Kul Chandra Gautam
Perhaps because their outdated and universally discredited ideology is not persuasive enough in the 21st century, the Maoists seem to need to invoke real or imaginary enemies to motivate their cadres and supporters. Hence they always cite a long list of ‘feudals’, ‘capitalists’, ‘royalists’, ‘imperialists’, ‘expansionists’, or their ‘agents’, who they claim are secretly conspiring against their revolutionary agenda.
To unite their party after every major contentious conference, such as at Kharipati and Palungtar, the Maoists seem to find it necessary to designate some official enemy and conspirator. Thus India was once listed as their major external enemy and Nepali Congress as their national enemy. In addition, they seem to look for and find plenty of minor enemies in every nook and corner when they need someone to blame for their failures, or to divert attention from real issues to minor distractions, or to backtrack from their previously agreed commitments.
Following their highly contentious Central Committee meeting in December 2011-January 2012, many wondered what kind of enemies and conspirators the UCPN-Maoist and especially Chairman Prachanda might invoke to justify their extreme backtracking from many agreements they had reached with other political parties on the peace process and drafting of the constitution in the past few months. So it was not entirely surprising that Pushpa Kamal Dahal (‘Prachanda’) spoke in alarming terms about how the opposition NC and UML parties were trying to split the UCPN-Maoist and had formed an alliance with other smaller parties to ‘encircle and entrap’ his party.
I found it rather intriguing though that at the training programme for Maoist cadres at Khanna Garment factory on 18 January 2012, Prachanda apparently cited a specific example of a “secret meeting” held to hatch a conspiracy “to split and destroy the Maoists” at a restaurant at the Babarmahal Revisited complex in Kathmandu. I was surprised to hear that Prachanda went on to list NC parliamentary leader Ram Chandra Poudel, Chairman of the Constitutional Committee Nilamber Acharya, journalist Kanakmani Dixit and I, Kul Chandra Gautam, were among the co-conspirators who had attended that secret meeting.
I was surprised because I had never heard of, nor attended, any such meeting cited by Prachanda. So I assumed that Prachanda must have been misinformed by his informers or that his informers must be very incompetent and unreliable.
The day after Prachanda’s Khanna Garment speech, some Nepali media reported that NC leader Poudel had chided Prachanda in the presence of several other leaders that he was imagining a conspiracy when there was none, and that while there had apparently been an informal gathering of a few friends at Babarmahal Revisited, Kul Chandra Gautam was not there. Poudel went on to say that it had been nearly six months since he had last met Gautam.
Some Nepali media also reported that Prachanda had raised the issue of the “Babarmahal Conspiracy” by the above-mentioned people to “encircle and destroy the Maoists” with UML leader MK Nepal. Prachanda was apparently surprised when Nepal told him that he, MK Nepal too was at that informal gathering over tea, which had no “conspiratorial” intentions as Prachanda imagined. Mr. Nepal also reportedly told Prachanda that, in any case, Kul Chandra Gautam was not there.
Hearing these exchanges, I thought that there must have been a case of misreporting by some Maoist crony spook, and Prachanda must have found it a very convenient scoop to “reveal” to his party cadres to bolster his conspiracy theory to justify the ingenious compromise he had struck embracing both “peace and constitution” and “state capture through revolt” at the same time.
I thought that it was best for me just to ignore this little political drama, given the clarification reported in the media about my non-participation in any such supposedly “conspiratorial” meeting, as confirmed by Messrs Poudel and Nepal. I assumed that Prachanda himself would not pursue it any further given that the falsehood of the information he had “revealed” in a rather provocative manner had been embarrassing to him.
But I was astounded to hear that even after learning first-hand about its inaccuracy, Prachanda chose to cite my name and the “Babarmahal Conspiracy” case, when addressing a large gathering of UCPN-Maoist cadres at Chisapani, in Western Nepal on 27 January 2012.
Why would a responsible leader of Prachanda’s stature repeat a falsehood knowingly? Could it be, as the Nepali saying goes, that Prachanda is haunted by some frightening manko baagh (an imaginary tiger) imagining it as banko baagh (a real tiger in the forest)? In Nepal, an attack by an imaginary tiger is often concocted when someone is extremely insecure or to divert attention and hide an unpleasant truth.
On one specific issue that was reported to have been discussed at the Babarmahal meeting which irked Chairman Prachanda, namely, on the presidential versus parliamentary system of government, I am open to both, with a slight preference for a presidential system with adequate checks and balances. This is in contrast to the strong position that the politician Ramchandra Poudel and commentator Kanak Mani Dixit have taken separately in public. But I respect their views, just as I respect the views of others proposing other alternatives, so long as basic democratic principles are upheld.
As someone not affiliated with any political party or wedded to any partisan interests, I have no reason to be part of any conspiracy. As someone who believes in democratic principles and politics of non-violence, I have always spoken forthrightly on the need for the Maoists to renounce violence as a method of political change, and to embrace universally accepted norms of democracy, pluralism and human rights which, by the way, do allow and even require us to take affirmative action to ensure social justice.
Whenever, the Maoists have taken a duplicitous stance on these core issues, or sought to unilaterally change agreed goal posts on the peace process, I have publicly criticized them, as I also criticized King Gyanendra’s regime, and other political parties, and will continue to do so, as and when warranted.
As all non-violent democrats, I believe in helping “transform” people and parties who hold undemocratic views. Conspiring to “eliminate” a party or an individual simply because they hold different views is the trade-mark of self-righteous authoritarians.
Adolf Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, used to say that “If you tell a lie and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it”. Noting a similar trend, I felt the need to alert the Maoist cadres, the vast majority of whom seek prosperity with social justice in a democratic Nepal, just as I and most other Nepalis do, not to be misled by some of their leaders’ repeated assertions that I might be involved in some conspiracy to destroy the Maoists.
But as a proud, independent citizen of Nepal, I will continue to speak out openly and strongly against politics of violence and intimidation, and advocate for the universally accepted norms of democracy and human rights, without any ifs and buts, to help build a prosperous society with equity and social justice for all.
I would urge the Maoist leaders to concentrate on expediting the completion of the peace process and the new constitution so that we can all get on with the task of national reconstruction and development instead of wasting everyone’s time battling with imaginary enemies and conspiracies.
Published in The Republica daily, Kathmandu, 1 February 2012: