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  Maoists & moral equivalence  


As the Maoists continue their relentless drive for power, the response of the state can only be called disappointing. Thugs openly train with khukuris for confrontation (“self-defense”), and the bravery of journalists such as Uma Singh and Tika Bista has been all too quickly forgotten.

More disappointing than the expected lack of state investigatory or judicial progress that one sees in these cases is the growing lassitude upon the part of the Nepali chattering classes as they face their slow motion demise. The media, for instance, seems increasingly incapable or unwilling to report anything beyond the most surface descriptions of events.


Particularly destructive is the moral equivalence that has crept into much commentary. The Maoists, too, the logic appears to go, have a version of events.

This is true. It is also true that the Maoist version is normally lies. It would seem basic to good journalism to do the most basic of fact-checking before repeating the banalities of a Prachanda or a Bhattarai.

Reality is that even as cause-oriented groups in Nepal, both international and local, engage in a systematic effort to neuter the state by attacking all remaining institutions of any substance, such as the army, the worst crimes go unexamined. To the cases of Uma and Tika, add innumerable others. The killer of Muktinath Adhikari, principal in Duradanda, struts openly in Kathmandu. The rapists of the young female activist in Kathmandu, who spoke out against the Young Communist League (YCL) and found herself brutally violated with bamboo shafts, saw her assailants released by the police after a call from the Maoist hierarchy.

Reality is that the Maoists, during the conflict, engaged in atrocities which included everything from torture to kidnapping to rape. Worse reality is that they have never stopped.

There are few left to tackle this reality. Throughout the worst violence, human rights organizations did their best to conceal the true picture of Maoist crimes, because they regarded the “old-order” as irrevocably flawed. Any who did not present a view slanted in favor of the Maoists were menaced or even assassinated, leaving construction of “the narrative” to the left.

Perhaps most distressing, a true picture of the sheer level of Maoist criminality never emerged. Yet this is just what has been visited upon Nepal now.

Particularly destructive is the moral equivalence that has crept into much commentary. The Maoists, too, the logic appears to go, have a version of events. This is true. It is also true that the Maoist version is normally lies.

Nepal Army’s (NA’s) hands are dirty, too; but it must be remembered that NA did not even enter the conflict in any substantive fashion until the Dang cantonment attack in November 2001. Thereafter, a force which had done little save UN peacekeeping struggled to get on top of the situation. It made substantial progress but allowed too much indiscipline to go on.

This is what the demand for Major Basnet’s trial is all about. To demand an end to impunity has merit. Still, only the UN and the human rights organizations could manage to choose for their “poster person” an innocent officer, yet still howl for his blood as an alleged war criminal!

It is telling that even now the attention that accompanies a reprehensible action such as the NA fatal shooting at Thimure is quite out of proportion to the attention focused upon activities which are sure ultimately to cause the collapse of the state. Still, until recently, one did not see reputable journalists claiming the Maoists are provoked in what they are doing. To the contrary, it is Maoist behavior which has led to other political forces forming their own paramilitaries and to the ever-increasing spiral of violence.

There is a debate here, of course. The Maoists – indeed, the left-wing of the Nepali “chattering classes” – have always claimed that the old-order supported itself with violence. The palace, it was claimed, had Royal Nepal Army; Nepali Congress had Armed Police Force; and “the government” had Nepal Police.

Whatever went on in Nepal, though, was not “predatory.” Repression, in other words – if we want to use that loaded term – was hardly the stuff of Latin American or Iranian dictatorships. In an imperfect world, and only a relative handful of countries being truly in the hands of citizens, Nepal’s old-order was steadily moving toward reform. The Maoist claim that violence was the only way to move Nepal forward is facetious.


What is going on now is but a continuation of armed struggle and is driven by the Maoists, using front organizations and YCL. Though the state is constantly held up as plotting, scheming, and thwarting the will of the people, no one else does the sort of things the Maoists do. The rape I mention above was but one incident of a growing list.

And still there are those amongst the “chattering classes” who even now seek to portray the Maoists as “victims.”

This is false. One cannot claim, as did one journalist recently, that “isolated incidents by individuals were not institutional decisions (of the Maoists).” There is too much evidence that falsifies this point.

An institutional decision is exactly what leads to the systematic perversion of justice that is Maoist policy today. Has even a single murderer, kidnapper, or rapist been punished, even with “revolutionary discipline”?

It is the abject failure of the myriad human rights organizations abounding in Nepal today to pursue leads far more obvious than innocent NA Majors that cause me to hold them up to approbation (along with certain EU Embassies that enable them). They demand only trials of NA – while paying lip-service to demands that the Maoists also be held accountable – even as, in the present situation, there is but a thin line of security forces that keep Nepal from sliding into complete anarchy.

Tear it apart, without a simultaneous dismantling of the paramilitaries, and the only result must inevitably be Indian intervention. For New Delhi can no more allow a criminal state to its north than it can allow a state run by ideological goons.

Perhaps there is a bottom line: How many stories of assault, rape, and even murder must accumulate before the Nepali press takes its head out of its collective backside and writes about what is going on?

Why have I been able to collect, in excruciating detail, dozens of such stories (of hundreds or even thousands), when I must work through translators and all the cumbersome apparatus of a foreigner? Has there been even a single recent, substantive article on something as obvious as the level of Maoist extortion?

What does the Nepali “chattering class” do with itself in the 24 hours of the day? “Stay alive,” I suppose, is a viable answer. But at least, then, one should have the dignity not to write and say nonsense which gives criminals a free ride.

(Writer is a Political Risk Consultant.)
Published on 2010-04-28 02:37:37
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Maoists & Moral Equivalence
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Thomas do not hesitate to blame Nepal media for turning blind eyes to Maoist atrocities. However, his own analysis is one-sided and with half-cooked analysis. He claims that "Nepal´s old-order was steadily moving towards reform". Well, how many years did it take for Nepal to have experience multi-party democracy? When it finally came, where did the eventual power rest? Of-course with the "old-order", and not at all with the people or with there representatives. Is Thomas suggesting that [more]
  - Reman
nice article.. lacks some basic understanding though... [more]
  - pintu
My salute and namaskar to you Mark. This is not only a fine piece of analysis --but the truth. I hope the maoist apologists of the ´intrnational good doers´ including the UN, UK , Indian governments and its media (includes the Economist) will read the article very carefully and realise the wrong horse they have been backing for so long. They have doen a big disservice to the country. [more]
  - Poudyal
The maoists will have violent demonstrations provoking security agencies to respond, and then accuse the security agencies of "human rights" violations. Then all the "civic" and "human rights organisations" will cry foul. The EU community will also castigate the security agencies who are deployed to protect the innocent citizens.

The UN has not played a clean role. How can a political party continue to keep its private "army", while in politics. In the eyes of the communists, "all m [more]
  - prakash
Spot on this article is!

The prolonged anerobic environment inside the "collective backside" of the Nepali press has already taken its toll and destroyed their brains permanently, do not expect anything worthwhile from them , they are just as good as not being there at all. How they tone down things so that they still appear kinda "revolutionary" to appease the goons is despicable. It´s a capital shame that we resort to an article written by a foreigner to take a bearing on th [more]
  - AJ
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