Readers should note that this book was authored prior to developments such as the advent of the Young Communist League (YCL), the Madhesi peoples' uprising, and the neutralization of the law and order functions of the state by the current government. Hence, these are not discussed.
However, the impact of such developments on the trajectory of the Nepali Maoist movement (while significant) does not impair the validity of the historical context (or future projections) outlined in the author's writing.
Note: This writing is presented with the EXPLICT CONSENT of the author, Dr. Thomas A. Marks. Pictures have been removed to facilitate publication, but the captions remain, since they include useful information.
Important as the case of Sendero Luminoso was on its merits, it was more so because, in a post-Cold War world that often saw strategic victory over communism confused with operational realities, die-hard elements of discredited Marxist-Leninism looked to the Peruvian Maoists as their standard-bearers. This was as true in Nepal as elsewhere.[i]
What makes the Nepali case all the more compelling is that it has played itself out in the manner intended by the Maoists in the cases considered in previous chapters of this work. Indeed, in many ways all the elements are present, especially when compared to the Thai case, but they have unfolded in dissimilar fashion and thrust the Nepali Maoists to the threshold of victory – what no other Maoist group in Asia has been able to accomplish since the end of the Vietnam War.
Insurgency in Nepal has existed for perhaps five decades but burst into the open as a serious force only with the declaration of people’s war on 13 February 1996 by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) or CPN(M), the most radical offshoot of the leftwing spectrum in Nepali politics.[ii] Desultory action ended when the “Maoists,” as they are universally known, unilaterally abrogated on-going talks with the government and launched a nationwide general offensive in November 2001. There followed a steadily increasing level of violence that by April had left some 13,000 Nepalis dead, a majority of them in not quite four years.[iii] In that month, the old-order was toppled, much as had happened in Thailand in October 1973, and a similar drama began to play itself out as occurred 1973-76 – with important distinctions.
[i] An early version of this chapter appeared as Marks, Insurgency in Nepal (Carlisle: Army War College, 2003). See also Marks, “At the Frontlines of the GWOT: Insurgency in Nepal,” The Journal of Counterterrorism and Homeland Security International, 9.4 (Fall 2003), 28-34.
[ii] For a sympathetic treatment of historical context, see Arjun Karki and David Seddon, “The People’s War in Historical Context,” in Karki and Seddon, eds., The People’s War in Nepal: Left Perspectives (Delhi: Adroit Publishers, 2003), 3-48.
[iii] The closest thing to “official” figures for the conflict are those compiled by the Informal Sector Research & Study Centre (INSEC) and published both periodically and in an annual. They were undoubtedly compiled in good faith and widely accepted, but it is difficult to take at face value a compilation that, for key years, listed Maoists killed while engaged in insurgency as those “victimized by the state,” or as “political workers” who were “victims killed by state.” The National Human Rights Commission also publishes periodic and annual reports. These are more carefully worded, though not in the detail of the INSEC papers. See, for example, Human Rights in Nepal: A Status Report 2003 (Kathmandu: National Human Rights Commission, 2004).
Growth of Insurgent Challenge to the Old RegimeKnown as a premier tourist destination, the site of the mighty Himalayan Mountains, the tallest the majestic Mount Everest, Nepal would hardly seem a candidate for a raging communist insurgency. Indeed, if anything, its population was recognized not as rebels but for its loyal service as Gurkhas, perhaps the single most legendary infantry in the world.
The combination, however – dominant peaks and service as infantry in foreign armies – actually goes to the heart of the matter. It is not accidental that over the past nearly two centuries, a small, land-locked mountain kingdom has sent hundreds of thousands of its young men into combat for others. To the contrary, Nepalis have flocked abroad not because of martial bent or any other characteristic, rather for the oldest reason known to recruiters: need.
Far from being Shangri-la, Nepal (see Fig. 7.1) is 24 million people competing for their livelihoods in a country but the size of Florida (139,670 sq. km land area for the former versus 139,671 sq. km for the latter), which has a population of 16,713,000.[i] Roughly a fifth of the national territory is the Himalayas, with, consequently, a mere fraction of the population. The lower approximately one-third of the country, the tarai, scrub jungle now largely cleared, until recently held 32.1% of the populace. It could not even be settled until the 1970s when several virulent strains of malaria were conquered. This resulted in a popular concentration, 67.2%, in the central one-third, or the hill country. Lest the point be lost, some 16 million people were sandwiched into “one-third of Florida.”[ii]
The result, according to a World Bank study done in 1973, was “population density per square kilometer of arable land is probably as high as 1,000, a concentration similar to that found in certain Asiatic deltas, but where, in contrast, the soil is more fertile and the climate allows two to three crops a year.” Conditions of livelihood, among the worst in the developing world,[iii] were exacerbated, because an effective lack of any industrial base meant 90% of the population was rural, 80% of the total population working directly on the land. Although 90% of farmers were classified as owner-operators, this impressive figure was achieved only by severe division: 50% of all households endeavored to engage in agriculture on plots of less than half a hectare; 7.8% were completely landless.[iv]
The economy thus has a current Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of only USD 5.5 billion, an annual budget of just USD 1.1 billion. In contrast, numerous US public school districts have greater budgets.[v] The official leading source of foreign exchange, tourism, was supplemented by foreign aid put at anywhere from 40-60% of the total budget figure. Foreign remittances consequently have become increasingly important.[vi] It should come as no surprise that the United Nations lists Nepal as among the poorest countries in the world: 80% of the populace, surveys consistently find, must do outside work to survive. Limited development, however, ensures that such work is scarce. The result is a skewed distribution of resources, in which some have and many do not. The only solution readily available has been out-migration and participation in the global economy.
