The radicals in the Maoists

A political agreement signed on 1 November was finally supposed to allow former Maoist combatants in Nepal to move ahead with their lives. Instead, the response has been mostly anger and accusations of duplicity.

Bhaktaraj Thapa Magar, of the Maoist Third Division cantoned in Shaktikhor, in south-central Nepal, limps as he walks. He lost his left foot in surgery after being seriously injured during an aerial blitz by then-Royal Nepalese Army (now Nepal Army) at a Maoist rally in Thokarpa, east of Kathmandu, in March 2005. Now 29 years old, Thapa Magar is dejected – not because he lost one of his feet during the insurgency, but because he thinks he was cheated by the Maoist leadership, which promised a 'heavenly' communist state and instead seems to have left him and thousands others in the lurch. For him, those at the top echelons of the party have built their political careers at the cost of the grassroots cadres, 'selling out to regressive forces' and 'betraying the promise of the revolution'. Says Thapa Magar: 'Wallowing in the blood of 15,000 people, [the leaders] have finally achieved what they wanted, but left us nowhere.'

With a 1 November seven-point agreement on the nitty-gritty of the integration and rehabilitation of Maoist combatants, the 'protracted people's war' launched by the Maoists in the spring of 1996 is formally coming to an end. Of course, theoretically, no party can claim to be embracing Maoist ideology without its army, one of the three 'magical weapons' for revolution. But leaving aside the promised revolution, what has angered the combatants most is the seven-point deal, which outlines the terms and conditions of the integration of a portion of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) into a directorate of the Nepal Army for activities like industrial security and disaster relief. The ex-combatants have taken especially strong exception to their 'disarmament': First, each combatant is separated from his or her weapon; second, the combatants are being integrated on individual basis, not unit-wise; and third, the combatants will have non-combat roles. 'How can you call the personnel at the directorate "soldiers", as they won't have guns in their hands?' asks one Maoist commander. Indeed, it was the Nepal Army that proposed this model of integration.

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Himal Southasian