Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Pay Attention and Open Your Eyes

It's happening, people. The handwriting is on the wall.

The peacetalks will fail if the Maoists don't get exactly what they want. Plus, "The Farce One" himself is virtually tipping us all off to the fact that he is PLANNING for the talks to fail when he warned today that: "a violent storm" of protests will sweep the valley should talks fail (read: not go the Maoist's way). blogdai says Prachanda will make sure they fail. This guy is in the capital to take power, plain and simple.

He's everywhere from the tens of thousands of posters plastered all over Kathmandu (shown) to the cover of every magazine. Unrepentant and undeterred.

We in Nepal must immediately stop living in this ridiculous revolutionary stupor and face the facts:

1. Violence is rampant and increasing. The new government has shown no ability to address, much less deal with this problem. Same old story. In what is probably the most ironic of all utterances, Home minister Sitaula said today: "Peace and security shouldbe maintained at all cost." Plan on forming a committee on this anytime soon, minister? I guess peace and security should only be maintained after you've all gotten what you want through street protests, right?

2. Maoists are unbent, unbroken, and moving freely through the streets of Kathmandu. Thank you world community for facilitating this phenomenon.

3. The best idea SPA can come up with is a return to Girija's same old dogma. Guess what? The old fart is dying. He's leaving for Thailand today for a check-up. No one goes to Thailand for a check-up. He's in big medical do-do and they are going to treat his bronchitis invasively, I'm guessing. If he survives that, he's off to his beloved India; presumably so he can recover or die on his "home soil," whichever. The point is, SPA gambled its future on a broken horse. Heard anything remotely leader-like coming out of any other SPA stooge? Who you going to get to run this thing when the old man dies? Sujata? blogdai laughs and cries at this because the Koirala definition of democracy entails rigid family control of power: she may just get it.

4. Splits and dissention are everywhere. You can't rush into power and alienate your opposition the way SPAM did. So far, the only effective governmental measures taken center around punishing, jailing and condemning their opponents. Democracy is inclusive unless you want everyone plotting behind your back. And, lo and behold, SPAM itself is crumbling. Our buddy home minister Sitaula is already floating the idea of mobilizing the RNA against the Maoists. Deja vu anyone?

Enough is enough already. Running the country is a job for sane adults. Get rid of these old reprobate politicians and sweep aside your romanticizing, stone-throwing children, Nepal, and let's get busy with saving the country before these fools plunge us into civil war.


Saturday, May 27, 2006

Back on the Street

blogdai will be reporting live from Kathmandu until further notice. I've spoken with quite a few citizens already and will be giving you their opinions, unedited, over the next few columns. Live quotes will be in Green. All photos taken by blogdai. -=BD

"If the situation stays like this, there will be civil war."

These are not the faces of victory. Everywhere is the look of resignation and outright exhaustion. People are tired. They want peace and they don't care how it arrives as long as it comes soon. "
"The situation is in transition. Everyone is tired of demonstrations."
"We would have given the King more (of a ) chance, but no one trusts Paras."

Nepal lingers in a cloud of uncertainty. There is an emerging acknowledgement that the accomplishments of the recent protests--seen as mostly positive-- were conceived in partisanship-- agenda-driven and myopic in scope. On thing stands out as clear, however; from the dawn of the protests right through to the re-emergence of parliament, this is a Maoist show. Prachanda and his boys remain unbent, unbroken and riding a tide of momentum.
"These guys (parliament) can't do anything. Everything they do comes from Maoists."
"Las week Maoists openly showed their guns at Asan."

"Many new (suspicious) faces are on the streets now."

Maoists now paint propaganda slogans openly along the walls of Kathmandu's streets. Their political grafitti--often in phrases that span over hundreds of meteres--admonishes any and all to "keep going" and to "continue the struggle" as though some final hidden Maoist plan has yet to be fully realized.

Brand new Maoist droppings in Kathmandu

Each day brings another example of Nepal's drift towards chaos. Rule of law is neither adhered to nor enforced. Power seems to lie in one's ability to stir otherwise composed masses into an angry mob.

Such is the insanity of the recent spate of hospital attacks. The Baneshwor attack tell us all we need to know about the current state of civil order in Kathmandu. It seems a young man became so irate when his father died at a nursing facility in Baneshwor that he began to severely beat some of the attending physicians there. Eventually, guards were called and the young man was removed. End of story right? Not in today's Kathmandu, I'm afraid.

Windows? Who needs windows...

