Nepal: Fighting Intensifies in People's War
Government Sends Army Against Guerillas
Revolutionary Worker #1076, October 29, 2000, rwor.org
The People's War in Nepal, led by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), is now in its fifth year--aimed at overthrowing the reactionary government and establishing a new revolutionary society. Through twists and turns, the revolution has advanced, with larger and more sophisticated military maneuvers. And in the Western Region, two million people are beginning to exercise new people's power in areas where government control has been broken.
The police have been the main force sent against the revolution and have launched vicious campaigns against the people--raiding and looting villages, torturing and killing anyone suspected of being a "Maoist supporter." Now the Nepali Congress government has begun to send its army in to fight the guerrillas. This major, new counter-revolutionary move shows how much the government is threatened by the advances made by the people's army. And the events leading up to the government's decision to mobilize the army reveal serious infighting in the ruling class--and a big crisis in the government over how to deal with the People's War.
THE DARING RAID IN DUNAI AND LAMJUNG
On September 25, the people's army launched a major raid on the town of Dunai, the district headquarters of the Dolpa district. This is in the Western Region, north of Rolpa and Rukum districts where the People's War has been the strongest. There have been many other guerrilla actions in Dolpa. But this was the most daring and successful. This is the first time the people's army has carried out an attack like this on a district headquarters.
From looking at different news reports coming out of Nepal, a picture emerges of a significant defeat for the government: Fourteen policemen were killed, at least 40 more were injured, and 11 were captured and taken away. The office of the Chief District Officer, the district police headquarters, the Land revenue office, the Land reform office (which works in the interests of landlords and other feudal oppressors), and several other government-owned offices were destroyed. The local jail was also destroyed with grenades and bombs and 17 prisoners were freed.
The only bank in the district, the branch of Nepal Bank Limited, was captured. A large sum of money--35 million rupees --had just been brought to the Dunai Bank from the regional branch of the state bank to pay government officials. And another 10 million rupees had been deposited by foreign, so-called, "development projects." Loan negotiation papers were burned and all together about 60 million rupees was seized.
Before the attack the guerrillas told neighbors to stay in their houses. The people not only obeyed but helped by giving shelter and information to the guerrillas. The raid lasted over five hours.
Government officials said they had been warned about the attack and had informed the Home Ministry and police headquarters. Eight hours before the attack about 50 special commandos, recently trained by the army, arrived at the Dunai district police headquarters. The Home Ministry had been told that only a small number of Maoists would be involved in the attack. But police reports say there were more than 1,000 guerrillas involved in the raid, and that at the time, there were only about 200 police in Dunai.
Two days later, on September 27, people's army guerrillas attacked the Bhorletar police post in Lamjung, also in the West, killing eight policemen and injuring seven others.
News reports said the fighting began when more than 300 armed and uniformed guerrillas surrounded the police station soon after midnight. The four-hour battle ended when eight police were killed, including the commander in charge, and the rest of the police at the post surrendered.
The police reported that the guerrillas pounded the post with hand-made bombs and then captured communications equipment, weapons, ammunition and other war materiel. They also seized documents from a local Agriculture Development Bank located near the police post.
The site of this attack had some significance. On August 18, a program was held in this area against the rape and killing of women by the police during the People's War. The police stopped a young woman, Harikala Paudel, as she was on her way to the program--arrested her on suspicion of being a "Maoist sympathizer," raped her, murdered her and buried her in the forest.
Before this, the Bhorletar police had already been responsible for the arrest and murder of two Maoist leaders, Rammani Bhattarai and Eka Bahadur B.K., and the imprisonment of several teachers, student leaders, and villagers.
On September 19, a program to pay tribute to Harikala Paudel was held in her village, Bhorletar. At this event, a guerrilla commander made a public promise that the people would get justice for the murder of Harikala Paudel. The raid on the police in Bhorletar took place a week later.
GOVERNMENT INFIGHTING AND MOVES
Four days after the raid on Dunai, the Home Minister, Govinda Raj Joshi, resigned after criticizing the Royal Nepal Army (RNA) for not coming to the aid of the police in Dunai.
According to news reports in the Kathmandu Post, when the police somehow found out that the guerrillas were going to attack Dunai, they worked out an agreement with the army that soldiers would block the entry/exit points to Dolpa to prevent the guerrillas from escaping. According to Dolpa's Chief District Officer, the police and army met that morning and the understanding was that "in case there are such attacks the army would respond the minute they hear any explosion or gunshots."
But Joshi charged that when the people's army attacked Dunai, the RNA soldiers stationed nearby didn't do anything, even though they heard gunshots and explosions for five hours.
Joshi also lashed out at the Royal Nepal Army for failing to provide weapons to the police, saying, "Had the police received arms from the army the Dunai incident could have been averted." He was referring to the fact that the army had received 170 million rupees to provide arms for the police -- but had so far failed to deliver any weapons.
Joshi's resignation was quickly sent to Prime Minister Koirala and to King Birendra. And later that evening, the Royal Palace announced that Deputy Prime Minister Ram Chandra Poudel would now serve as the new Home Minister.
