Revolutionary Worker #1153, June 2, 2002, posted at http://rwor.org
The RW received the following news update from A World To Win, a magazine inspired by the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement.
In the second week of May, news services around the world reported that the Royal Nepal Army (RNA) had killed over 500 Maoist "terrorists", and that the final tally of dead could reach as high as one thousand. At the same time, they also claimed that the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) had ordered a unilateral ceasefire in the People's War that has been shaking this mountain kingdom for over six years.
The reality that lies behind these claims goes a long way to revealing the actual situation in Nepal today, in particular the government's intensifying campaign against the People's War.
Earlier in May, RNA spokesmen had claimed that they had killed "250 Maoists" in actions in western Nepal, in Satbaria and Lamahi. They went so far as to boast that they recovered 92 Maoist dead bodies in combat dress in several mass graves and around the battlefield.
The reality on the ground was very different. Some guerrilla fighters were killed on the battlefield in Satbaria and Lamahi, in fact, 17 revolutionaries fell to the guns of the Nepalese army. Ten of the Maoist fighters died on the battlefield and another seven died later of wounds they had received.
But these figures were a long way from the numbers the Army claimed--so what accounts for the difference? The revolutionary forces have established that some of those the RNA killed were passengers traveling on a bus in this area, which is known to be a stronghold of the Maoists. They were simply executed in cold blood for being suspected sympathizers. While this is not a message the RNA wants to go out to the world at large, the killings were no mistake, and amounted to a bloody threat that the RNA very much wants to go out to the millions of Nepalese who have given their allegiance to the People's War.
The Army has erected a cordon around the battle areas in an effort to control the flow of information and ensure that only their version of events goes out--exactly as their imperialist masters have done in Afghanistan. But it is difficult to hide massacres like this--and the story behind the rest of the dead reveals a tale the Nepalese government does have an interest in hiding. There is in fact little reason to doubt the Army's story that 92 bodies were recovered in combat dress on the battlefield--for it was the Royal Nepal Army that carefully dressed them and placed them there. What is known so far is that the Army took 29 revolutionary prisoners from Chitawan prison and executed them. They then mutilated their bodies as a grisly warning and moved them to the battlefield. They also took and executed prisoners from the prisons at Ghorahi, Dang, Nepalgunj, Dhangarhi and Surkhet, though the exact numbers from each prison are still not known. The "great victory" of the reactionary imperialist-backed RNA was, then, nothing but the cold-blooded execution of unarmed men and women.
Likewise, the "great victory" proclaimed by the RNA during the second week of May is also proving to be a sordid but empty affair. This involved a classic attempt at an encirclement campaign in western Nepal, in the Lisne Hill area around Rolpa. The Army declared it a resounding success, claiming it had killed at least 500-600 "terrorists."
On 11 May, Daniel Lac, a BBC correspondent in Nepal, reported from the battlefield that the Army has been able to show the bodies of only 21 Maoist rebels. At the same time, he also said that the Army commander in Rolpa has realized that the government has exaggerated the number beyond reality. Indeed, the revolutionary forces scorn the figures. There were a substantial number of casualties-- but efforts up to now have found that most of them were villagers and that the Army victims included a number affiliated with different parties, and not at all exclusively guerrillas or even Maoist symphathisers.
What is known for sure, and what the Nepal government has been utterly unable to hide, is that the People's Liberation Army forces broke through the attempted encirclement in the Lisne Hill area and attacked the army camp at Gam, which they in turn encircled and cut off. By the end of this large-scale battle, late in the night, they had overrun the base, killed more than 130 security forces and seized all their weapons and ammunition. This finally brought into play some more independent media exposure. Even so, the definitive number of casualties on the army side is still not available, though the Army itself has announced that it has recovered the bodies of 104 security forces, including soldiers and armed police force. The revolutionaries believe the actual casualties on the Army side may be somewhat higher.
Meanwhile, it is also being reported by the BBC that the Royal Army has retreated from different camps of Rolpa and concentrated on the district headquarters at Liwang. The RNA said in Asian Age that it was making a tactical withdrawal from two of the five base areas of the Maoist forces.
What is the Nepal government trying to accomplish with its wildly exaggerated claims? First, the government and its imperialist backers are very concerned at their failure to make any real progress against the People's War, despite having unleashed a campaign of terror in the countryside and a vicious clampdown in the cities. Tourism has collapsed, poverty is intensifying, what civil rights previously existed have been suspended, newspapers are censored, hundreds or even thousands are being held without trial, and inequality and corruption are on the upswing. There has been massive disaffection from the government, and the extent of popular support for the Maoist insurgency is now so great that almost no one denies that they control a large portion of the countryside. Worse for the government, they are advancing. Half of the 4000 casualties claimed during the war have occurred in the past six months. The RNA chief Prawajjwal Samsher issued a statement in mid-May complaining that Nepal's political leaders were not doing enough to promote the morale of the Army, and strongly urged all political parties to become more serious about giving the Army support.