Historically, for certain hill tribal groups, this has meant enlistment as soldiers in the British Indian Army. Such opportunities, although they declined substantially in British service after Indian independence in 1948, have continued in the forces of India, but still have no possibility of absorbing even a sizable fraction of hill tribe job-seekers much less others.[vii] Indeed, Nepalis of all communities seeking relatively well-paid expatriate work have largely opted for service work abroad, with the largest single employer being Japan, if India, which has an open border with Nepal, is not considered.[viii] Regardless, most job-seekers are unable to obtain external employment, regardless of destination, and so find themselves mired in poverty. Statistics show that at least 20% of the population lives in extreme, abject circumstances.
Considering only economic matters, Nepal would have been a candidate for serious dislocation. Exacerbating the situation further, however, were social parameters: issues of caste, ethnicity, and language. On the surface, Nepal was a picture of unity, the world’s only official Hindu kingdom. The constitutional monarch, a living god to much of the population even in the 21st century, sat atop a society 86.5% Hindu and 9% Buddhist, a society in which every aspect is dominated by caste.
In reality, beneath this picture of unity, is fragmentation. There are sixty recognized caste and ethnic groups. Only slightly more than half the population, 56.4%, is actually embraced by the caste system. More than a third, 35.5%, are classified as ethnics, tribal groups outside the caste system. The four largest of these have just over a million members each: Magar, Tharu, Newar, and Tamang. (Magars apparently have supplied a plurality of Gurkha manpower in the British system.[ix]) A further 3.6% of the people are classified as belonging to religious communities (e.g., Sikhs, Muslims), and 4.5% are simply “others.”
Significantly, half of the caste figure is comprised of the top two castes, Brahmins and Chhetris, the historic priestly and warrior castes at, respectively, 16.1% and 12.9% of the total population. Therefore, 29% of the population is structurally positioned, by religious mandate, to dominate. This they have done, effectively controlling all positions of power and influence.[x] Not surprisingly, this leads to charges of unfair advantage, where disproportionate influence and possession are replicated by religious sanction.
Linguistically, there is also severe division. According to the 1991 Census, Nepal’s people speak thirty-two languages, with only 50.3% claiming Nepali, the national language, as their mother tongue. Although the second language, Maithili, 11.9%, is a distant second, the Census notes that some ethnic and caste groups, which have their own tongues, are not even reflected in the total figure of languages spoken. Needless to say, the top castes are brought up in and are totally at ease with Nepali, while other groups often struggle, even as linguistic competence is a key factor in access to coveted bureaucratic employment, whether in the government or private sector.
Given such socio-economic divisions, it would have been expected that politics play a significant role in mediating contending demands. For the country was, constitutionally, a parliamentary democracy. Here again, there was more than met the eye. A democracy since only 1990, Nepal suffered from all-too-familiar problems of the genre “emerging democracy”: corruption, inefficiency, and lack of focus.[xi] Compounded by a lack of state integration, the political system was able to foster little save a lack of legitimacy.
Nepal emerged as a country in 1774-75.[xii] As it reached its present boundaries, then sought to expand into territory claimed by British India, it found itself bested in an 1815 war with the East India Company. As a consequence, most of the tarai was lost, and Nepal was forced to agree to what effectively was British suzerainty.[xiii] A prime ministerial coup of sorts led to more than a hundred years of hereditary Rana rule, 1846-1951, during which Nepal was closed to the outside world, save limited British representation. This ended in November 1950 when India, which desired a greater role in Nepal’s affairs for defense reasons, supported a royal restoration.[xiv] The king assumed direct control in December 1960, and only in 1990-91 did democratic forces emerge triumphant.
This proved a mixed blessing. The era of Rana rule was not improved on by the subsequent ten years of chaotic transition and the thirty years of monarch-guided democracy, the so-called panchayat system. Thus, even as Nepal had all the organizational and bureaucratic trappings of a modern nation-state, in reality it remained a backwater. The writ of its administrative apparatus barely extended beyond district capitals, and most areas could be reached only on foot. There were five regions (plus a capital region which is essentially the Kathmandu Valley[xv]), 75 districts, and 3,913 Village Development Committees (VDC), the legal manifestation of what other Asian countries would refer to simply as “villages” with their constituent hamlets.[xvi] Development was at a primitive level. Little changed.
Heightened expectations that democracy would make a difference in the lives of the populace were dashed.[xvii] Although there were improvements, particularly in health and education, these were minor bright spots in an overall dark picture of self-absorption by the major political parties. The Nepali Congress ruled for all but roughly a single year of the democratic era (prior to the October 2002 crisis; see below), with the legal leftist coalition, the United Marxist-Leninists, the major opposition. The monarch, who might have been expected to serve a mediating and leadership role similar to that played effectively by King Bhumipol of Thailand, was killed in June 2001 in the so-called “Royal Massacre” and replaced by his brother, who to many lacked legitimacy.[xviii]
Into this dynamic, the left had early interjected itself as an active player, even heading the government for slightly less than a year. Yet, as happened in Peru with the restoration of democracy in 1980, the expectations and passions unleashed, which surfaced particularly vigorously within the left, saw the proliferation of ever more radical options. The result, in the early 1990s, was the CPN(M),[xix] a body that in its formative stages consciously modeled itself on Sendero Luminoso.
Into this dynamic: Maoist political demonstration during a ceasefire the first half of 2003. Left wing political thought has had a strong following in Nepal, as might be expected in a country with severe socio-economic challenges. The legal left controlled a majority of local government leadership positions at the time the Maoists declared people’s war in February 1996. (Marks photo)
Committed, then, to “Gang of Four” Maoism, CPN(M) members had been linked to RIM and other international Maoist movements from their earliest days as radical activists. Not surprisingly, they demanded a solution to Nepal’s problems by the establishment of a Maoist people’s republic.[xx] Politically, this necessarily meant an end to the monarchy, to be achieved through a constituent assembly that would rewrite the constitution. The party also demanded an end to “Indian imperialism.” Economically, there was to be an end to capitalist exploitation; socially, an end to caste, ethnic, religious, and linguistic exploitation. Since the system would not simply accept these demands, people’s war was to be used to force the issue.
People’s war, though formally declared in 1996, had been discussed and planned in the early 1990s, if not before, and was by that time a well tested and efficient mechanism for seizing state power. If we apply the framework advanced in the early chapters of our discussion, we find:
(1) Mass line: As its principal targets, the party worked in hill tribe areas, especially in the Midwestern Region, and among dalits or untouchables (the lowest caste in the Hindu system). There was no shortage of grievances (as well as hopes and aspirations). Prior to being banned, cadre of the CPN(M) functioned as did the representatives of any other party, but they endeavored to use their solutions to local dilemmas to form an embryonic counter-state. In this respect, they functioned very much as did the other Maoist groups we have studied, especially Sendero Luminoso prior to its own 1980 declaration of people’s war. What was different from the Peruvian case was the extent to which, during the pre-1996 period, it was the cadre of rival political parties who found themselves engaged in violent confrontations with Maoist cadre.
(2) United front: Just as there was no shortage of issues for the mass line, so were there innumerable causes about which could be mobilized those who sought activism of a non-Maoist stripe. Issues of education, for instance, allowed mobilization of students who, although apparently not formally CPN(M) members, nevertheless acted as virtual wings of the party. Similarly, tribal fronts, ostensibly seeking more equitable treatment, were also very active. Most prominent was the Akhil Nepal Rashtriya Swatantra Vidyarthi Union (Krantikari), the All Nepal National Independent Students’ Union (Revolutionary), or ANNISU(R).
(3) Violence: As will be seen below, the CPN(M) used violence in a manner which would have been familiar to our book’s earlier insurgents. Indeed, studying those cases, particularly that of Peru, the Maoists judged that a mistake had been to accept the protracted war as a given rather than exploiting success as it developed. If, in other words, events unfolded in such manner as to present opportunities for shortening the insurgency, then openings should be exploited. Thus the CPN(M) aggressively sought to reinforce success, to enhance the momentum of its campaign. It felt it was entering Phase 2 with its general offensive (November 2001). This was then solidified through the actions that led to government reverses,[xxi] which resulted in the present Phase 3, driven by united front action.
(4) Political warfare: To undermine the will of government units, the CPN(M) emphasized its ostensible desire for a “political solution” to the issues in dispute. The words are deceptive, because what the Maoists mean is that they would prefer not to fight and are quite willing to negotiate the terms whereby the old order will disassemble itself. CPN(M) used its participation in “peace talks” as a cover for military preparations prior to launching its November 2001 general offensive. It did the same with the seven months of talks that ended with unilateral Maoist attacks in August 2003.[xxii] The present period (see below) has seen the demand for “peace” serve as a cover for coercion that has progressively neutralized all remaining centers of resistance.
(5) International action: Although not a prominent element during the Chinese civil war itself, this had become more important as people’s war had developed. In conflicts such as the war of liberation in Algeria by the FLN and the insurgency of the Viet Cong in the Vietnam War, international pressure on the counter-insurgents played a decisive role. The CPN(M) recognized early that in South Asia and within Western society it had allies, Maoist bodies yet committed, whatever the outcome of the Cold War, to radical restructuring along lines advocated by the so-called “Gang of Four,” the key adherents to radical Maoism. To that end, regular coordination was effected in the West with the constituent members of the Maoist umbrella group, RIM. RIM in turn provided a variety of services, such as seeking to block assistance to the Nepalese government. Closer to home, a Coordination Committee of Maoist Parties and Organizations of South Asia (CCOMPOSA) was created in July 2001 after a meeting of nine South Asian Maoist parties in West Bengal.[xxiii] Eventually, however, it was clandestine arrangements reached with India that sealed the fate of the old-order. What India had been incapable of seeing to fruition in Sri Lanka with its support of Tamil insurgents, it implemented in Nepal.
Mass line: Maoist performers at a Dang District political rally during the 2003 ceasefire (above, Marks photo). As with any political party, the Maoists sought to win allegiance by advancing the CPN(M) as the only force capable of addressing popular grievances. After early emphasis upon Maoist forms copied from Chinese agitprop ( Salyan District), the Maoists switched to propaganda built upon modified but traditional Nepali cultural forms (Author Collection).
In implementing its approach, the CPN(M) examined the numerous people’s war struggles that had been carried out in the post-Second World War era. The two insurgencies that exercised the most influence early on were Peru’s Sendero Luminoso,[xxiv] as already mentioned, and the so-called “Naxalites,” or Indian Maoists.[xxv] The former is fairly well known in the West, the latter less so, though a virtual icon amongst international leftists. It began as a minor Maoist-inspired upheaval in 1967 in the small Indian district of Naxalburi, which sits up against Nepal’s southeastern border. It was snuffed out but then revived in “copycat” left-wing upheavals throughout India, some of which eventually required deployment of the military. Remnants remain active in perhaps a dozen Indian states.[xxvi] Links were established with them.
