10 February 2006

"Multiparty democracy in Nepal will be message to Indian Naxalites"

In the second and final part of this exclusive interview with The Hindu, Maoist leader Prachanda provides his evaluation of the role of India, China, and the United States in the struggle for democracy in Nepal. And he has words of advice for the Maoists in India: it is time you started thinking about multiparty competitive democracy as well.

10 February 2006
The Hindu

"Multiparty democracy in Nepal will be message to Indian Naxalites"

Siddharth Varadarajan

In the second and final part of this exclusive interview withThe Hindu, Maoist leaderPrachandaprovides his evaluation of the role of India, China, and the United States in the struggle for democracy in Nepal. And he has words of advice for the Maoists in India: it is time you started thinking about multiparty competitive democracy as well.



Prachanda: "Once a democratic republic is established in Nepal, the doubts that have existed in the relations between Nepal and India can be ended." — Photo: V. Sudershan

I want to ask you about the 2001 royal palace massacre. I was in Kathmandu to cover the story. I was initially suspicious of the Dipendra theory but later, I spoke to close relatives of those who died — who spoke to survivors like Princess Ketaki Chester who cannot really be considered part of monarchical factions with a particular agenda. And they all said it was Dipendra who committed the crime.

Prachanda: This is impossible. Of course, the [Gyanendra] clique has managed to establish the story amongst its own circles, among people who may be neutral as you say. They have established it in their class but that is not the reality. You know how different stories were put out immediately, that the guns went off automatically, then another story was made. There was even an effort to suggest Maoists had made a surprise attack. In the end, they pinned it on Dipendra. So the question arises, if it was so clear-cut, why didn't this story come out in the beginning? But my main logic is not this. If you look at the whole history of [crown prince] Paras — he was there at the time; second, the role of Gyanendra in the 1990 movement. He had a big role then — he wanted to shoot down 2,000 people in Kathmandu and control the movement through force, he was a die-hard element. And what kind of [person] Paras is — this is also known. For more than a month, the massacre was planned and Gyanendra based himself outside. So I don't think for even a moment it was Dipendra. And in any case, the Nepali people simply refuse to believe this story.

How do you see the role of India today? Last year, when the king seized power, India took a tough stand against him that surprised many. It is also significant that the Indian Government does not seem to regard the Nepal Maoists as illegitimate in the way that the king and the U.S. regard them.

In the past, India's policy was one of total alignment with the king. Last year, after February 1, ever since the situation changed in a big way, the role of the Indian authorities strikes us as positive. There is now a tough stand against autocracy. Still, the two-pillar theory [that Nepal's stability rests equally on constitutional monarchy and multiparty democracy] persists and the Indian authorities have not officially abandoned it. They are right to support the democratic movement, but sticking to the two-pillar theory causes confusion...

But if India abandons it, wouldn't the king accuse the Indians of interfering in Nepal's affairs, and then he will accuse the Maoists of being agents of India...

We don't think such a thing is possible. During the 1990 movement, when Rajiv Gandhi imposed a blockade on Nepal, the Nepali people did not oppose the blockade because it was in the context of the blockade that the democratic movement picked up speed and advanced very fast. If India is in favour of the democratic movement and a forward-looking political solution, then it will not be considered intervention. But if India supports regressive forces, this would be called intervention. Some political leaders came from India recently to show solidarity with the movement. Gyanendra tried illegally to detain them at the airport, calling it intervention. But more than 99 per cent of Nepali people did not regard that as intervention. Of course, when Hindu fundamentalists like this [VHP leader Ashok] Singhal come to Nepal, the king welcomes them. When they crown him `King of the Hindus,' he doesn't call it interference! So the anger of the Nepalese people has grown against the king, not India.

If you were to meet Manmohan Singh, what would you ask him to do?

First, change this two-pillar theory. The Nepali people are trying to end the monarchy and you should end your relationship with it. Second, release all our comrades who are in prison in India. We are fighting for genuine multiparty democracy but they are imprisoned there, in Patna, Siliguri, Chennai. If you release them all, a message will go out. And if you feel the Naxalite movement in India is a problem for you, we feel we are trying to deal with the problems in Nepal in a new way, so if you release our comrades and we are successful in establishing multiparty democracy in Nepal, this will be a very big message for the Naxalite movement in India. In other words, the ground will be readied for them to think in a new political way. Words are not enough, we need to validate what we are saying by establishing that democracy. Third, once a democratic republic is established in Nepal, then the historical doubts that have existed in the relations between Nepal and India can be ended once and for all. So for all these reasons, you should strongly support the movement for democracy.

In many ways, the U.S. has emerged as the king's strongest backer. How do you evaluate Washington's role?

The U.S. role from the beginning has been negative and they are still trying to effect a compromise between the monarch and the political parties against the Maoists. Despite the fact that we are talking of pushing multiparty democracy, the U.S. has decided our movement and alliance has to be crushed.

What is the American interest in being soft on the king?

It is not that they are afraid of what might happen in Nepal. Rather, their strategy is against the Indian and Chinese people and also, I think, against the Indian and Chinese authorities. The U.S. has a grand strategy, and Bush is talking of China and India as big economic powers and even as threats. Perhaps they see Nepal as a country that is between these two countries and believe that if the situation here does not give rise to forces which are in step with the U.S., then there could be a problem. So the U.S. is looking at Nepal from the strategic point of view. It is not that they have any economic interest here. Political control is the key, so they want to strengthen the king.

What about the attitude of China? Some people in India argue that if India continues to take a tough stand against the king, he will turn to China for help and Beijing will benefit strategically at New Delhi's expense.

Earlier, we had a doubt that perhaps China might be behind the king, that China would try and take advantage. But then we analysed the situation and came to the conclusion that China would not play this role. China's relations with India are improving and China will not want to jeopardise such a big interest by backing the Nepal king. And in the end, I think our analysis has been proved correct. Recently, when Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran went to Beijing, he had talks, and a few days later, for the first time, the Chinese authorities issued a statement saying they are worried about the situation inside Nepal and that it needs a careful resolution. Until then, Beijing had always maintained that what was happening inside Nepal was an internal problem.

China has no interest in antagonising India to build a relationship with the king. This is our analysis. We are glad with the new situation that is emerging after Shyam Saran went to China. If China and India do not work together, there will be a big problem not only for now but the future. So they need to have an understanding in favour of democracy, in favour of the people of Nepal. Our movement is going forward and I think in two or three months, if the struggle continues, there is a real chance of ending the kingship once and for all and making a democratic republic in Nepal. This is the best outcome for China and India and everyone else. Of course, the U.S. does not want this. They want to maintain the monarchy at all costs.

To what extent do you think the logic of your line on multiparty democracy applies also to the Maoist movements in India?

We believe it applies to them too. We want to debate this. They have to understand this and go down this route. Both on the question of leadership and on multiparty democracy, or rather multiparty competition I believe those who call themselves revolutionaries in India need to think about these issues. And there is a need to go in the direction of that practice. We wish to debate with them on this. If revolutionaries are not going to look at the need for ideological development, they will not go anywhere.

Indian police agencies say you are providing weapons and training to the Indian Maoists but here you are saying they should go in for multiparty competition...

There is no question of us giving anything. They blame us for Madhubani, Jehanabad, but we have no relationship of this kind with them.

(The complete transcript of this interview has been posted on http://www.thehindu.com/)

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