The angry man immediately began telling all who would listen that the doctors had killed his father deliberately. We now can sprinkle in a generous helping of activist students, combine it with the current Nepali propensity to act on passionate pleas rather than logic, and voila': the young man had his newly created mob--assembled and ready for action. And act they did! Every window in the facility was shattered and equipment damage was extensive. Long live "the will of the people." My, isn't this a wonderful new, vibrant democracy we've all created?

"Everything is now solved on the street with violence. It is all they (SPAM) know how to do."

So, let's take a first pass at some sort of analysis:

SPA: Powerless puppets. The Maoists are about to discard them like a used rickshaw.

KING: Should have waited to give in. Could have held out until the monsoon. Blundering badly with his possible involvement with the Hindu extremist demonstration. (How's your own medicine taste, SPAM?)

MAOISTS: In the driver's seat. Not one aspect of their plan or ideology has been compromised.

CODE OF CONDUCT/PEACE TALKS: Some real interesting points. Maoists are in such control that they can play along with this charade through the monsoon and paint themselves as peace-loving heroes in the process. Overall, this is mostly a monsoon-down-time-diversion. Tellingly, nothing agreed upon that requires the Maoists to concede one point of their communist ideology.

JUNE 5 MAOIST RALLY AT RATNA PARK: Pivotal. No more bluffing. If Prachanda shows up as anticipated, he'll either claim control of the government or agree to go into the political mainstream. blogdai sees the latter as it will allow the Maoists to continue to work their agenda covertly.

"This Maoist rally is very important. We all hope Prachanda says he will be open now. If he tries to say Maoists are in charge, army must rise up and defeat him."

RNA: If they go to Girija, Nepal is finished. They and the King are still powerful. (Remember, all G. had to do was pull the trigger and the outcome would have been different) Pure speculation, but blogdai hopes the RNA will establish itself as an independent third party or balancing entity.

INDIA: Waiting and planning. How do you say "Sikkim"in Nepali?


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

And Now for Some Real Journalism

Tired of bashing D. Michael Van de Veer? Take a look at how a real journalist, Daniel Lak , thinks and writes. Mr. Lak spent quite a few years on the ground reporting for The Nepali Times. Because of this, his views are level and insightful. So, blogdai doesn't just bash lousy journalism: it's equally fun to highlight the good stuff. I find hope in the fact that this article and Mr. Mark's article form kind of a logical sandwich around Van de Veer's highlights.

Anyway, blogdai was a bit upset with Mr. Lak early on because he seemed to drift into that "democracy at all costs" camp just prior to the protests; but like a real journalist, Mr. Lak's new article from the Times shows he can step outside anything he may be feeling and give us a fresh and objective viewpoint. My only question is: Where was this viewpoint months ago? Enjoy. -=BD

Myths and martyrs
The real struggle comes when a movement succeeds

By Daniel Lak.

Personally, I blame Gandhi. He’s the one who started the South Asian cult of the freedom struggle, the hartal, the banda, the andolan, the righteous use of the street. After all, it was the Mahatma’s vision of nonviolent civil disobedience that drove the British out of India–with a little help from the Second World War and the way it ravaged the Imperial bank account.

India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and even Nepal got their freedom from Gandhi’s glorious revelation that the people could triumph without weapons against the military might of a state. Might wasn’t right. But what remains of Gandhi’s noble vision in today’s Nepal? A culture where struggle is venerated more than outcome. Where the noble means of Gandhi can be used time and again to achieve democracy and, yes, freedom, but where few seem to realise that the real struggle comes when the andolan succeeds.

Thus we see the new government in Kathmandu embarking on mythmaking exercises, establishing more martyrs, nominating more villains to the pantheon of blame for past failures. In the 1950s, it was the Ranas. For awhile in the 1990s, it was the Mandales. Now it’s the Chhetris, various people named Thapa and the Shahs, including that villain sent straight from central casting, Crown Prince Paras.

We have a ‘high-level probe commission’ to find out who told what cop to fire what bullet at which particular demonstration at a certain time and so on. It’s all just part of the permanent andolan mindset that grips most members of the restored parliament. In fact, Prime Minister Koirala, once admitted to me in our first interview for the BBC in 1998, that he and his ilk were better at freedom fighting than nation building.

At the time, political instability and the Maoist uprising seemed real challenges to Nepali democracy but no one knew just how horrible things were going to get. Now, with the Shahs and their bungling cohort sidelined, the victorious political parties are following and all too familiar script. Let’s vilify the past. Let’s glorify the struggle. Let’s do little or squabble over how to build a coherent, stable future for Nepal.