The practical result was that the CPN(M) initially looked for inspiration to two of the more radical insurgent movements to have appeared in recent years. There is some irony in this, since the CPN(M)’s leadership, like that of both Sendero and the Naxalites (not to mention the Maoist movements examined in this volume), is overwhelmingly drawn from the very “class enemies” attacked by the party’s doctrine. For instance, the two key figures in the 9-man Politburo for most of the period under discussion, Pushba Kamal Dahal, “Prachanda,” and Baburam Bhattarai, are both Brahmins with educational backgrounds.[xxvii] (At one point, Ram Bahadur Thapa, “Badal,” an ethnic Magar, was the party’s military wing commander and hence an exception.) The similarities in their trajectories to those of the Khmer Rouge (Cambodia) upper leadership are startling.[xxviii]
Leadership from the exploiters: Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, number two in the Maoist hierarchy and the intellectual source of Maoist plans for socio-economic-political transformation. His Ph.D. dissertation (see bibliography) echoes the unsuccessful visions of societal transformation favored historically by Marxist-Leninist groups, most tragically by the Khmer Rouge. As invariably the case in insurgencies, leadership figures of the Maoists are overwhelmingly drawn from the “exploiting classes.” (Marks photo)
That leaders of a revolutionary movement should come from the elite is consistent with patterns discussed throughout this study. So, too, is the prominence of leadership figures with an educational background.[xxix] Followers, as might be expected, are drawn from altogether different strata, the marginalized of society, those who become the so-called “grievance guerrillas.” That the CPN(M) has had little difficulty tapping such individuals stems from the abundance of socio-economic-political contradictions discussed earlier compounded by gender issues. Women have been prominent in the recruiting profile.[xxx]
Prior to going underground and becoming illegal, central members of what is now the CPN(M), guided by their “progressive” ideology, focused their political efforts on just such strata, even sending representatives to Parliament in the early period of transition to democracy.[xxxi] The areas of this electoral strength, the same Midwestern Regional hill districts that form the subject of so much development literature, remained the Maoist heartland.
Organizationally, there was nothing unexpected in the CPN(M)’s approach in those areas. Using the mass line in areas where they were present in strength, the united front in areas of government presence (especially urban centers), cadre emphasized winning the allegiance of the people by tapping local grievances and then connecting solutions with membership in the CPN(M). Logically, this meant there were oftentimes contradictions between the subjective pronouncements of Maoist publications and objective realities on the ground.[xxxii]
Where the population hesitated, terror ensured compliance. This increasingly was the case as the party moved out of the areas where it previously had an electoral base. Statistical analysis of casualties showed a near majority to be upper caste victims, an expected result in a society where those castes were dominant.[xxxiii] As a mass base was mobilized, it was incorporated into a counter-state, the alternative society of the CPN(M). This structure at first essentially replicated that of the government, merely standing up a radical alternative. The Politburo issued directives with the assistance of a Central Committee of approximately twenty-five members. As time progressed, however, radical programs were implemented, particularly seizure of land and property from the rural gentry.
The precise relationship between the emerging political infrastructure and the so-called “Military Wing” was a matter of some conjecture, but the degree of independence ostensibly enjoyed by the latter from the party was undoubtedly overemphasized.[xxxiv] The main armed component early on, for instance, six guerrilla main force units (“battalions”), could only launch a military action in response to instructions relayed through the chief commissar, who was a Central Committee member.[xxxv] Similarly, the united front apparatus, while also existing as a separate entity, appeared to be under firm party control.[xxxvi]
Armed political movement: Maoist milita in Rukkum. Weapons are .303 Lee Enfield rifles captured from police. (Author Collection)
Leaders and followers, then, as we would expect from Scott’s framework, were mobilized, in the final analysis, by the same “causes,” but approached the issues quite differently. Leaders, drawn overwhelmingly, even at this point in time, from elite strata, sought structural change to deal with issues. Followers, also seeking solutions, wanted direct, local redress.[xxxvii] Preliminary systemic response involved sending ill-prepared police, both from local stations and regional response units, into affected areas, where their behavior, actual and perceived,[xxxviii] thrust self-defense into the equation as a major theme for Maoist recruitment.[xxxix]
The heartland of the early Maoist position was the area straddling either side of the border between the districts of Rolpa and Rukkum in the Midwestern Region. There, Kham Magars responded to CPN(M) guidance and became guerrillas generally supported by the population.[xl] Further expansion proved more difficult, and the level of popular involvement was commensurately lower. Indeed, even as the Maoists were able to dominate the six districts of the so-called “Red Zone” – Pyuthan, Rolpa, Rukkum, Salyan, Jajarkot, and Kalikot (see Figure 7.1) – an area as near to the epicenter of the uprising as western Rolpa, Gharti Magar territory, witnessed a counter-state structure so thin that mere handfuls of cadre sufficed to maintain control through their ability to call on guerrilla manpower for enforcement of their writ.[xli]
Heartland of the early Maoist position: Insurgents in Rukkum. Mobilized initially by self-defense, tribal manpower in the Midwestern Region provided the Maoists with a viable base from which to expand to other areas of the country. (Author collection)
Consequently, the human terrain the Maoists were able to dominate, the districts in the Mid-Western Region, served as base areas in the manner of the Jiangxi Soviet. It is useful to emphasize further that these were among the very poorest regions in the country – not because of the issues of exploitation posited in party literature but for more mundane reasons of overpopulation, poor techniques of agriculture and animal husbandry, and limited soil and water regimes. The result was the virtual absence of the sort of social engineering one would expect to find in a “liberated area,” apart from taking from those who “had” to give to those who “had not.” Very limited enhanced resources became available to the liberation movement.[xlii]
In the absence of external input, as provided, for instance, by drugs in the case of Sendero Luminoso, the CPN(M) was forced to rely on the more traditional but limited insurgent methodology of criminal activity, especially bank-robbing, smuggling (e.g., rare animal hides and certain aphrodisiac roots), kidnapping for ransom, and extortion[xliii] to generate funds. Such activity could at times produce windfalls but was unable to meet the demands of rapid expansion.[xliv] Neither could external links make up shortfalls, since the allied movements of CCOMPOSA were actually in an inferior position logistically to their Nepali compatriots. These stark realities left the movement with a character, in many areas, as much jacquerie as disciplined insurgency.
