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This article appeared in the November 17, 1995 issue of Executive Intelligence Review.

Nepali CP looks
to armed revolution

by Ramtanu Maitra and Susan Maitra

Unlike any other member of the London-based Revolutionary International Movement, the Communist Party of Nepal (CPN) succeeded in coming into power, ruling this strategically placed Himalayan State, which borders both China and India, from 1994 through August 1995. Under the direction of former Prime Minister Man Mohan Adhikari, the CPN is a power to reckon with, and will remain so for some time. The nearby "Naxalite" parties of West Bengal in India, which are also formal and informal members of RIM, have largely submerged themselves into tribal and peasant insurgent movements, and continue as a dormant capability.

The Nepali communist movement is a product of the early 1950s. It started at a time when the landlord class, the Ranas, dominated Nepal's socio-political system, including the monarchy. Together with the democratic movement under the Nepali Congress party, the communists were a part of the anti-Rana movement, but unlike the Congress party, began drawing on the support of China, which had become communist in 1949.

The movement received a setback in 1960, when the ten-year-old democratic system that freed Nepal from the vise-like grip of the Ranas came to an end. King Mahendra dismissed the duly elected government of the Nepali Congress party, arrested Prime Minister B.P. Koirala and most of his colleagues, and announced a new "partyless panchayat system" which continued into 1990. All parties were banned. The CPN went underground, but was less seriously hampered than the formerly ruling Congress party. CPN meetings were held within Nepal, party manifestos were freely distributed, and journals reflecting the views of various of its factions were regularly published.

Beijing vs. Delhi

It is not clear why the CPN enjoyed these privileges that were not granted to the Congress party. But, there is no question that King Mahendra, in the wake of growing tensions between India and China, was getting closer to the militarily more powerful Beijing, and it is no secret that Beijing had close contacts with the CPN. Those were, of course, still the days when Mao Zedong was chanting "the eastern sky is red," and pro-China forces were furnished with arms and money throughout South Asia, including Nepal.

Soon, however, the CPN went through the split which hit almost every communist party in the region, in the wake of the growing animus between Moscow and Beijing. In the case of the CPN, one of the founders of the communist movement, Pushpa Lal Shrestha, became the flag bearer of the extreme Maoist brand. The differences between the two factions, which were branded as moderate and extremist, centered on relations with the monarchy. Pushpa Lal Shrestha opposed any trucking with the monarchy.

It was evident, however, that Beijing was not quite ready to take sides with Pushpa Lal and forsake King Mahendra, who was issuing increasingly anti-India statements, to the chagrin of New Delhi. The conflict led to Pushpa Lal fleeing Nepal, and his expulsion from the party in 1962. The "royalist" wing of the party, led by Keshar Jang Rayamajhi and Shailendra Kumar Upadhyay, managed to keep control and maintain a delicate balance of the party's loyalty between the monarchy in Kathmandu, and Mao's men in Beijing.

The 1969 release of the future prime minister and landowner from Biratnagar, Man Mohan Adhikari, probably the only CPN leader with sufficient stature to gain support of all party factions, was an important factor in providing the much-needed stimulus for reuniting and revitalizing the party. As a result of all this, Pushpa Lal Shrestha was brought back.

The 1970s was a period of consolidation and retrospection for the CPN, as it was elsewhere for the communist parties in South Asia following the devastating impact of the brutal Cultural Revolution in China. Even during this period, the differences within the party hierarchy became evident. In 1971, during the uprising in East Pakistan which led to the birth of Bangladesh, the pro-Moscow Rayamajhi and the Maoist Pushpa Lal hailed the uprising as the "freedom struggle," but the pro-Beijing Man Mohan Adhikari saw the struggle as "an aggression of India."

New conflicts planned

The CPN continues to have close relations with North Korea, as do several other members of RIM. During the 1994 elections, the posters, manifestos, and pamphlets of the CPN were reportedly printed in Pyongyang and distributed in Nepal.

Despite its democratic face, the CPN is not a passive Communist Party. In the Himalayan foothills, where Nepal meets India, is the area called the terai. Because of the climate and "business opportunities," which often means smuggling contraband from one country to another across virtually unmanned borders, the face of the CPN in the terai resembles that of the neighboring militants in the Naxalbari area of West Bengal, India, the so-called Naxalites. The CPN believes that it shares the destiny of armed revolution that the Naxalites attempted in West Bengal.

As the terai is the most politically conscious region in Nepal, and has been a traditional base for both the Nepali Congress party and the CPN, there is every likelihood that the CPN will choose the area as its point of conflict. The CPN's strong anti-India image fits into this situation as well.

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