Yes to truth and reconciliation and yes to justice for victims of war, abuse and violence. A free society may decide that a few of the worst violators need to be punished as an example to those still lurking in dark rooms plotting another war, another takeover. Perhaps there could be UN war crimes proceedings against those who planned the outrage at Doramba in 2003 when the army killed 19 people as the government and rebels were meeting for peace talks. The Maoists too might just have stern justice to face.

But frankly, in the end, the blame game is for losers. Nepal’s interim government should be proceeding with energy and dispatch towards setting up the institutions that will move the country on. That means a Constituent Assembly, a body of transitional law that fixes sovereignty with parliament, the people, the courts, and not with some uniformed autocrat of royal descent, that means making the army obey civilian orders and getting the Maoists to live up to promises made last year to submit to international scrutiny and decommissioning of weapons. That means rescuing the ravaged economy with fast track development spending and emergency loans to pay for it all. It means governing, taking freedom seriously as a legacy that must be left to future generations.

Can we set Gandhi aside for the moment? Lose the obsession with democracy’s myths and martyrs? With time-tarnished monarchies or Maoist peoples’ paradises that never were or never will be. The Nepali people want a modern, stable, prosperous welfare state with health and education for all, with jobs, schools and the rule of law and justice throughout the land. For the sake of the future Messrs Koirala, Oli, Mahat, Sitaula, Shreshta, have to get going now. The real andolan has just begun

Thursday, May 11, 2006

A Blot on Objectivity

Blogdai is getting sick and tired of this D. Michael Van de Veer idiot.

Here comes his new puff piece: WILL NEPAL’S KING BE CHARGED WITH CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY ? Typical Van de Veer. Paint an apocalyptic picture of Kathmanduites storming the palace, compare Gyenendra to Chile's butcher Augusto Pinochet and call for a war-crimes trial.

(At left: Van de Veer conjures up his next conspiracy theory in a small bottle. )

Van de Veer-ism #1: The “TERRORIST(s)”are in the U.S. Embassy and the Palace..."(Unitedweblog, July 9, 2005)

We've seen this before from old Mikey.

1. Black hellicopters flying over Pokhara implying a war zone and piloted by "caucasians" implying one of Mikey's other favorite targets: Yanks.

Eventually, when you say enough stupid crap, real journalists will call you on it, Mikey, consider the comment by a real journalist, Daniel Lak on 5/15/2005

"The charge of American pilots at the controls of helicopters bombing villages is prolblemnatic and troubling. The author needs to provide proof, or to not make such charges without some way of substantiating them. If international outrage against the King’s move is to be maintained, surely it’s best not to misdirect wrath towards the United States. It’s far too easy to demonize Washington who at worst in Nepal have merely enbaled local demons. Unless of course, the author can provide details of how, when, where etc. about these so called “Cacusasian” pilots. "

2. The King is ready for exile. (This article was pulled by the Asia Tribune before it was published. It curiously made it on to the West's media soundbite snippets about Nepal, but when the story was researched at the Asia Tribune, one found only blank space. Perhaps Mikey rushed this to press without the knowledge of his leash-holders? He uses his tried and true tactics: Make simple, broad based assumptions, employ wishful thinking and when all else fails, stir up emotion and just take a guess. )

Van de Veer-ism #2: "The Royal Nepal Army is one of the poorest trained and armed in the world. The maoist(s), in the end, would only kill them and take their weapons." (nepalnews.com poll comments, 2001 or 2002)

3. U. S. embassy is ready to evacuate. (Mikey put this one in the Asian Tribune where it was promptly refuted by the U.S. embassy)

Public Affairs Officer Robert L. Hugins of the American Embassy in Kathmandu however says in his communication to 'Asian Tribune' that"....The U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu is not “expected to evacuate” as a February 17 article in your Online publication stated. The report was wrong."
"Moreover, the article inaccurately attributed direct quotes to the U.S.Ambassador in Nepal, based on notes from a third party, about a discussion the Ambassador had had with American citizens."

Van de Veer-ism #3: "I write what I believe to be true & sometimes I get it wrong as does any journalist." (to blogdai, February 18, 2006.( source not verified (SNV) )

Sorry Mikey, a journalist doesn't just throw up his hands and say, "oh, well." You have an obligation to confirm your sources and get the story right. No, this was your chance to stick it to the Yanks and you bent the story to your satisfaction. Mikey argued here at blogdai that he received an e-mail at a "town hall" meeting and that he never said the embassy was closing down. Well, Mikey, you don't say a lot of things, but you sure do make otherwise benign information fit into the picture you're trying to paint, right?

blogdai is not one to hold in an opinion so I let Mikey (SNV) have it in one of our threads:

"You are a slap together journalist who thought he could get away with sensationalizing an event in a relatively obscure part of the world and you got busted for it! Unfortunately, a lot bigger fish than you are getting away with it every day and not getting called on the carpet as you were. Con Hallinan's crap on Nepal comes to mind, as does the International Crisis Group and , yes, Amnesty international. If your drivel was just a sophomoric attempt at padding your resume' then I would say, fine; naughty naughty and don't get caught again. BUT, there is so little coming out of Nepal in the form of credible news that virtually ANY story is believed, at first glance; and thus, the damage is multiplied."