Exaggerated claims of success are not an invention of the RNA. The US army adopted similar practices when fighting guerrilla forces in Vietnam. Body counts became part of the nightly news on TV screens around America. High figures spelled promotion for officers. By the paper counts, the US should have won the war handily. Reality, of course, turned out otherwise.
There is also an obvious question about the timing of these "great victories"--they came at the very moment that the Nepalese PM was making his most prominent trip abroad in many years, including to London as well as the first visit of a Nepalese PM to Washington. The extravagant claims of the RNA "victories" made it onto the main Western news programs and provided what the imperialists must have considered "suitable background" for PM Deuba's requests for stepped- up military assistance.
Finally, trumpeting these large casualty figures was intended to demoralize and intimidate the insurgent Maoist fighters and their millions of supporters. But this kind of tactic involves a big gamble by the RNA. War does indeed break the spirits of many. But, ruthless suppression, particularly when it is met by a revolutionary force with a clear programme of eliminating exploitation and oppression through empowering the vast majority of the oppressed, can temper and harden far more. The Maoists of Nepal, it should be remembered, have been applying and developing strategy and tactics in their own country that were pioneered by Mao and the Chinese revolutionaries. The Chinese People's Liberation Army succeeded in defeating the Japanese and then, after World War 2, Chiang Kai-shek, despite massive backing by the US.
In the very days that the Nepalese government was making these wild claims of victory, it also announced that an unnamed CPN(M) spokesperson had issued a proclamation of a unilateral ceasefire. Party Chairman Prachanda quickly refuted this claim in a press release that denounced it as an "evil- intended hoax" designed to "confuse the masses of people." He said it had the "feel of a government conspiracy," and went on to point out that, "a unilateral ceasefire from us will not work with a government that, far from proposing any political solution, continues to massacre the people while closing the door to negotiations, announces rewards on the heads of Party leaders and, while facing defeat, roams the world's capitals and puts the country into debt." Prachanda evoked the sacrifices that the revolutionary forces had made, but pointed out that in light of what the liberation of Nepal would mean for so many millions of poor and oppressed, such sacrifices were an inevitable part of the People's War. He defiantly concluded, "We are prepared to fight to the end."
The wild claims made in the Nepalese and Western media reflect serious concern in Kathmandu about the ability of the RNA to counter the insurgency. And while the Maoist forces can ultimately meet the escalating attacks of the reactionaries only by turning to the masses of people, the rulers of Nepal's feudal monarchy see no way out for themselves other than turning to more powerful forces abroad. This means in particular the traditional regional power India, and ultimately the imperialists, particularly the US and Britain.
The Western media, tuned to a new level of slavishness as part of the US "war on terror," have been cooperating by pouring out lurid lies about "Maoist atrocities," usually based on "unnamed sources." A new and disturbing low point was reached in the 12 May issue of the British national newspaper The Independent,which attempted to tar the Nepalese revolutionary Maoists by claiming they had links with al-Qaeda. The basis for these reports is, unsurprisingly, nothing more than the "suspicions of Western intelligence agencies." This baseless fabrication is a transparent attempt to place the revolutionary masses of Nepal squarely in the crosshairs of Washington's "war on terrorism."
The imperialists will certainly use the claim of "terrorism" to justify any measures against the People's War, however bloody they may be. Bush has already granted Nepal $20 million in military aid, to be used for night vision goggles and other hi-tech equipment; Britain is stepping up its aid and hosting a conference in mid-June in London against the People's War; while India is offering helicopter gunships. The London Observer also reports that US Army scouts have recently been reconnoitering western Nepal, near Rolpa. The Revolutionary Worker newspaper in the US elaborated: "At the end of April, at least a dozen U.S. military personnel spent weeks with the RNA, touring western districts where fighting has been the most intense. A Pentagon spokesman said the team's mission was to assess how to best spend U.S. funds to help the Nepalese government fight Maoist insurgents. According to the Pentagon, the team was made up of personnel from the U.S. Pacific Command specializing in intelligence, aviation, logistics, engineering and medicine."
Buoyed by this support, PM Deuba has brushed aside any talk of negotiations and is keen on intensifying the war. But the small band of feudals and reactionaries who rule Nepal are also falling out like thieves. King Gyanendra is reported to have just dissolved the lower house of Parliament, while the ruling Congress Party has expelled PM Deuba, amidst a backdrop of plans to extend the State of Emergency.
The battle in Nepal is certain to intensify in the coming period. But as an article on Nepal in the forthcoming issue of A World To Win points out, "With millions of the poor increasingly mobilized to struggle, with vast and deep support from all sections of society, urban as well as rural, the flimsy, threadbare label of `terrorist' cannot be made to stick at all. A new power, people's power, is emerging and consolidating in the Himalayas, and it is already influencing the revolutionary situation as a whole in the vital South Asian region, home to one-fourth of humanity."
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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