KATHMANDU, Nov 17: The UCPN (Maoist) plan to include over 1,000 of their cantoned combatants in the upcoming plenum has sparked a political controversy, with the Nepali Congress and CPN-UML opposing the move.
The combatants´ participation, Maoists argue, will enable them to deepen their understanding of the proposed integration and rehabilitation and thus will facilitate the management of over 19,000 ex-Maoist fighters.
However, NC and the UML have protested the combatants´ participation in a political program such as the plenum, and demanded that the Maoists backtrack. They argued that the combatants´ participation will further indoctrinate them politically and strengthen their link with the party.
“Our combatants have not yet come under the Special Committee in practice,” said Maoist Vice-chairman Narayankaji Shrestha, “We hope that their participation will help our combatants understand their integration and rehabilitation in a better way.”
The Maoists have planned to let around 1,200 combatants participate in the much-awaited plenum to be held in Gorkha from November 21.
Contrary to Shrestha´s argument, the Maoists had announced the beginning in principle of the process of integration and rehabilitation of the combatants from September 17.
After a meeting of the Special Committee formed by the government to supervise, integrate and rehabilitate Maoist combatants, the Maoists had even announced discontinuation in principle of the party´s link with the combatants from that date.
The Maoist integration bureau in-charge and member on the Special Committee had said then, “The combatants have in principle come under the command and control of the Special Committee from today.”
CPN-UML and the NC, however, are together in saying that the combatants´ attendance at the plenum will complicate the proposed integration and rehabilitation, which require the combatants to sever their link with the UCPN (Maoist) as a pre-condition.
“They are in cantonments to be integrated in security agencies and to be rehabilitated in society -- which is also the spirit of the Constitution; not to further strengthen their link with the party,” Nepali Congress leader and member on the Special Committee Dr Minendra Rijal said in protest of the combatants´ participation in the plenum.
Saying that the spirit of the Interim Constitution requires the combatants to sever their link with the UCPN (Maoist) to become eligible for integration and rehabilitation, Dr Rijal further argued that the combatants´ participation will be against the spirit of the statute.
CPN-UML Chairman Jhalanath Khanal said the Maoists should not let their combatants attend the plenum.
“Participation will be problematic for those combatants who are to opt for integration,” Khanal told Republica when asked for his comment.
Both Rijal and Khanal have offered the Maoists the option of declaring that the participants will opt for voluntary exit -- which means joining politics -- before they take part in the plenum.
“It will be acceptable if the combatants to take part in the plenum announce before such participation that they are to take up political work,” said Khanal.