Van de Veer-ism #4: "Until the rank-and-file(non officer)Police & Solder, as well as the Pro-Democracy forces ungerstand that they have common enemies: lack of opportunity and poverty, represented by the Palace/Mafia that is backed by the arms of the US.. THERE WILL BE NO DEMOCRACY.. ONLY BLOODSHED ....... LET THEM SHED OUR BLOOD IF NEED BE." (United we blog, april 10, 2006) The entire thread gives a good sense of Mikey's debate skills. Judge for yourselves: http://www.blog.com.np/united-we-blog/2006/04/09/dont-be-ruthless-please/

Our little Mikey has been a busy beaver these days. Painting his pictures and weaving his web to suit his agenda. He sees a U.S. conspiracy everywhere. He loves to stir up the pot and create conflict at the expense of those in power. Funny and shortsighted though; while he's willing to "SHED BLOOD" so that the old corrupt guard can get back into power, he seems to have forgotten his position of a few years ago. Back in 2002 when Deuba visited Washington and may or may not have secured an arms deal, Mikey flipped out. His old nemesis the U.S. was at it again, sure; but curiously, there was some venom and surprising insight saved for the "democratic" politicians that he's currently fighting so hard to see reinstated. Back then you commented that: "The US has promised more weapons of war to be used to complete the domination of the masses of Nepalese by a handful of corrupt politicians..." So now, Mikey, the King must go into exile so these same corrupt politicians can take over again and resume their same agenda and plunge Nepal, once again into, what you then called, " a downward spiral of poverty, and loss of life from: war, starvation, and disease?"

We can go on and on with Mr. Van De Veer's quotes and "isms," but all we really need to know about this man are his patterns. From some questionable reporting in Liberia to his show-boating offer to set himself on fire in front of a radio station, Mikey is looking for the big scoop. If there is not a story to be found, he'll make one. Doesn't it seem a bit funny that no one else seems to be writing the things about Nepal that Mikey writes or that no one seems to be getting the inside scoop the way he does?

One of the primary reasons this blog exists is to act as a media filter. So little credible news makes its way out of Nepal and into the Western wire services that virtually anything anyone with half a press credential writes is taken as holy writ. There are no journalistic standards and no practical means of fact checking Nepal stories---a field-day for agenda-driven tabloidists like Mr. Van De Veer.

So, blogdai must do blogdai's job and say now what must be said:

D. Michael Van De Veer, you are a fraud. I challenge you to prove me otherwise. Shall we debate your next article line-for-line? (Our long-time readers here know this to be a blogdai specialty) Virtually everything you write is agenda-driven conjecture, so I'd love to see you prove what you assert---up for it?

Aside from the challenge Mikey, there's nothing wrong with you presenting your tripe, but if you want to be passed off as any kind of mainstream journalist then you had better be able to prove your story and verify your sources. Until then, perhaps you should call your stories "commentary" rather than news. Better yet, get off the wires alltogether and start your own blog, where fact-checking can be instantaneous and you'll see first-hand how much fabrication you can pass off as fact.


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Hope is Not a Method

Thanks Naag for the link to this story. Here's the latest from Thomas Marks.

Nepal: Hope is Not a Method
By Dr. Thomas A. Marks

As Nepal moves towards a new order, its governing parliamentarians would do well to heed that most fundamental of maxims: hope is not a method.

To date, events have gone reasonably smoothly, but there continue to be ominous signs that a rougher road lies ahead. Not least of the elements for concern is what has been at the heart of the matter all along: the motives of the Maoist insurgents.

Contrary to much ill-considered opinion, the Maoists have not opted for peace in our time. Instead, their forces remain intact, even as they encourage the Government to dismantle the only surviving force that stands between the Communist Party of Nepal – Maoist (CPN-M), and its ability to work its will, the security forces.

Their grudging moves towards negotiations notwithstanding, the Maoists have been very consistent. In their verbiage, in their briefings to their cadres, and even in their interviews given to members of the international media, they make clear that they do not accept the present state of things and remain convinced that they are riding the “will of history” that will see the complete ouster of the old order.

