Prophets unarmed

Maoist leaders Prachanda and Baburam Bhattarai, recently in Delhi, broke through the clichés to push for peace and democracy in NepalAmit Sengupta DelhiThe underground becomes the overground. The armed rebel guerrilla becomes the statesman visionary. The revolutionary legend, branded as a ‘terrorist’ by the media and political establishments across the world, especially in the US and India, becomes a liberator and reformer. The unspoken becomes the spoken. Speech becomes action. Comrade Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’, unquestioned Maoist leader of Nepal, in a rugged tweed coat and with chaste Nepali-accented English, in his first visit to New Delhi - the capital of ‘big brother India’, marked an understated but historic landmark in the history of both nations, and perhaps South Asia and the world. Understated, because the chairperson of the ‘dreaded’ Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), humiliated and sidelined in the murky, brazenly opportunist and pro-monarchy ‘democratic’ politics of the Nepali mainstream (witness the dubious role of the Nepali Congress and its fragments), was once again in the decisive mainstream of the ‘alternative-mainstream’ discourse. Understated but clearly understood - because his originality was based on original politics, pro-poor, pro-people, pro-republic, pro-Constituent assembly, pro-republic, pro-peace, pro the abolition of feudalism and monarchy; first overground, then underground, in one of the bloodiest, stoic and protracted armed guerrilla struggles in the history of revolutions in modern times, for ten long years. Bloody, because the Maoists took on State terrorism on their own terms, in village after village in the vast, rough, mountain terrain and terai plains of poverty-stricken and exploited Nepal. On the highways. And thus followed the spiral of tactical retaliations: in self-defence and counter-strikes, revenge attacks, strategic occupations of towns and villages, liberated zones, mass mobilisation, blockades, social and political enlightenment, and empowerment. This spiral moved in a constant circle of reason and unreason across the shadow lines of a brutish, bloated regime, fattened by illicit wealth and parasitic exploitation by ancient, entrenched, alienated pro-king lobbies calling the shots from Kathmandu, most often backed by the US, China, and of course, India.  That is why when he spoke, with nuanced but lucid articulation, everyone listened in the power centre of Delhi. Here was a discourse that was engaging - with complex layers of theory and praxis, diplomacy and realpolitik, ideology and history, and metaphysics and philosophy. Also time-past moving into unique time-future, especially for little landlocked Nepal, which has witnessed a landmark transformation still in the wombs of unfolding; a country which can teach the world a lesson in the abcd of dialectics, of democracy and revolution, and which will stand as an epistemological rupture in the history of people’s struggle in the neo-liberal, globalised 21st century.Those who are reinterpreting a co-option theory might become stereotyped victims of the typical ‘conspiracy theory’ which stalks the bourgeois liberal traps of the largest democracy. As Comrade Baburam Bhattarai, ideologue and  Prachanda’s shadow, said in as many words, surrounded by all the top left leaders of the Indian Left in Delhi: “Despite being a vibrant democracy, the Indian model is not what we would like to emulate. Because there is still so much poverty, discrimination and exploitation in India.”Prachanda was more forthright. The Stalinist model is out; it was a “political, metaphysical and ideological mistake”. The Leninist model is in, because if Lenin had been alive he would have initiated a socialistic competitive logic, as he clearly outlined in his new economic policy, which accepts a multi-party polarisation in the context of its times. In that case, in his own manner, Prachanda re-emphasised what writer Tariq Ali has recently stated, that one-party rule might inevitably lead to a totalitarian dictatorship, as was the ‘mistake’ committed by the Stalinist leadership. Indeed, surrounded by mostly Stalinist ideologues of the ‘official Left’ – the CPI(M) and CPI – at the NCP headquarters in Delhi, both  Prachanda and Baburam Bhattarai seemed a bit out of sync. When this reporter asked if India is a failed democracy which the Maoists will not really like to emulate, and while sharing a dais with top Left leaders, will the Maoist leadership agree that the Indian mainline Left has failed both the Indian democracy and the Indian revolution, and if there will ever be a ‘revolutionary transformation’ in India, Bhattarai sounded rather diplomatically apologetic: “This is a question best answered by the Indian Left itself.”Indeed, when another reporter from West Bengal asked if West Bengal was the role model for the Maoists where the Left has ruled for almost a quarter of a century, Prachanda categorically said that they would follow no archetypical role models. He even said that Sitaram Yechuri will help “within a week” in the release of a Maoist leader who has been rotting in a Jalpaiguri jail under the Left Front regime.Meanwhile, eyebrows were raised on the lightening visit of Prachanda and Bhattarai in Delhi and the kind of circles they moved in: the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit, the Ambani-backed Observor Research Foundation, the NCP office meeting organised by a not so credible politician, expelled CPI(M) leader DP Tripathi, and finally, Sharad Yadav of the JD(U) who aligned with the communal fascist government of the BJP, even after the Gujarat genocide. Analysts point out that the Maoists are desperately looking for political and bargaining space in the face of dogged resistance by the pro-king and pro-US lobbies in India and Nepal. The current US Ambassador in Nepal, James Moriarty, and the anti-Maoist lobby in Kathmandu among the Nepali Congress and the seven party alliance, have not really moved along the promises they had made. They have not only made the surrender of arms a major issue, they seem to be protecting the ‘Royal’ Nepal Army at the cost of the nation-wide peaceful revolution in April in Nepal. Besides, the codes of agreement were not being actually followed, and the Maoists’ demand for an interim government and Constitution, and the elections for the Constituent Assembly which will finally decide on the abolition of monarchy, were being scuttled. This had predictably shaken the Maoist movement, and people across Nepal, including the district level cadres of the mainstream parties, who desperately want a republic and the abolition of democracy.The latest peace accord between the Maoists and the current Nepal government (formed on the dubious scaffolding of a discredited and failed Parliament of 1990) is therefore a sign of hope. Even the unpopular king has welcomed it, whatever it means. The Maoists, clearly, have shown amazing flexibility and vision, and their early 1990s stand on the Constitution and the Constituent Assembly of a democratic republic of Nepal has been vindicated. Their cadres are being herded in UN-supervised camps. So will, apparently, be the temporary fate of the Nepal Army. And yet, fingers are crossed across Nepal and in India. At the time of writing, the formation of the interim government with the Maoists and the process of the interim Constitution has again been delayed. The pro-feudal forces are not letting it go so easily. It’s uncanny: because the language of betrayal almost always sounds like the language of agreement. Only, when it comes to the people of Nepal, now they will not accept anything less than the abolition of monarchy and its replacement by an egalitarian democracy – outside the ‘divine language’ of brutality, hunger and oppression. Or else, there will be a second revolution.