Tears and Tragedy in the World’s Youngest Republic
A Story of Strife and Deceit in Nepal
Situated at the heart of South Asia, amidst major tall mountains of the World, Nepal is a beautiful land. In the 70s, Nepal was counted as one of the world’s top tourist destinations. As a toddler I still remember saying in my classroom — “Guests are gods.” We used to satisfy the needs of our guests before looking on to ours. Our values taught us to love every human being’s and help the helpless. Our glorious history taught us to fight against injustice, yet remain peaceful. Such uniquely rich culture; rife with empathy, respect, dignity and sacrifice; has always propelled me to remain proud for my nation.
Although I only have some hazy memories of my childhood, I do remember very well that people in my little village stood behind our traditional ideals. They had no hatred — only love. They had no deceit — only truth. All of this, however, has changed. Now there are killings, jealousy and hatred. Today, I feel completely broken to even accept that Nepal is not the same. Perhaps it shall never be the same anymore. What changed?
I doubt many toddlers are still taught to say “Guests are gods.” In my recent visit to my village in rural Nepal, I had a chance to interact with children, some as small as ten years old. To my utter dismay, I learned what the children were taught in class: Children were encouraged to learn the names of various guns and bombs like SLR, shotguns, socket and pipe bombs. I did not want to inquire further. I feared that they would even tell me how to construct one. The 10 year long civil war has completely ravaged Nepal.
Considered as one of the most brutal wars ever, Nepal’s civil war began in 1996, when a group of young communist revolutionists decided to launch guerilla warfare against the country to end capitalism in the broadest sense of the term. The war continued for ten years and led to among many other ugly consequences, the destruction of 13,000 lives, and the devastation of much of the nation’s infrastructure.
“Memories hit hard,” said my mother when I had gone home for one of my summer vacations. I was studying in Kathmandu then, the capital of Nepal. Like my mother, several other villagers had equally disturbing recollections. Many were tortured, some were beaten mercilessly for not providing food and shelter to the Maoists, some were amputated for not supporting their cause, and some were made to carry heavy loads on their backs under the scorching sun.
The gruesome war ended in 2006, abolishing the 240 yearlong monarchy. The dispute between the ruling party and the Maoists was settled through multilateral talks. Maoists abandoned guerrilla warfare and returned as civilians. It was the most blissful victory in the history of Nepal. Like me, almost every Nepali sang and danced at the sheer joy of freedom and change.
Alas, we never knew that our joy was a small part of the big conspiracy. If you had read the issue of The Tech from Tuesday, May 5, you probably encountered a news feature from Nepal. The article, written by New York Times journalist Tilak Pokherel, reported the controversial resignation of the standing prime minister of Nepal, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, popularly known by his communist name, “Prachanda.”
In April 2008, Nepal hoisted a historic general election. Elected as the leading party, the Maoists, with Prachanda as the head, had been ruling the country with some coalition partners since August 2008.
Let me introduce you to this man. Let me reveal Prachanda to you. I consider this man to be a power hungry, self-centered villain. Until yesterday, I used to regard him with respect, although I could hardly forget the pains inflicted upon the millions of Nepalese during the civil war.
When Prachanda assumed power, he made a promise to protect the nation and our nationality. He promised to the Nepalese people that he would rebuild the country’s infrastructure and eliminate poverty, illiteracy and suffering. The tenth poorest country in the world had waited for a long time for this opportunity. We craved for a change, trusting our dreams to the Maoists.
But for Prachanda, building power and prosperity was nothing but a way to horde money for his party and establish communistic supremacy in the nascent democracy. A shocking video released today by the Image Channel broadcasting network following the resignation by the premier uncovered the true nature of this deceptive ruler. The video footage, dating back to January 2008, features a secret gathering held by Maoists prior to the general elections in Nepal. In the video, Prachanda speaks to his cadres and tells them that he had fooled the UNMIN officials into believing that the Peoples’ Liberation Army (PLA) force was 35,000 strong while the number was just between 7,000 and 8,000.
He explains his deception, saying that it was the only way to raise money for his party. The PLA members were camped into cantonments and paid a certain budget based on their number, meaning that Prachanda was generating more revenue with his false reporting. He further added that a small fraction of the money would be distributed to the families of people who died in the war and the bulk of it would be used for preparing for a more robust armed conflict, while in the process killing thousands of people and demolishing properties worth millions of rupees.
In his approximately ten minute long talk, Prachanda also discusses at length his strategies for the upcoming election. He said Maoists should publicly support the election but privately they should recognize that Maoists as a party would only use this election to revamp their revolution. He said, “We are not going to election because we are seeking an agreement with the ruling party. Please don’t be misled.” He added, “After the election, we will keep nourishing our revolution until and unless we become the rulers, until and unless each of you seating here gets integrated in to Nepal army and until and unless our demands are met.”
Prachanda further said, “Once we assume responsibility of Nepal, we will make rules. We will reduce Nepal armies and with the help of our PLA combatants, we will capture the army. We will rule the nation. The sovereignty will fall upon us.”
Ironically things worked just as he had planned. Maoists got the opportunity to lead the government. Prachanda became the prime minister, and, as he was integrating the PLA combatants into the Nepalese army, he faced stiff resistance from the establishment. So, Prachanda chose to the sack General Rookmangud Katawal, the chief of army staff. After the decision was made, President Ram Baran Yadav stepped in and reinstated the army general.
Following the president’s decision, the Maoists pulled out of the government, criticizing the move by President as being undemocratic and a threat to civil supremacy. Prachanda resigned, claiming that his action was a sacrifice for protection of peace and Republicanism — a claim we now can see for the hollow rhetoric it really is.
After the video was aired for the first time by Image Channel, most of society, with the exception of pro-Maoists, expressed a deep sorrow that its trust was manipulated so deceitfully. Maoists started weighing revolution again — killing an innocent person within a space of 4 hours. Rather than coming to public and apologizing (although I doubt that Nepalese will ever forgive his hypocrisy) Prachanda instead stood silent as his combatants attacked the news station. Violence takes its toll and people cry in agony. How long will this continue?
Nepal is becoming poorer and poorer. Resources are unused. Due to the continuous unrest, most of the educated population has sought permanent residences in America or the UK. This winter, Nepalese had power cuts for 16 hours every day. Due to continuous strikes, and a lack of maintenance, it can take four days to travel on 150 miles of open road. Schools are rarely open. Such is the tragedy, and so my motherland continues to sink down the abyss of suffering.
The problem in my opinion lies right at the root. As Thomas Carlyle said, “The history of the world is but the biography of great men.” Nepal is in a need of a leader who can forget his personal ideologies and dedicate himself to the service of the country. We need a leader who can understand the sufferings of the people, and we need a leader who, most of all, loves Nepal and the rich traditions set by our forefathers. The nation needs us; we, as the young generation, have to step up now.
Ram Rijal is a member of the Class of 2012.