The Maoists view the present course of the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) as an error of major proportions and are fearful that ‘the people’ will be ‘betrayed’. They certainly do not accept parliamentary democracy as the end-state, unless it emerges in a form of which they approve.
What stands behind their present tactical maneuvering is a willingness to go with the flow so long as the river does not leap its banks. If the SPA will do the work that armed rebellion could not accomplish – especially, dismantle the security forces and do away with even a figurehead monarchy – that is agreeable. But one cannot expect them, if things do not go their way, simply to shrug and say they had their moment.

There is a veritable cottage industry of historical falsification abounding, in Nepal and abroad, producing the fiction that the Maoists turned to insurgency only because they were not allowed to participate in 1991 parliamentary elections (as Masal). That is false. The machinations that led to one wing of Masal being allowed to run using party identification were an intra-Masal squabble, not something the system engineered. Likewise, the outrageous claim that the monarchy is somehow responsible for the violence of the Maoists is as astonishing as it is absurd. The Maoists first systematically laid waste to Nepal and its weak democracy, then systematically carried out a campaign to claim the reigning monarch had killed his brother and engineered what they, the Maoists, had in fact done – destroy Nepal. Having turned to armed insurgency, CPN-M methodically destroyed the structure of the state, in the process eliminating all who opposed the local presence of the Maoists. Having gained control of widespread areas, which they will continue to control during any proposed ‘elections’, they are not about to allow their rivals to freely contest within ‘liberated space’.

This is classic “machine politics”, as the Maoists claim the Nepal Congress (NC) and Communist Party of Nepal – United Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML, or simply UML) have been playing all these years. Since UML buys into this logic, at least partially, it is willing to front for the Maoists. The extremist wing of the UML does more than front – it works with the Maoists.
ronically, anti-communist India has ended up letting its own Marxists have their moment by unduly influencing New Delhi's Nepal policy. This should not surprise, given the realities of coalition politics.

With its dependency on the Left Front, particularly the Communist Party of India Marxist (CPI-M) in Parliament, compounded by divisions within its own ranks as to the proper policy towards Nepal, the Congress-led Government has acceded to the CPI-M demands. As a consequence, CPI-M figures such as Sitaram Yechury have become regular visitors to Kathmandu as they conduct the Indian Left’s ‘foreign policy within a foreign policy’.

The issue of Indian policy or intervention is not one that need detain any analysis at this moment. It will ultimately be decided, one way or another, as it was in Sri Lanka, by nationalism in the target state. Nepali nationalism, to be sure, is something which has rarely reared its head in anything save platitudes about “never having been a colony”. In fact, Nepal is as thorough a colony as ever there was (of India and of the international community through its utter dependence upon external aid).

Still, to be clear: first, India has no desire to become bogged down in the Nepalese quicksand, so having ‘democratic allies’ in power is the proper route to realization of its geo-strategic designs; second, there is a strong wing of Indian politics that sees the present policy towards Nepal as misguided, counterproductive, and downright dangerous, given India’s own Maoist threat. The claim that there are no connections between the Nepali and Indian Maoists is falsified by a wealth of evidence, not least the pronouncements and actions of the Nepali Maoists before they became more media savvy. The threat to Nepali sovereignty, then, is not from India per se but from the present situation that India has ‘enabled’. Its view is that it can ‘handle’ the situation. This remains to be seen – just as India proved quite incapable of ‘handling’ the Tamil insurgents in Sri Lanka.

The most pressing danger, at this juncture, is that SPA, dominated by NC and UML, will revert to form (on full display during the dozen or so years of full democracy) and lead Nepal into a ‘Kerensky moment’ for the Maoists, as occurred with the Bolsheviks in Russia in 1917-18. The Leninists were not the strongest party in post-Czarist Russia, only the party with a preponderance of force at the decisive point(s). This allowed them to gain control of the state and then to do what was necessary to consolidate their hold. This is also how Hitler consolidated his hold on Germany, despite having only one-third of the Parliament (Reichstag). It is what the Sandinistas did in post-Somoza Nicaragua. One already sees the Maoist thugs threatening even UML politicians (who, in any case, have always been on the cutting-edge as victims of the Maoists). What all the cases preceding cases share is that the security forces had fallen apart.

This is not yet the case in Nepal. The key, therefore, is to make the new-order understand that the security forces have every intention and desire to serve democracy – and that they will not stand by and see restored democracy and Nepali sovereignty compromised.

