Powell on the People's War:
Lies in Kathmandu

By Li Onesto

Revolutionary Worker #1137, February 3, 2002, posted at http://rwor.org

"It's a pleasure to have you on board for another of our magical mystery tours," Colin Powell told a BBC reporter.

The U.S. Secretary of State visited Pakistan, Afghanistan and India.

Then he headed for Nepal, where Maoist guerrillas have been leading an armed insurgency since 1996. The country has been under a "State of Emergency" since November 26. The Royal Nepalese Army has been carrying out "search and destroy" campaigns in the countryside, killing hundreds of people. The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), leading the People's War, has been declared "terrorist" by Nepal's government. And taking a page from John Ashcroft, the "T word" is being used to justify a whole slate of repressive measures throughout the country.

A high U.S. official like Colin Powell hasn't visited Nepal in over 30 years. So why did the "magical mystery tour" go to Nepal?

Referring to Nepal's "Maoist terrorist insurrection," Powell told reporters, "You have a Maoist insurgency that's trying to overthrow that government and this really is the kind of thing that we are fighting against throughout the world..."

The day before Powell arrived, a commentary in the Kathmandu Post observed: "Call it the 'September 11 syndrome,' but the fallout from America's global war against terrorism has helped to line up important international constituents behind Mr Deuba's [Nepal's Prime Minister] own war against terrorism."

Months of bombing Afghanistan. U.S. troops in the Philippines. Threats aimed at Iraq, Somalia, Indonesia, and Yemen. War-happy Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld says, "If we have to go into 15 more countries, we ought to do it."

The U.S. is puffed up and swaggering. And Powell's trip to Kathmandu made it clear that this corner of the earth, too, will not escape the hand of U.S. domination.

Now, the U.S. can use its "global war on terrorism" to justify war on any and all insurgencies--including genuine revolutions aimed at overthrowing oppressive governments.

Support for a Corrupt Regime

Powell landed in Kathmandu on January 17 and in the next two days met with King Gyanendra, Prime Minister Deuba and top officials in the Royal Nepalese Army.

While fully backing the corrupt and reactionary Nepalese government, Powell could not ignore the brutal and murderous nature of the State of Emergency. He told the press he hoped the current State of Emergency would be of "limited duration" and encouraged the government to "focus on protecting human rights while dealing with this emergency."

But as Powell dined with the king and discussed military aid with Nepal's generals, the Royal Army continued its "search and destroy" campaign in the countryside. And the whole country remained under a heavy clampdown.

Hundreds of people in the countryside are being killed, and many more rounded up and jailed. Constitutional rights--to assembly, information, free speech, and privacy--have been suspended. Searches and arrests can be carried out without warrants; suspects can be detained for up to 90 days. "Terrorists" and suspected supporters can be given life imprisonment. Doctors have been warned not to treat wounded Maoists, or face punishment. A "shoot on sight" order has been given for anyone putting up posters or other material sympathetic to the Maoists.

The government has cracked down on dozens of groups accused of having "Maoist links." The offices of trade unions, student groups and newspapers have been shut down. The central bank in Nepal has frozen more than a dozen accounts of people accused of supporting "terrorists."

Newspapers sympathetic to the Maoists have been raided, journalists arrested, computers and records confiscated. Strict press guidelines have been issued. Negative coverage of the king, the army or the police is not permitted. Only "official news that comes from His Majesty's Government and the official media" is allowed. Editors of mainstream newspapers have been hauled in for interrogation after publishing quotes from Prachanda, the Chairman of the CPN (Maoist).

What does it mean when the U.S. Secretary of State thanks Nepal for its support in "fighting international terrorism"--while the Nepalese government is arresting and interrogating people because they are suspected of being "sympathetic to the Maoists," or have simply published the words of Maoist leaders. And this is hardly the first time the U.S. has hypocritically mouthed words about "human rights" while backing a brutal regime. Another example to put on the list of why people around the world hate the U.S. government.

A People's War of Liberation

The peasants in Nepal, like millions of other people on the planet, suffer from poverty, malnutrition, illiteracy and caste and ethnic oppression. Like women in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and India, women in Nepal are beaten down by cruel feudal traditions. But in Nepal, there is a growing armed struggle, aimed at overthrowing the oppressive regime. And this Maoist People's War has given hope to the hopeless.

In 1999, I traveled deep into the guerrilla zones of Nepal, in the western districts of Rolpa and Rukum--where the Maoists now have strong base areas. I saw what it means when the masses of poor peasants take things into their own hands, stand up against their hated oppressors, and fight to change the oppressive relations of feudalism and capitalism.

Poor peasants told me how they worked hard on their small plots of land only to be ripped off by "liars and cheaters"--corrupt politicians, landowners and money lenders. One young farmer told me, "We work all year but the crops that we harvest only provide food for three to four months. So our vision is if the revolution is successful we can seize the land of landlords and socialize the land and grow crops on those lands and have everyone work together."

In a land where more than 90% of the people are poor peasants living in the countryside, the Maoists' slogan of "land to the tiller" has given hope to millions of people. And as land is seized and redistributed, the peasants are not only able to grow more food, but they are starting to work together in new ways. The young farmer told me, "We are thinking about how to transform farming in a revolutionary way. Some forms of cooperation have been tried in the past, but the government always intercedes. But if there is a base area, and around this a guerrilla zone, the base area will be secure and we will be able to implement new forms of cooperation in farming."

I also saw how the fight for women's equality and liberation is an integral part of the People's War--and how this has attracted many young women to join the people's army.

Feudal traditions subject young Nepalese girls to "arranged marriages." Sons go to school, while daughters remain illiterate. Women are denied the right to own property and get a divorce. Hundreds of women are in prison for the "crime" of having an abortion. Every year thousands of Nepalese women are sold to brothels in India. If they ever make it back to their village, chances are they will die of AIDS.

But now, where the Maoists have control, women have the freedom to divorce, own land, go to school and participate fully in the new social order. One woman told me, "We are illiterate. Due to our traditional customs, we did not learn to read and write, because it is said daughters should not be educated. But now we are beginning a new people's education. Before we only passed the time working in the fields, bringing food and grass to the cattle, and doing other household work. The main thing we have come to know is that all the oppression we are facing today is due to the reactionary state power."

In the areas where the Maoists have control, new revolutionary governments have been established where millions of peasants are involved in building a "new people's power"--carrying out land redistribution, running schools, holding "people's courts" and building local militias to support the armed struggle against the government.


Powell's "magical mystery tour" to Kathmandu made it clear that the U.S. stands behind Nepal's corrupt and brutal regime. And by branding the Maoist People's War with the "terrorist" label, the U.S. now hopes to justify a vicious counter-revolutionary war in Nepal.

What does it say about the U.S. "war on terrorism" that it is now being used to attack the People's War in Nepal -- a revolution where millions of peasants are casting off their chains, and fighting for a future free of all the oppressive relations of feudalism and capitalism?

The people cannot let the U.S. get away with their threats and lies.

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