Friday, December 15, 2006

Indian elite should be measured about praising Prachanda


The Indian elite should be measured about praising Prachanda

Kanak Mani Dixit

The tumultuous transformation of the Maobaadi of Nepal represents hope for the people of Nepal, of a return to peace and democracy through a necessarily cumbersome transitional process. By giving up violent struggle, Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) has rescued the future of his cadre and provided relief to a populace of 26 million.

What does this Maobaadi transformation mean for India? For Naxalites in various parts, Mr Dahal is a revisionist of the first order, having promised to give up the gun, gone back to championing competitive politics, and — the unkindest cut — cosying up to the Indian establishment. Meanwhile, for the many ‘armchair Naxalites’ who had hailed the Maobaadi cause as the long-awaited victory for agrarian revolution, the 180-degree turn by Mr Dahal has necessitated a rapid gear-change. They now have no option but to hail the rebel leader as a boldly pragmatic, far-Left visionary — all the while forgetting that he did so under geopolitical duress.

The welcome that Mr Dahal received from the media and political class in his first above-ground sojourn to New Delhi was revealing. Some of the enthusiasm can be explained by this having been the rebel commandant’s first bow, but two other strands were visible. There were those who wished to hail the coming of a Maoist messiah, even as he abandoned the Great Helmsman at the altar of expediency. But most others fussed over Mr Dahal mainly to co-opt him, so as to take away the revolutionary sheen. The grand reception was aimed with an eye to the desi Naxals far from the capital’s five-star hotels — a glimpse of the welcome awaiting them if they too were to abandon their various people’s wars.

Those who hailed the CPN (Maoist)’s original violence, and who are now justifying the about-face, do an injustice to the people of Nepal, who have suffered through 11 years of violent insurgency and vicious response by the State. The same holds true for Indian politicians who opportunistically welcomed Mr Dahal as an exemplar of revolution in South Asia (IK Gujral, et al, reportedly). The Indian power elite applauds the Maobaadi transformation in order to co-opt it, so that the CPN (Maoist) will no longer serve as a high-profile platform for copycat revolution in India.

The proper response to the Maobaadi would be the one adopted by the Nepali political parties: welcome their conversion and make space for them, but never for a moment justify or glorify their past. The Maoists of Nepal have bowed to reason and to geopolitical reality. In welcoming their makeover as something good for not just Nepal but India and South Asia as a whole, it is unnecessary to retroactively buy into their ideology of violent change. The space made by the Nepali parties for the retracting rebels has nothing to do with accepting Maoist ideology; it is the price to be paid to prevent more bloodletting. Girija Prasad Koirala’s stand that the Maoists not be allowed to join the interim government without first locking up their arms was backed by New Delhi’s insistence on the matter, something which the Maobaadi came to realise they could not easily disregard.

The adjustments in Maobaadi rhetoric have been nothing less than dramatic. A year ago, they were digging trenches in schoolyards all over Nepal to fight what was projected to be an Indian invasion — virulent anti-Indian nationalism being a defining feature of the CPN (Maoist) ideology. But in New Delhi, Mr Dahal gave the Indian state a clean chit as being “no longer a reactionary power”, a rhetorical switch that would have driven the comrades in the Deccan up the wall. Indeed, so meek has Mr Dahal suddenly become with regard to India that New Delhi is in danger of being perceived in the over-active Kathmandu rumour mill as a clandestine backer of the Maobaadi.

One only asks analysts and politicians in New Delhi to welcome the Maobaadi transformation for what it is: a smart appreciation of the futility of the gun. There can never be acceptance of the argument that in the mid-1990s when they ignited the ‘people’s war’, the gun was the only recourse to social and political change. If armed revolution is wrong in India, so it is in Nepal, and the rejection of violence as a means of class struggle must apply equally all over the subcontinent. Nepal cannot be an exception just because New Delhi’s analysts and politicians have not done their homework on Nepali society and history.

Dixit is Editor, Himal Southasian, a Kathmandu-based monthly

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