transformation which the world will respect and the Nepali masses will welcome, then we ask that the party to make a formal abandonment of its policy of violence. Let the party seek forgiveness of the people for having taken recourse to violence and the ‘people’s war’. When the UCPN (Maoist) transforms itself into a peace-loving, democratic and progressive political party committed to help transform the country, we will be there to wish it success.