The Maoists, however, have stated repeatedly that they have other goals: trials for those central to the old-order, especially for the monarch and the Royal Nepal Army (RNA) officer corps (the Maoist leadership has asserted both of these goals in its less guarded moments). This is also what they have been saying to their cadres.

They have rejected integration into the Royal Nepal Army (RNA) by any name and demanded a new force, which they will dominate by default. This is just how the scenario played itself out in Nicaragua, the result being the Sandinista dictatorship, which rapidly produced its own counterrevolutionary insurgency by abusing the people. (Contrary to the hoary left-wing myth, the CIA could not even arm all the contras, so abundant was the influx of peasant manpower demanding the right to resist the Managua Marxist-Leninist dictatorship). In this situation, what is both puzzling and counterproductive is how little realistic consideration has emerged concerning the future of the security forces, of which the RNA is the dominant element. This is puzzling, because the security forces are quite intact and – contrary to yet another theme pushed by both activist elements of the new regime and their international activist backers – exercised remarkable restraint during the recent mass agitation. Lathi charges and rubber bullets are not semiautomatic volleys, and the latter did not occur.

There are at least 150,000 armed Government security forces in completely intact units. It is naïve to assume that they are going to march off to oblivion, surrender, or slaughter. The last two options are what the Maoists envisage, and what they expect to extract from the ruling SPA as their price for ‘nonviolent participation’ in the state. To judge that this inevitably will lead to confrontation requires no analytical acumen – simply looking at the Nepali security forces with clear eyes.

What is now on the field is a force quite different from that which entered the conflict in November 2001, when the RNA was attacked by the Maoists. This is especially so in the key middle grades and extending even to the younger brigadiers. It is also true in the Armed Police Force (APF), perhaps to a lesser extent in the Nepal Police (NP). The RNA’s ‘field elements’ now accept parliamentary supremacy and seek a more professional, ‘21st Century military’. Officers know there are numerous friendly states with extensive experience in implementing and consolidating the proper mechanisms. Many of these younger RNA officers have even considered the passing of the monarchy, but they are worldly enough to see that this leaves open the question of what institution or figure would serve the referee's position. Hence, they believe it is preferable that a constitutional monarchy remain. What they do not accept is the position demanded by the Maoists and their left wing allies: ‘replacing’ one force by another, or of ‘purging’ one force only to install the cadres of another. Reconciliation, to their mind, demands amalgamation, even if this is accompanied by reduction in overall numbers. Under no circumstances will any force accept being disbanded in favor of Maoist replacements. To do so would guarantee left-wing dictatorship.

For their part, APF and NP are critical to the normal law and order of the state. Ironically, whatever the precise manner in which events unfold, the sitting Government is bound to find, in the months ahead, normal policing and security duties will assume heightened importance. A clear understanding must be worked out by the Government as to what is expected to arrest a dangerous societal drift that has set in. Armed thugs, often claiming to be representing ‘the people’ but invariably cadres of Maoist front organizations, roam all major population centers in Nepal and must be brought within the normal rule of law.

This is a job particularly for the Police, supported by the APF, but it is inevitable that RNA will be involved. The present situation, including the widespread intimidation of individuals and institutions, cannot go unchecked.

Politically, RNA is confronted with a Faustian bargain: It must serve the state even with the knowledge that the unity of SPAM (Seven Party Alliance + the Maoists) depends upon the SPA placating the Maoists. The Maoists see the victory as theirs and see themselves as dictating the terms of surrender – and envisage only trials for those who have resisted them. Hence, the security forces must keep order even as they are plotted against (in certain circles) and held up as a bargaining chip (in others).

Their logical advocates, the Indians, who have the most to lose from a Maoist-dominated Nepal, remain very much an unknown element, given the array of actors waging mini-foreign policies. One factor has not changed as any perusal of large segments of the Indian press reveals: New Delhi has been ill-informed by a good fraction of its so-called ‘Nepal experts’, in just the manner it was led astray, two decades ago, by its ‘Sri Lanka experts’. It cannot be said that Indian analysts have developed much actual knowledge of the workings of Nepali Maoism. The dominant position is that the CPN-M can be bought off or simply directed – an astonishing position given what India seems to have realized quite belatedly the Stalinist, anti-democratic essence of its own Maoists. The CPI-M, in particular, has little comprehension of Nepali insurgent ground realities. The Indian Left Wing political pilgrims to Nepal deal with their opposite numbers in the UML. If they meet a ‘Maoist’, they deal with personalities of their ‘own stratum’, who can be as engaging and sophisticated as any. They do not deal with what is in the hills, thus gaining no comprehension that there is an organization of LTTE clones, every bit as dogmatic and ruthless.

