UCPN (Maoist), which six days later would do away with the National Democracy Day celebrations, once again commemorated their “People´s War” (PW) Day on February 13, even five years after they abandoned the ‘war’ to join the peace process. However, their plans to mark the occasion in a big way couldn´t materialize as both numbers and enthusiasm of the rally participants—already in decline for the last few years—was a record low this time. The incident, therefore, begs some soul-searching on the part of the ex-rebels.
PW IN NUMBERS
The war’s toll on human life has been counted as 17,828. According to the latest government figures, other casualties of the decade-long insurgency are as follows:
Property loss suffered-14,438
As regards internally displaced people (IDP), the figure of 89,171 appears under-stated. As a large chunk of the IDPs chose not to report for the fear of Maoist backlash and also as many left the country in pursuit of safety and employment, their real number could be much higher.
There is no data regarding the more subtle and unquantifiable damages of the PW, for example, on post traumatic disorders among people. Similarly, detailed study on correlations between the violent war and the unbridled growth of arms and violence in the country, or between the frightful war and a ‘culture of silence’ that Nepali society has adopted—is yet to be done. Anyway, whatever statistics or studies are available are enough to prove the futility and fatality of the unwarranted bloody war thrust upon a nation already weakened by centuries of poverty, misrule and social evils.
MODES AND MERITS OF THE PW
Rural infrastructure and public utility properties like suspension bridges, schools, health posts, police posts and community centers that were widely sabotaged in the belief that ‘everything should be destroyed first, to build new’ are far from being reconstructed. Growth rate that reached close to 5 percent and GDP-Manufacturing sector ratio that nearly touched double digit during the preceding years of the war slid continuously, resulting in the decline in GNP, GDP per capita and job opportunities. Nepal’s brand image of a peaceful tourist paradise was tarnished for a long time resulting in huge losses for the hospitality industry.
Subsequently, banks that financed hotels, factories and businesses faced problems of funding causing crisis in the financial sector in a later phase. Sabotage and extortion hampered works on infrastructure project sites such as hydro-power and roads. Hence, the acute power shortage of today and the time overrun/cost overrun state of the Karnali Highway which links the poorest and the remotest region with the rest of the nation.
People who have witnessed Maoist hypocrisy and mal-governance were in no mood to celebrate any people’s war day.
Even those NGOs which were doing a good job in areas like poverty alleviation, capacity building of marginalized communities and local development were hit, extorted and driven out because, for the ‘revolutionaries’, they were no more than agents or spies of ‘imperialists’. Government sponsored program of similar nature such as the Small Farmer Development Project, too, was not spared. Mission hospitals and Mission schools providing cheap and quality healthcare or education in certain rural areas were forced to close or curtail services.
A low-grade local employee was killed simply because the poor fellow worked for the US Embassy to earn his living. Banks were looted; so were the common people, many of whom were anything but ‘feudal’ or ‘oppressors’ as alleged by the Maoists. Poor villagers were forced to feed, and/or to donate to, the Maoists, for which they would be interrogated, and sometimes even punished later by security agencies. The countryside is still mostly without youths causing acute shortage of farm laborers and social and community workers required for eventualities like funeral; because most youths fled the village to avoid conscription into the ‘People´s Liberation Army’.
Accusing them as class enemies, fraudsters, feudal elements, oppressors or state-informers, Maoists either killed or thrashed or drove out or silenced all those, including journalists, who wouldn’t approve of their ideology or methods, especially in rural areas. Ensuing political vacuum benefited them on the short run, but the vacuum also impaired and impeded democracy at grassroots that has just started to function. The result: Village Committees are without elected bodies/representatives for last ten years. Similarly, Maoists’ irresponsible fuelling of identity-politics might have paid them handsome dividends in the war, but the agenda—likely to be disastrous for the nation—has now been hijacked by Madhesis, ethno-lingual forces and separatists in disguise.
Madi bus sabotage, immolation of the girl child Kajol Khatun, brutal killing of the popular school teacher Muktinath Adhikary and the anti-Maoist activist Ganesh Chiluwal by Maoists and gang rape and murder of Maina Sunar by Army personnel were not the only acts of ghastly crime against humanity; there are many similar crimes, albeit they have not been as highlighted by media and civil society. Now the question is: what are the achievements of the PW that took such a heavy toll on people, economy, society and the newborn democracy of the nation?
BALANCE-SHEET OF THE PW
Maoists claim the new republican order or removal of monarchy as the greatest achievement of PW. If so, why in the first place did they form a secret ‘working alliance’ with King Birendra, a fact they have acknowledged themselves? What kind of ‘people´s war’ it was in which they deliberately didn´t assault the army—which was loyal to the monarchy during those days—all along the first half of the ´war´ and instead focused on soft targets such as unarmed officials or members of the public? And why did they, who would later agree—at least in words—to be part of an already existing democratic order, choose a violent path to overthrow the same regime?
On the other hand, if federalism is another achievement of the PW as claimed by the Maoists, first, it is yet to be implemented and tested. Second, all indications so far suggest that a federal structure, especially one based on ethnic divisiveness as proposed by them, will be catastrophic for national unity and integration.
Therefore, federalism is more likely to be a historical blunder than a historical achievement as maintained by the Maoists. The Maoists’ insurgence days social engineering like punitive actions/campaigns against alcoholism and gambling in villages has now turned into their love for the same that includes patronage of the casino business. Their policy of ‘people´s education’ that opposed ‘commercialization’ of schools has now altered into their own investments in the lucrative private school business.
‘Commune/collective farms’— the basic blocs of communism and socioeconomic change in the countryside that were started as pilot projects in Rukum and Rolpa, have been virtually liquidated following their failure. Maoists who previously labeled hydro power projects such as Pancheshwor and Mahakali as anti-national and demanded their shut down have now decided to go ahead with the undertakings. These are only some examples; the list of lost causes, lost ethics and lost direction is simply too long.
People who have witnessed Maoist greed, lies, hypocrisy, in-fights, mal-governance, changed lifestyles and lust for power for some time now, were in no mood to celebrate any PW Day. Recent incidents like PLA commander´s attempt to loot the paycheck of the combatants and the revolt of combatant-turned-YCL cadres demanding similar pecuniary benefits have revealed the ‘greatness’ of the ‘Great People’s War’.
Nepali people have been yearning for peace; therefore, instead of celebrating the ‘People´s War Day’ and delivering fiery speeches of ‘people´s revolt’ there, Maoist leaders better conclude the peace process, write constitution and, if possible, work toward nation building. It is time its leaders, Dahal and Bhattarai in particular, if not Baidya, realize that number and enthusiasm of people will only diminish in future ´War Day´ functions