On a sunny and clear cold day in December 1990 (as I’ve mentioned before), I stood on a narrow path in the foothills northwest of Pokhara, Nepal.
A young self-described Maoist revolutionary fighter with a little book tried to explain to me in broken sentences and hand gestures why his village of comrades were in opposition to their King.
The conversation will never be forgotten because I can still vividly recall his blank stares when I probed for details, such as Russian influence. Lenin? Never heard of the man. Marx? Nope. Stalin who? Communist what?
He said he and his buddies just were into Mao 24/7 like it was the coolest thing possible.
This presented an interesting dilemma for me then, and even to this day.
Generally I find news reports saying the armed Maoist insurrection began in Nepal a decade after it really started.
The timing shift in public eyes probably has a lot to do with who was allowed to say what under a King; who was allowed any political voice, when and how.
In the case above, I was in the ground in rural Nepal specifically during a small window of time that the King had “abdicated” power. As the country dipped its toes into parliamentary rule and open speech, rural pull of young militant Maoist doctrine was underestimated if not ignored by (what seemed to be) Indian-dominated political processes.
I assure you Maoist guerilla doctrine was being settled far earlier than you will be told.
From where I humbly stood that day, teenagers developing heated political aspirations five or so years later should have not “surprised” Nepal’s government, along with a unique brand of militant troubles. Classic signs of Chinese competitive foreign policy had been rumbling for anyone willing to watch and listen.
With that in mind, here’s today’s big news out of Nepal.
The leader of Nepal’s former communist rebels was named the country’s new prime minister on Sunday…. Known by his nom de guerre Prachanda or “the fierce one,” Dahal led the Maoist communists’ violent insurgency from 1996 to 2006. The 10 years of strife left over 17,000 dead and eventually led to the abolition of the country’s monarchy.
There’s even an important political detail that caught my eye.
Dahal’s Maoist party has formed an alliance with the Communist Party of Nepal (UML), a party it has already aligned with in the past, alongside six others. The Maoist party and the UML used to be one party before splitting.
Do you see how he is framed as a former leader of Communist insurgency, before noting his Maoist party had to form an alliance with the Communists after they had split apart? I would argue these two were split far apart before forming an alliance, which failed.
Seeing the earlier and deeper roots of Maoists, the distance they have long perceived from Communism, and their persistence in opposition to social democratic monarchism… should help anyone today trying to do a regional analysis of influence.
This is Dahal’s third run at the PM role, incidentally, so maybe it’s time to start calling him the establishment instead of a rebel.