For those who have dealt with the Tamil insurgents, one conclusion is salient: the orientation of manpower is never the issue in a situation such as this. It is leaders who are the lynchpin, who produce the endless cycle of insurgent brutality in Sri Lanka, a struggle that has long since seen its original causes vanish. The situation in Nepal is similar. It is the Maoist leaders who are following an ideological play-book; their followers are thrown up by local grievances. Maoist manpower is just as eager for ‘peace’ as anyone else, but they expect to get something out of their campaign. They have been told consistently that the new order will belong to them and will bring justice and prosperity. There is no way to do that in the short term except by taking from the old and giving to the new.

That this is playing a losing hand has been made clear in study after study, most recently by the simple but telling calculations of Dr. Steve Gorzula. As he notes: divide the arable land of Nepal (22,627 km2) by the population (28 million in July 2006 estimates), and the result is a society that has exceeded the carrying capacity of the land. Lip-serve is paid to the only real possibility – development of hydropower – and the result is a vacuum in which Maoist coercive utopian solutions have no competitors.

Lenin would certainly be proud of his Maoist pupils. On the side of democracy, however, there is little worthy of praise. The stormy course ahead will require more steady seamanship than has hitherto been demonstrated in the short history of Nepali democracy. More than ‘hope (it all works out)’ will be required.

The role of the security forces will be paramount, for they are the only guarantee that Maoist violence will not be the trump card. Thus normal functioning of those security forces will have to be maintained at all costs, so as to avoid demoralization and possible desertion. Clear explanations of what is happening are imperative, with the emphasis upon ‘transition to parliamentary supremacy’. Any impression of ‘defeat’ must be banished, despite the concerted efforts of the Left Wing to push this claim in the ongoing struggle for control of the narrative describing recent events. Already, the Maoists claim their revolutionary forces were the key in the recent agitation (their cadres did incite violence and cache explosives in urban areas).
‘Reform’, then, must be the order of the day, as has long been called for by all interested parties, but this word finds no place in the Maoist vocabulary. Consequently, forces of actual democracy (as opposed to ‘people’s democracy’) will be called upon to face the inevitable backlash. It is for the politicians to deal with this reality, and the security forces can be their shield. It is possible that international mediation and even involvement may create new possibilities. For the moment, however, the Maoists have no intention of participating in a new version of the old-order. They are demanding and expecting that a constitutional convention will deliver a people’s republic in form if not in immediate practice. They are determined to exact vengeance.

They are not, in other words, seeking ‘democracy’ as we know the word. There is a strong thread of thought which claims the Maoists will choose the path trod by the ‘other’ insurgent groups in Sri Lanka (e.g., PLOT, TELO, EPRLF), groups that agreed, with certain misgivings, to work within the system. More likely, the Maoists will go the way of the LTTE that, after each hopeful pause, resumed its revolutionary project.

It hardly needs highlighting that such a course of action by the Maoists would put them squarely at odds with the desires of the Nepali masses – just as LTTE cannot today be said to represent much more than the aspirations of its rump state. If the CPN-M is astute, it will realize this. Unfortunately, history does not provide grounds for optimism. There is no Maoist insurgency that has displayed such foresight. Neither do operational realities provide any more hope: the Maoists are not in any way standing down.

The up side? If the Maoists move as driven by their hate-filled ideology and resume their struggle, they will find themselves just where LTTE is – on the wrong side of history and facing a reasonably united, democratic society, amply assisted by friendly powers, including India.

This article was first published in South Asia Intelligence Review

(Dr. Thomas A. Marks is Professor of Insurgency, Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism at the School of National Security Executive Education (SNSEE) of the National Defense University (NDU) in Washington, D.C.)

Monday, May 01, 2006

A Bad Trend for Democracy

Blogdai doesn't like the trend.

We have all been so fat and happy with our democratic lives over the years that we've totally neglected the next generation of citizens who should be required to pick up the mantle of democratic responsibility. We've failed to instill in our younger citizens the understanding that democracy must always pay an homage to past sacrifices and that freedom isn't a "free-for-all" where anything goes as long as you tag it with a democratic label. Gone is the sense of responsibility towards your fellow citizens; especially those with whom you disagree.

The new trend in democracy is none other than good old fashioned mob rule. Form a group and impose your will. Build spontaneous momentum by any means and call it "the will of the people."

It is troubling when a young person's first experience with democracy is a street protest. Street protests are autocratic in nature: prone to neither the compromises nor the debates incumbent in true democratic discourse.

