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That Entrenched Malady

K.V. Rajan

By Nischal Nath Pandey
Manohar Publication & RCCS Policy Studies 27, New Delhi, 2005, pp. 175, Rs. 340.00

VOLUME XXIX NUMBER 12 December 2005

When the Maoists launched their movement in February, 1996, with three raids on banks and police posts and a charter of 43 demands, few could have imagined that it would take such deep root or spread so fast. Why and how did this happen? Could  the spread of the movement have been prevented with better political leadership and management? What are the stakes for other countries, especially India and China? And what are the options and solutions, if there are any?      In this monograph written for the Regional Centre for Strategic Studies in Colombo, Nischal Pandey, a young Nepalese scholar who heads the  Foreign Policy Institute in Kathmandu and is a familiar figure on the South Asian seminar and writing circuit, attempts to deal with these and other questions relating to Nepal’s Maoist insurgency.      Pandey refers to Sir Robert Thompson’s dictum that “when times are hard and food is short, the inevitability of finding a decisive victory has always been a strong card to play” for communist revolutionaries all over the world. But this by itself hardly explains the spectacular spread of the movement in nine short years. Political exclusion of a rump of the erstwhile communist movement; failures of democracy, its leaders and institutions between 1990 and 2002, which Pandey covers in some detail; the collapse of institutions like the bureaucracy, which might have helped in times of political instability; a fairly comprehensive absence of sensitive governance which could have made democracy more inclusive and development meaningful for those in most need of it; the unwillingness of  the monarchy to accept its constitutional limitations (a factor not mentioned by Pandey) were undoubtedly helpful as the movement consolidated and expanded from its original  support base in the Midwest—one of Nepal’s poorest regions, inhabited by  caste and tribal groups traditionally marginalized by Kathmandu’s Chhetri-Brahmin ruling elite—which was a model platform for launching  such an insurgency. These groups, along with women and unemployed youth, were enthusiastic supporters  of the movement in its early years. The combination of Peru’s Shining Path ideology, with home-grown modifications. and carefully cultivated “Robin Hood” image would have easily  attracted many from sections of society which had suffered for decades, first under Rana autocracy and absolute monarchy, and then under multiparty democracy. The Maoist tactics of terror and extortion, barbaric killing of civilians, abduction and brainwashing of teachers and students, the summary executions and torture, ...

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