Mar 232004
Authors: Meg Burd

In the Himalayan kingdom of Nepal, the small, impoverished

nation was once again stained by violence. A bloody conflict Sunday

left hundreds of Maoist insurgents, security forces and civilians

dead. Sushil Sharma of the BBC said, “that if the claims and

counter claims are true, Sunday’s clash would be the heaviest since

the insurrection was launched in 1996.”

A raging battle between the monarch-controlled government and

the Maoist rebels who wish to implement a communist republic in the

nation, the civil conflict has claimed nearly 9,000 lives in the

past eight years, according to BBC reports. With this large death

toll and recent smaller attacks on government targets throughout

Nepal, the insurgency shows no signs of coming to a peaceful

conclusion any time soon.

Questions about what exactly is occurring in this mountain

nation abound. As Tilak P. Pokharel said in a 2003 World Press

Review article, “In retrospect, it is easy to see the Maoist

rebellion as a natural outgrowth of the 150 years of ineffective,

isolationist, and autocratic government.” With Nepal being ruled

from 1846-1956 by the hereditary ministers who had British support

called Ranas, who treated Nepal “as their own private fiefdom”

according to Pokharel, resulting in Nepal struggling economically

and lagging behind in world relations.

Due to pressure from the Nepali Congress Liberation Army in

1959, the first democratic elections were held, although the

experiment in democracy did not last long; King Mahendra disbanded

the government in 1960, establishing the panchyat system, made up

of councils over which he as king could wield ultimate


Many found problems with this system. It is in the 1990 protest

movements by students, communist groups and professionals the

Maoist groups can perhaps be seen as having their intellectual

start, according to Pokharel and other analysts.

Adopting a version of Mao Zedong’s communism and modeling

themselves on the Shining Path Movement, The Maoists “have thrived

the most in Nepal’s flawed democratic experiment, which has bred

political instability, corruption and lawlessness.” Demanding a

“republican state through an elected constituent assembly election

to draft a new constitution,” according to Suman Pradha of the

Manila Times, the Maoists used guerilla tactics and kidnappings to

attempt to force the monarchy into reacting.

Certainly, with all the corruption and intrigue involved in the

monarchy today and in the past, it appears as if a message for

change must be heeded. “Nepal today is buffeted by a combination of

palace intrigue, a corrupt, inefficient government” and other

concerns, said Brahma Chellaney of the Japan Times in 2001. With

the 2001 massacre of the royal family and the subsequent assumption

of the throne by the king’s brother Gyanendra (who himself is

suspected as being involved in the palace massacre) who, in 2002,

“suspended Parliament and appointed a new government,” according to

Pokharel, which effectively put him in supreme command. Viewed as

unconstitutional by the majority of the political parties, the

Maoists and others used this as yet another example of the

corruption of the monarchy to fight against.

With “hundreds of Nepali citizens said to be among the country’s

growing ranks of ‘disappeared,'” according to Daniel Lak of the

BBC, the royal government cannot be seen as an efficient or even

benevolent force.

It is hard to say that the Maoists offer any solutions, however.

With an equally troubling record on human rights, the Maoists

(while they are said to control 40 percent of the Nepali territory)

are just as bad a choice due to their corrupt activities as well.

“They forcefully extort money and seize food from the locals’

houses,” said Top Bahadur Khadka, a human-rights organization

official, as quoted in Pokharel’s article. The Maoists, likewise,

have been implicated in many disappearances, burnings of villages,

kidnappings of officials and ignoring the guidelines of the Geneva


With the eruption of this recent violence and the death count

growing to a staggering amount, Nepal is in desperate need of a

solution, one which does not appear to lie with either the monarchy

or the Maoists. “Nepalese are unsure of what the future holds,”

Pokharel asserts, and he and the Nepalese are correct in their


Meg is a graduate student studying anthropology. Her column

appears every Wednesday.

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