The communist guerillas in Nepal have been getting stronger and stronger and gaining control of a growing area of Nepal for a few years now. It's quite a festering problem. Unfortunately, probably 99% of Americans have no idea it's going on and probably 50% couldn't find Nepal on a map to save their life.
Wasn't Nepal a chinese tributary state before the British came?.
Last week the mayor of Pokhara was shot dead by the Maoists. A picturesque starting point for the Annapurna circuit, Pokhara is well known to most climbers and trekkers in Himalaya. Harka Bahadur Gurung was gunned down at close range by three Maoists as he was entering his car to drive to his office on Friday. His driver and a bodyguard are badly injured. Maoists had demanded the mayor to resign, under the threat of death.
With the shooting there is a new dead-lock between the Maoists and the government. Only two months ago a new Prime minister, Deuba, was assigned head of Government by the king. Deuba has since expressed no desire to improve Democracy in Nepal (as it would limit the power of the Monarchy) or to hold peace-talks with the Maoists.
A charismatic Maoist leader
Pachandra, the Maoist's charismatic leader, has asked for negotiations to be held under UN supervision. If UN agreed to that it would mean 'recognizing' the rebels as a regular opposition party - instead of a terrorist guerrilla - which it is not willing to do. Matthew Kahane, UN resident coordinator in Nepal, declared to The Kathmandu Post on Wednesday: "The UN will not interfere in the negotiations between the government and the Maoist." Friday, the mayor was killed.
King Gyanendra has never considered the demands or strength of the Maoists. When he acceded to the Crown, after the former monarch was murdered along with the rest of the Royal Family in 2000, King Gyanendra enforced a seek-and-destroy policy against the Maoist movement. Back then the Maoists were hiding out in rural parts of the Himalayas, perpetrating isolated attacks against police posts and seeking followers among Nepalese youngsters.
The royal army started counter attacks, and the number of casualties on both sides increased dramatically. The Maoists stepped up to bombings, kidnappings, general strikes paralyzing Kathmandu, and now the latest; politicians assassinations.
Infiltrating the young
AI (Amnesty International) has raised its voice against Maoists violence, referring especially to the massive abductions "including the taking of hostages and mass abductions of villagers, teachers and students for forced 'education" sessions'". But AI has also sent open letters to the Nepal government referring to the disappearance of arrested people and suspicions of torture.
Meanwhile, the opposition against King Gyanendra increases within great parts of Nepal's regular population. Especially among the youth, the Maoists are now finding new supporters daily. Traditionally, Democracies in Nepal doesn't endure. It took mere months for King Gyagendra to invalidate the elected Government and to head his cabinet with monarchy supporters. Educated population and political parties has placed hundreds of protests and demonstrations 'against the regression' since then, supported by the Communist Marxist Leninist Party of Nepal and applauded from the sidelines by the Maoists rebels.
Karma vs the instinct of survival
Demonstrations now block towns for days: Thousands of people dance and chant slogans against the King, then change mood to block roads, set tires and vehicles on fire and finally there are violent clashes between protesters and police. Caught between the Crown and the Hammer (and Sickle) Moderating voices, reasoning that simply abolishing the Monarchy would be no solution, find ever lesser response.
The Sherpas, Buddhists by religion, reject violence and try to stay away from politics. Their community flourish in the Khumbu valley thanks to the richness provided by the great Chomolungma - Aka. Mount Everest. The general population of Nepal is inhabiting valleys, terraced-hills and altitude plains. They are empowered, still living of agriculture or tourism-related jobs. They are the expedition porters, lodge and tea house owners. These people are moved by no other ideology than their instinct of survival. Stuck between the Maoists and the soldiers, they offer 'pujas' to the gods for their karma. Maybe in the next life..
Meanwhile, Nepal is sinking into an economic crisis. Social and political differences are taking a high toll in the decrease of tourists, the most important source of income in the country.
Childish slogans and deadly statistics in former Shangri-la
Maoist slogans and language used in demonstrations seem naïve and outdated. There are red flags with the hammer and sickle, there are pretentious and aggressive Maoist and Marxist slogans mixed with Asian lingo: "Our monarchy is a tiger that drinks the blood of the people" said a 30 years old protestor to a BBC reporter.
Add some class-struggle, a piece of land for the workers, cast-system abolition, and the triumph of the people's revolution to the mix, and you'll get an all too familiar ideology. Rusty and too old to be taken seriously, except for the fact that more than eight thousand people have died since the beginning of the conflict.
Although climbers and trekkers are not a target, they'll have to get used to deal with the Maoists: To pay their 'revolutionary taxes' as they pass through their expanding territory, and beware the blockades and demonstrations in a country that is no longer a Shangri-la of peace and spirituality.
Image of red flag under the rain, courtesy of greenkiwi.co.nz.