[i] Lest confusion set in, in my earlier work, I compared Nepal to North Carolina because of the similarity of shape and size (126,161 sq. km). The population of the latter I listed as 6.5 million using an earlier census; this has now reached some 8.2 million. Florida is a more perfect fit, although the terrain of North Carolina continues to make the comparison useful. Maps of Nepal, displaying a wide variety of data, are readily available. See, for example, Prem Sagar Chapagain, Pawan Kumar Ghimire, and Rajesh Thapa, eds., New EKTA School Atlas, 2nd edn. (Kathmandu: EKTA Books, 2002); and S. H. Shrestha, Nepal in Maps, 5th edn. (Kathmandu: Educational Enterprise, January 2002). The single best source for detailed sheets is Maps of Nepal, S. M. Trading Centre (New Baneswor, Kathmandu), <>.
[ii] All statistics are drawn from government documents but seem to occasion no end of controversy. Some recent sources, for example, have nearly half the population now in the tarai. Others have some 7% in the Himalayas, which would seem to depend largely upon where draws the line of settlement. The critical points that should not be lost amidst the debate: first, no one seems quite clear who is in Nepal and where they are, but, second, all agree they have exceeded the carrying capacity of the land and are driving a growing search for livelihood.
[iii] In 1971, when Nepal’s population was but 12 million, average life expectancy was 37 years, and the infantry mortality rate (per 100,000 births) was a staggering 172. Adult literacy was put at 13%. By 1998, despite substantial improvement, a Nepali could still expect to live but 58 years; the infant mortality rate was 72; and adult literacy was 38%. Civics in Nepal, Grade 12 textbook, Contemporary Society Course (Kathmandu: Creative Press, 2001). Such trends became still more pressing as a rapidly growing population produced an age distribution whereby, as per 2001 census estimates, 50% of the population was 19 years old or younger.
[iv] For discussion of structural issues engendered by traditional patterns of landholding, see Mahesh C. Regmi, Landownership in Nepal (Delhi: Adroit Publishers, 1999 [1st Indian edn.]), and Shanker Thapa, Historical Study of Agrarian Relations in Nepal (1846-1951) (Delhi: Adroit Publishers, 2000).
[v] Fairfax Country, for instance, to the west of Washington, DC, was reported to have budgets between USD 1.3 billion and USD 1.6 billion during the period of research.
[vi] This phenomenon is examined in David Seddon, Jagannath Adhikari, and Ganesh Gurung, The New Lahures: Foreign Employment and Remittance Economy of Nepal (Kathmandu: Nepal Institute of Development Studies, 2001).
[vii] The United Kingdom establishment has been run down to just two infantry battalions and limited support units, with another battalion-equivalent (three rifle companies) assigned to round-out under-strength British infantry battalions. Brunei, where one of the two battalions is based on a rotational basis, has two Gurkha battalions of its own, though they apparently have declined in strength after agitation concerning pay and allowances. Manpower for these two battalions comes from prior-service British Gurkhas who are recruited on separation from UK service. Singapore Police have a Gurkha battalion which is recruited as part of the normal British scheme. India apparently has at least 42 battalions of Gurkha infantry and some 10-12 battalions of other formations, such as Assam Rifles, which, though not nominally “Gurkha,” are in fact manned by them. At an 11 May 2003 presentation in Kathmandu, Major (Ret.) Deepak Gurung presented figures that placed 35,000 Nepalese in the Indian Army, with over 115,000 receiving pensions, and 3,500 men in the British establishment, with 26,000 receiving pensions. If the number of “other formations” is included, it would appear that the number of Nepali citizens serving in the Indian armed and paramilitary forces is possibly as high as 50,000. Field notes, April-May 2003.
[viii] As of the end of 2001, there were officially 1,870,000 Nepalis working abroad, although the numbers can not be considered accurate, as there is no way to measure returnees. Large numbers were thought to be in Japan. More purportedly precise figures stated that Saudi Arabia had 71,895 working there, with another 44,226 in Qatar. More than 53,000 Nepalis apparently sought employment in Malaysia the same year. Statistics for Nepalis working in India are unreliable, but one data set put the figure at 587,243 in 1991, with a further 418,982 Nepalese born in India. See Harka Gurung, Nepal: Social Demography and Expressions (Kathmandu: New Era, 2001), 16-18. For a comprehensive look at a particular community, see A. C. Sinha and T. B. Subba, The Nepalis in Northeast India (New Delhi: Indus Publishing, 2003). Independent estimates figure at least USD 1 billion is remitted to Nepal from overseas annually. Field notes, November 2002.
[ix] Useful is Gary Shepherd, Life Among the Magars (Kathmandu: Sahayogi Press, 1982). Particularly good for the situation in the Nepali hills generally is J.P. Cross, The Call of Nepal, Series II: Vol. 17 of Biblioteca Himalayica (Kathmandu: Mandala Book Point, 1998; 1996 original); on the Gurkhas themselves see Cross, In Gurkha Company (London: Arms and Armour, 1986). For details of recruiting, a variety of sources are useful; see particularly two works by Lionel Caplan, Warrior Gentlemen: “Gurkhas” in the Western Imagination (Oxford: Berghahn Books, 1995), and Land and Social Change in East Nepal, 2d edn. (Kathmandu: Himal Books, 2000); as well as Tony Gould, Imperial Warriors: Britain and The Gurkhas (London: Granta Books, 1999). For insight into the “Victorian Mentality” see a reprint of a 19th-century work, Ministry of Defence, Nepal and The Gurkhas (London: Her Majesty’s Stationary Office, 1965). For the present Indian forces, the best readily available work is Rajesh Kadian, India and its Army (New Delhi: Vision Books, 1990). For historical recruiting patterns of Nepalese, see Purushottam Banskota, The Gurkha Connection: A History of the Gurkha Recruitment in the British Army (New Delhi: Nirala, 1994), and Kamal Raj Singh Rathaur, The Gurkhas: A History of the Recruitment in the British Indian Army (New Delhi: Nirala, 1987).