Throughout the world we are witnessing the gradual hijacking of some very civil and advanced concepts to help justify actions of simple street mobs. Concepts like "democracy," the "will of the people," the "struggle for freedom" and "equal representation" are brandished as rallying cries by those seeking world acceptance for their narrow agendas.

Mobs are not democratic. In Thailand: Angry mobs took to the streets to demand the resignation of prime minister Thaksin and to boycott elections. Thaksin, well-supported in rural areas of Thailand, won the election anyway but chose to step aside to avoid mob chaos. True, Thaksin owes the people of Thailand a big apology for years of corruption, but should the fear of impending anarchy have been the deciding factor in his resignation? What about those rural citizens who constituted Thaksin's winning majority? Was it fair to let an angry crowd in Bangkok take away their democratic choice?

Nepal's mobs were different. Whipped up and used by differing parties as grist for their personal agendas, a nation's youth took to the streets to define their view of the democratic process in a very narrow fashion. Real democratic compromise was never considered by the protesting parties in Nepal. There was never a sense of working out differences or even talking to the opposition. It was all about ramming home a singular simplistic idea: The King must go. Sadly, Nepal abandoned any attempt at democracy by not talking to the King. Now we will never know if a peaceful, democratic solution would have been possible through dialogue. No, like Thailand, it was the gathering momentum of street protests that ruled the day.

Taking to the streets is almost always a sign of minority frustration. If one's minority viewpoint is not acknowledged in a democracy, one has the right to a peaceful demonstration that challenges those in the majority to validate that viewpoint. Why is this ok? Because perhaps, through information, the majority opinion might be eventually swayed in the direction of the minority. A classic example of this are the current immigration debates and protests being conducted in the U.S. People are being alerted about bad, one-sided or non-existent immigration practices now, almost daily; but always, there is respect for the democratic process.

Majorities don't protest.

To claim that Nepal's street protests somehow represented the "will of the people of Nepal" is pure hyperbole. These protests represented the interests of the 7-party alliance, not the majority. In fact, without elections, how does one know exactly where the majority opinion lies? Majorities are keepers of the democratic process-- they represent and maintain the system. When duly elected representatives fail in this charge, they are replaced through elections. If these representatives fail so completely that they refuse to even conduct elections, a higher authority must be called upon to keep the peace and restore order. The rest of the world gets international peace-keepers to do this, Nepal has a King.

Protests and the immediate gratification of mob rule now leave Nepal more unstable than ever. Already we are seeing this redefined democracy losing it's hold when people like Bam Dev Guatam threaten to take to the streets if a constituent assembly is not elected IMMEDIATELY. How sad. This shows a complete lack of faith in what was acheived by the protests and a complete lack of trust for the motivations of those rushed in to run the new parliament. The parties are once again returning to their bickering ways.

There is no rule of law.

Where will street dissent end? Will all disputes now be settled through street action? As we have seen, it takes very little to whip up emotional sentiments and bring people to the streets. Is Nepal now a society of protesters? If so, then the Alliance has completely eliminated the rule of law as a means of keeping order in society and insuring that the will of the majority be respected and the rights of the minority not forgotten.

Democracies use the process of debate, election and discussion to determine which individuals are fit to lead and can be trusted with implementing the needs of those they represent. Constant brinkmanship and the threat of civil disruption robs free citizens of their right to progress and familiarize themselves with their representatives. As we have seen, protests often take on lives and themes that are quite different from their original intent. Constant street violence keeps a society from achieving national unity. Because of this, it is essential that democratic societies commit themselves to the peaceful resolution of disputes. We now have no precedent for this in Nepal.

This is anarchy.

And what of democracy? Democracy is NOT a natural freestanding concept that spontaneously flourishes when people are left alone to their own devises. Democracy does NOT give people the right to say and do as they please at the expense of others and most definitely, democracy will NOT prosper without constant supervision, revision, adaptation, citizen participation, active legislation insured to promote its survival, rule of law, respect for the rights of viewpoints outside of the majority, equal representation under the law, the equal application of the law to all citizens regardless of caste or social standing; and the occasional personal discomfort and sacrifice required of each individual citizen for the public good.

The important thing is to believe in the system. Constant protests show you don't believe in anything but your next protest. In a democracy, the only real thing that all citizens are required to posess in common is faith in the democratic process. We all get screwed under a democracy from time to time, but we try to take some solace in the fact that it could happen to any one of us. It's our payment for living in a democratic society--our dues, if you will.

Democracy may just be more about what you don't get than what you DO get. One has to learn to lose an argument or two under a democracy. At the very least, one has to learn to compromise.

There are no absolutes in a democracy.