Since Koirala came to power last March, he has openly talked about his efforts to activate the National Defense Council (NDC)--which would open the door to mobilizing the RNA against the People's War. And reportedly, Koirala himself had chaired the meeting, attended by the Home Minister, the Chief of the Army General Staff, and the Inspector General of Police--where the army had agreed to help the police in Dolpa. Many figures in the government have been against mobilizing the army -- saying that the government should first engage in "dialogue with the Maoists." But now, the humiliating defeat of the police in Dunai became the catalyst for Koirala to knock down this opposition.
The day after Joshi's resignation, the new Home Minister, Poudel, announced that a serious discussion on the army mobilization was going on at "a high level" and criticized the stand taken by forces in the Nepali Congress who say that problem should be settled only through dialogue.
On October 1, when leaders of the main political parties in the government met to discuss the issue of mobilizing the army against the People's War, an agreement could not be reached.
A few days earlier, the Defense Ministry had issued a statement that "resolution of the Maoist problem without mobilizing the army and through other appropriate alternatives would be in the overall interest of the nation." On October 2, the Royal Palace issued a communiqué announcing a new Defense Minister, Mahesh Acharya.
According to the Kathmandu Post, sources close to the Prime Minister said that this appointment was meant to send a strong message that "From now onwards, the army will be used in an intelligent manner in the fight against the rebels."
A QUESTION OF CONTROL
Nepal's 1991 Constitution, which was a result of a mass upsurge that brought about the change to a constitutional Monarchy, was a compromise between different forces--the Royal Palace, the Nepali Congress forces and the alliance of various so-called "communist" forces (like the UML). It provided for a three-member National Defense Council, headed by the Prime Minister and including the Defense Minister and the chief of the army.
According to the Constitution, the National Defense Council can mobilize the army through a recommendation to the King--who has supreme command of the Royal Nepal Army. The monarch also appoints the army commander in chief. The police forces, on the other hand, are under the direct control and command of the ruling government.
This setup is a factor in the infighting in the ruling class over how to try and crush the People's War. No doubt there are forces in the Nepali Congress who are hesitant to give the monarchy so much power by giving the army the main responsibility for defeating the People's War. And there is also concern that sending the army in could lead to bigger defeats by the government and an even more out-of-control situation.
These tensions between the King and the Nepali Congress, and between the Nepali Congress and other factions in the government, are likely to get even more intense now that the army is being mobilized to fight the People's War.
GUERRILLA ACTIONS CONTINUE, ARMY MOVES IN
While infighting and maneuvers were going on in Kathmandu, actions by the people's army continued in the West. According to reports in the news, on October 2, guerrillas disconnected a mass-line telephone service and destroyed a Public Communications Office (PCO), about 12 hours walking distance from the Lamjung district headquarters. Then, on October 4, barely a week after the incident at Dunai, the people's army carried out another raid in Dunai, where, according to the Kathmandu Post, the fighting lasted five hours, with one police killed and another injured.
The KP also reported a week later that the guerrillas had released the 14 police who were captured in the September 24 Dunai raid. One of these cops told the press that the rebels freed them on the condition that they would no longer serve in the police force. He said the guerrillas had taken them to the Salyan district border and given each of them 300 rupees travel allowance.
Meanwhile, the shakeup in the government continued. Pokharel, who took over as Home Minister after Joshi's resignation, was replaced. The Inspector General of Police was forced to resign. A new chief of the Special Police Department was appointed. The Deputy Inspector General of Police who was in charge at the time of the Dunai raid was also dismissed and replaced.
On October 12, the police announced the first official mobilization of RNA personnel against the guerrillas. Joint patrol operations with the army had begun in the six Western districts of Rolpa, Rukum, Salyan, Pyuthan, Jajarkot and Kalikot--the districts "most affected" by the People's War.
On October 14, the Kathmandu Post reported that the government had also deployed some 50 RNA personnel in Dailekh, another district in the West, and that in addition to the joint patrols in the six districts, in 13 other "Maoist affected districts" the Chief District Officer has been given the power to mobilize the army to fight guerrillas.
By the end of the week, the army had been mobilized to patrol in 16 districts.
The army also delivered the arms it had promised the police and announced that it is acquiring new and more advanced weapons. In addition, the army began the training of 150 police instructors.
The revolutionaries in Nepal knew that sooner or later--exactly because of the advances in the People's War--the government would send in the Royal Nepal Army. The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) has been preparing its cadre, the people's army and the revolutionary masses to take on such a new, counter-revolutionary offensive. The revolutionaries in Nepal know that the path of Maoist people's war is a protracted and tortuous process and they are determined to fight throughout all the twists and turns.
Now that the RNA is being mobilized against the People's War, there are bound to be many more crimes and atrocities carried out against the people. But for almost five years now, the people's army has advanced exactly by meeting the government's counter-revolutionary moves with escalating revolutionary moves. And many of the new and more sophisticated weapons of the government's soldiers will surely end up in the hands of the guerrillas.
The People's War in Nepal has inspired people around the world, shining a light on the path of genuine liberation. Now, as the revolutionaries and masses of people in Nepal face new and more dangerous challenges, it is even more important that people around the world condemn the reactionary Nepali Congress government and build awareness of and support for the People's War in Nepal.
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