[x] British presentation to June 2002 Donors Meeting in United Kingdom: “In 2000 upper castes accounted for 35% of the population, but 95% of the civil service, 98% of army officers, 78% of political leaders, including – ironically – the Maoists.” Less dominant figures may be found in the literature, but even the most favorable see the two upper castes represented in all major areas in proportion at least double to their societal fraction. See the extensive data presented in Harka Gurung, especially the tables in the appendices.
[xi] See, for example, Martin Hoftun, William Raeper, and John Whelpton, People, Politics, and Ideology: Democracy and Social Change in Nepal (Kathmandu: Mandala Book Point, 1999), and Dhruba Kumar, ed., Domestic Conflict and Crisis of Governability in Nepal (Kathmandu: Centre for Nepal and Asian Studies, Tribhuvan University, 2000). In the latter, Chapter 6 (163-96), Pancha N. Maharjan, deals specifically with the Maoist challenge and offers a wealth of data.
[xii] Excellent recent overview, which includes discussion of present events, is John Whelpton, A History of Nepal (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005).
[xiii] A lasting result was the treaty that allowed Britain to recruit Nepali hill people, Gurkhas, for armed service.
[xiv] The Indian political left played an important role in this process. Useful for what it has to offer concerning later trends discussed in this paper is Santwana Tewari Chaube, Democratic Movement in Nepal and the Indian Left (Delhi: Kalinga Publications, 2001). For a more general discussion of the crucial role India played ideologically see D. P. Adhikari, The History of Nepalese Nationalism (Kathmandu: Jeewan Printing Support Press [Personal imprint], 1988).
[xv] Various renderings of Kathmandu are possible, with use of the “h” being most common (e.g., Kathmandu Post). American media have recently begun to use “Kathmandu.” Nepali youth-television commentator Sumina Karki has noted that use of the “t only” spelling changes the actual meaning: “Kathmandu is derived from Kasthmandap or a temple made up of a single tree. And the temple is still in Kathmandu. Kath means wood. So using Kathmandu instead destroys the meaning of the name.” Personal communication, 18 May 2005.
[xvi] For population figures and maps of VDCs within their districts, see Central Bureau of Statistics (Nepal), Population of Nepal: Village Development Committees/Municipalities (Population Census 2001) (Kathmandu: w/UNFPA, June 2002).
[xvii] Useful for a discussion of this issue at the local level is Ganga Bahadur, ed., Promoting Participatory Democracy in Nepal: An Assessment of Local Self-Governance (Kathmandu: Political Science Association of Nepal, 1998).
[xviii] The entire royal family was shot and killed by the elder son, angered at his inability to secure parental consent to marry the woman of his choice. He subsequently turned his weapon on himself but did not die immediately, presenting the country with the bizarre situation where a murderer was, prior to his death, the crowned king (which occurred even as he was in the intensive care unit). For further details, see, for example, Jonathan Gregson, Massacre at the Palace: The Doomed Royal Dynasty of Nepal (New York: Hyperion, 2002).
[xix] All researchers dealing with this early period are indebted to the Deepak Thapa, “Day of the Maoist,” Himal, 14.5 (May 2001), internet attachment received, n.p. Also noteworthy is Mukunda Raj Kattel, Sociology of the “People’s War” in Nepal: The Genesis, Development and Aftermath, MA thesis (Sociology), submitted to Central Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Tribhuvan University (Kathmandu), 15 December 2000.
[xx] CPN(M) claims that this is not the “immediate” but the “long term” goal are not altogether convincing given the considerable freight that accompanies all Marxist-Leninist protestations of support for intermediate objectives compatible with democratic impulse. One could argue that the case of West Bengal (India) proves that such is possible, but this would require of CPN(M) changes in approach that it has hitherto been unwilling to consider.
[xxi] As stated by Baburam Bhattarai, the CPN(M)’s chief ideologue at the time and then head of the International Department of the party: “The revolutionary people’s movement (which is popularly known as People’s War) undergoing for the past seven years has now created a parallel people’s power, army, economy and culture in large parts of the country, except the cities, and a situation of strategic stalemate has developed in the overall sense.” See interview conducted via the internet by Chitra Tiwari with Bhattarai, “Maoists Seek a Democratic Nepal,” Washington Times, 14 December 2002.
[xxii] Bhattarai: “We have always remained amenable to a negotiated settlement of the problem, but it is the feudal autocratic monarchy that has sabotaged all our earlier attempts. The ‘ice’ will be hard to break unless the monarchy is made to realize that its days are now numbered and it has to make a graceful exit from the stage of history.”
[xxiii] From India: Communist Party of India/Marxist-Leninist (People’s War), or CPI/M-L (PW), based in Andhra Pradesh and known generally as “People’s War Group” or PWG; Maoist Communist Centre, or MCC, based in Bihar, the large Indian state on Nepal’s southern border; the Revolutionary Communist Centre of India (Maoist); and the Revolutionary Communist Centre of India (Marxist-Leninist). From Bangladesh: Bangladesher Samyabadi Dal (M-L); Purbo Bangla Sarbahara Party (CC); and Purbo Bangla Sarbahara Party (MPK). From Sri Lanka: the Ceylon Communist Party (Maoist). The ninth attendee, of course, was the CPN(M) itself. More recently, a Bhutanese Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist) has emerged and called for “people’s war” to overthrow the reigning monarchy. This organization is not yet a CCOMPOSA member but can be expected to seek such status. Field notes, May 2003. It remains unclear whether this hitherto unknown party is an ethnic Bhutanese phenomenon or an outgrow of CPN(M) efforts to penetrate the country’s ethnic Nepali community. The latter has been in a state of turmoil since the late 1980s as a result of official Bhutanese efforts to promote nationalism through a variety of socio-economic-political measures. See Michael Hutt, Unbecoming Citizens: Culture, Nationhood, and the Flights of Refugees from Bhutan (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2003).
[xxiv] Possibly the single most cited essay comparing the cases of Peru and Nepal is R. Andrew Nickson, “Democratisation and the Growth of Communism in Nepal: A Peruvian Scenario in the Making?” Journal of Commonwealth and Comparative Politics, 30.3 (November 1992), 358-86. I am indebted to Nickson for elaborating on the article’s contents during a discussion in Asuncion, Paraguay, 15 August 1993. Building upon this work, see Marks and Scott Palmer, “Radical Maoist Insurgents and Terrorist Tactics: Comparing Nepal and Peru,” Low Intensity Conflict and Law Enforcement, 13.2 (Autumn 2005), 91-116.
[xxv] Key works include: S. Banerjee, India’s Simmering Revolution: The Naxalite Uprising (London: Zed Press, 1984); E. Duyker, Tribal Guerrillas: The Santals of West Bengal and the Naxalite Movement (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1987); and A. K. Samana, Left Extremist Movement in West Bengal: An Experiment in Armed Agrarian Struggle (Calcutta: Firma KLM), 1984. Particularly good at placing the Naxalites within regional development context is Partha Chatterjee, The Present History of West Bengal: Essays in Political Criticism (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1997).
[xxvi] To include West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, and Maharashta. The most vibrant of these are People’s War Group (PWG) of Andhra Pradesh and the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) of Bihar, both CCOMPOSA members.
[xxvii] Both were born in 1954 and entered politics in their university years. Prachanda earned a graduate degree (MA) in agriculture, Bhattarai in (PhD) urban planning (his wife, Hishila Yemi, is an architect/engineer and also a member of the Maoists). Both have been widely quoted as advocating social transformation through violence – Bhattarai is credited with the intellectual authorship of the “Class Enemy Elimination Campaign” launched in 1996. Asked for personal details by Tiwari, he replied, “As per your query about my individual background, you can take me as a typical representative of a Third World educated youth of peasant background, who finds the gross inequality, oppression, poverty, underdevelopment and exploitation of the overwhelming majority of the population in a class-divided and imperialism-dominated world just intolerable, and grasps Marxism-Leninism-Maoism as the best scientific tool to change it positively.” Throughout the first half of 2005, Nepal was regaled as ever more pointed exchanges made it clear that Prachanda and Bhattarai had become estranged over the issue of Prachanda’s purported “cult of personality.” Bhattarai was unable to muster the support necessary to keep him (and his wife) from being expelled by the party.
[xxviii] For a recent discussion of the Khmer Rouge leadership, see Philip Short, Pol Pot: Anatomy of a Nightmare (New York: Henry Holt, 2004), together with the excellent review of the same, James Fenton, “The Cruel Carpenter,” The New York Review of Books,” LII.10 (9 June 2005), 28-311. Essential reading on the Khmer Rouge would include: Ben Kiernan, The Pol Pot Regime: Race, Power, and Genocide in Cambodia Under the Khmer Rouge, 1975-79 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996) and How Pol Pot Came to Power: A History of Communism in Kampuchea, 1930-1975 (London: Verso, 1985); David P. Chandler, Brother Number One: A Political Biography of Pol Pot (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1992) and Voices From S-21: Terror and History in Pol Pot’s Secret Prison (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999); Kenneth Quinn, “Political Change in Wartime: The Khmer Krahom Revolution Southern Cambodia, 1970-1974,” Naval War College Review, 28 (Spring), 3-31, and The Origins and Development of Radical Cambodian Communism, PhD dissertation, University of Maryland, 1982; Karl D. Jackson, ed., Cambodia, 1975-1978: Rendezvous with Death (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1989); Michael Vickery, Cambodia, 1975-1982 (Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books, 1999); Elizabeth Becker, When the War Was Over: Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge Revolution (New York: Public Affairs, 1986); and Chandler, Kiernan, and Chanthou Boua, Pol Pot Plans the Future: Confidential Leadership Documents From Democratic Kampuchea, 1976-1977, Monograph Series 33/Yale Southeast Asia Studies (New Haven: Yale Center for International and Area Studies, 1988).
[xxix] Fieldwork in the important district of Gorkha (from which the term “Gurkha” is derived) revealed, as per police statistics for the period November 2001-March 2002, that fully 40% of those arrested were teachers (79 of 196). Field notes, March 2002.
[xxx] Impressionistic analysis of admittedly incomplete data indicates that one-tenth to one-fifth of the cadre and combatants may be women. (This is a revision of earlier work, wherein I placed the proportion somewhat higher.)
[xxxi] Contesting the 12 May 1991 Parliamentary elections as the United Peoples’ Front of Nepal, or UPFN, the Maoists won nine seats of the 205: one from the Eastern Region (Siriha); four from the Central Region (Ramechhap, Kavrepalanchok, Lalitpur, Chitwan); and four from the Mid-Western Region (Rukkum, Rolpa x 2, Humla). This is a fascinating mix of some of the most and least educated areas of the country. By comparison, the Nepali Congress captured 110 seats, the Nepal Communist Party (United Marxist-Leninist), the “legal left,” 69 seats. Figures supplied by journalist Raja Ram Gautam of Kantipur Publications.
[xxxii] A “big landlord” in the hills, for instance, might be a man with two hectares of land; but objectively this does not fit the definition of such. The point is fundamental, for if the essence of the Nepal’s problems lie, as they do, in the population exceeding the carrying capacity of the land, no ideological restructuring can adequately address issues of livelihood. The result is bound to be, as it was in Cambodia, tragedy.
[xxxiii] A preliminary analysis of all Maoist civilian victims of terror actions in 2002 produced 323 names, 145 of which could be identified as Brahmin, Chhetri, or 44.9%. Of the remaining 178 names, 52 were tribals (16.1%; called “ethnic community members”); 82 could not be identified (25.4%). These four categories amounted to 86.4%. Victims are virtually all male. Their numbers are exceeded by the number of security force dead, especially the police.
[xxxiv] The tension that did exist appeared to stem from a logical source: the high proportion of hill tribe manpower in combat formations. Many of these foot-soldiers saw themselves as involved in a self-defense dynamic as opposed to an ideological crusade. Thus they were dealt with carefully by the leadership as it engaged in the tactical maneuvering so typical of a Leninist organization.
[xxxv] Field notes, April-May 2003. This conclusion is based on interviews with Maoist combatants in Rolpa. It may be further noted that each battalion also has a vice commissar with equivalent powers to the chief commissar.
[xxxvi] Most active in the united front campaign are student and ethnic liberation groups. The latter have not proved particularly vibrant, but the former function openly and appear to execute instructions issued by the CPN(M) leadership. Prominent is the All Nepal National Independent Students’ Union (Revolutionary), or ANNISU-R.
[xxxvii] For a discussion of motives, see Li Onesto, Dispatches From the People’s War in Nepal (Chicago: Insight Press, 2005).
[xxxviii] This is an important issue, because the limited scholarly work produced to date has relied principally on “circular” journalistic accounts of actual events, the result being that hearsay has taken on a life of its own. One police operation, in particular, Kilo Sierra II (June 1998), is now consistently cited as mobilizing hill people in self-defense; but its particulars are normally conflated with other operations, such as the earlier Romeo (November 1995), which are then arrayed as if a consistent pattern of systemic repression. Examination of contemporaneous data, though, such as the field reports for Romeo (Field Notes, November 2001), raises questions as to what occurred objectively – quite a different issue from what occurred subjectively. Subjective issues can not be ignored and may be crucial in any insurgency; for instance, what could seem to be limited repression objectively might nevertheless culturally be perceived as substantial. Yet consideration, when dealing with a voluntarist movement, must be given to the possibility that limited, even unexceptional, actions can be exploited through shrewd ideological campaign by insurgents.
[xxxix] Available figures on CPN(M) strength do not inspire confidence, but government estimates provided in early 2003 would seem reasonable: 5,500 combatants; 8,000 militia; 4,500 cadres (referred to in Nepalese English as “cah-dres”); 33,000 hard core followers; and 200,000 sympathizers.
[xl] See especially Anne de Sales, “The Kham Magar Country: Between Ethnic Claims and Maoism” in David N. Gellner, Resistance and the State: Nepalese Experiences (New Delhi: Social Science Press, 2003), 326-57. There are five separate groupings within the general Magar category.
[xli] Field notes, Rolpa, April-May 2003. Discussions with donor representatives in February 2004 served to challenge this point, but I found their contention that limited numbers of cadre were incapable of cowing populations to be a fundamental misreading of the terror dynamic.
[xlii] This statement must be used with some care. Though it holds as a general proposition, areas differ. Further, as the Maoists have consolidated their hold, they have sought to implement priorities and programs that hitherto have been lacking. See e.g. Kishore Nepal, The Maoist Service Provision in Parts of Mid and Far West Nepal (Kathmandu: Center for Professional Journalism Studies, March 2005), as well as the individual selections in Michael Hutt, ed., Himalayan People’s War: Nepal’s Maoist Rebellion (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004). These may be profitably compared to a selection of the best examinations of similar activity by the Vietnamese insurgents. See Eric M. Bergerud, The Dynamics of Defeat: The Vietnam War in Hau Nghia Province (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1991); Stuart A. Herrington, Silence Was a Weapon: The Vietnam War in the Villages (Novata, California: Presidio, 1982); Jeffrey Race, War Comes to Long An: Revolutionary Conflict in a Vietnamese Province (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972); William R. Andrews, The Village War: Vietnamese Communist Activities in Dinh Tuong Province, 1960-1964 (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1973); and James W. Trullinger, Village at War: An Account of Conflict (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994).
[xliii] Local variations make generalization risky, but extortion, classified by the Maoists as “revolutionary taxation,” was until 2004 apparently “reasonable” in an objective sense. Small shopkeepers in Rolpa in April 2003, for instance, cited payments of NPR 50 per month (about USD 0.66); government personnel remaining in “liberated” areas (e.g., teachers, postmen) paid amounts equal to one day’s wages per month. NPR 100-200 (USD 1.32-2.64) was often cited by teachers who were making approximately NPR 7,500 per month (roughly USD 98). Reports of excess from collecting cadres were comparatively rare. In contrast, kidnapping-for-ransom was common, despite efforts by the Maoist hierarchy to deny such activity, and far more arbitrary. The amounts frequently were steep by the standards of rural Nepal. A case, not atypical, in Rolpa involved a small innkeeper held until ransomed by his family for NPR 30,000, or nearly USD 400. He subsequently fled to India, leaving his family adrift. Field notes, April-May 2003. Equally lucrative for the movement, of course, is extortion from businesses associated with the commercial economy. A typical trekking group of foreigners, for instance, stopped in October 2001, was allowed to proceed once the guide had paid NPR 2,000 (about USD 26), a normal amount and an order of magnitude greater than what can be gained in taxing the impoverished population. In the case just cited, a receipt was issued, and the trek reported no further demands. Field notes, December 2001. It is this activity, extortion, that grew completely out of control by 2004, to the extent that it was forcing the shutdown of even donor-funded projects. Demands as high as 10 percent of contract value were reported. Field notes, June 2004.
[xliv] For example, government statistics for the first several days of the November 2001 offensive put losses to CPN(M) bank-robberies at some USD 2 million. Field notes, November 2001. No reliable data exists on total CPN(M) funding, but it would seem logical to suggest a high figure of some millions of US dollars. Most local collections are likely not to find their way to higher organs.