Nepal’s Maoist chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ can shake a leg when he desires. Last November he surprised many by dancing on stage with a popular Nepali actress during a party demonstration in Kathmandu.
But the former rebel and his party also have a tendency to make others dance to their tunes. The party, which is trying to regain power for the past one year, has used actors from the Nepali film industry and other celebrities with the dual purpose of showcasing its popularity and to attract masses.
There are some who support the Maoists and take part in their programmes. But many others don’t, but feel pressurised to do so.
Since shifting base to Kathmandu seven months ago, I have asked several popular figures whether they are under pressure to express support to the Maoists. And almost all of them have replied in the affirmative. But not many dare to say so publicly.
In private some voice extreme resentment for the Maoists, while others say they neither support nor oppose the party’s ideology and just want peace and prosperity for Nepal.
“I have been asked by journalists with Maoist-leanings to support the party if I was a true Nepali. I refused to do so, saying I am very much a Nepali but I support only peace,” said an eminent singer.
An acclaimed director said that despite several ‘requests’ to support Maoists from public platforms, he has managed to stay away, saying it would affect his creativity.
Media houses, too, are not free from such pressures. Though a few support the Maoists, but those who don’t or expose misdeeds by the party’s cadre are threatened or targeted.
Recently, a major newspaper house was targeted for carrying reports in its English and Nepali dailies alleging involvement of a senior Maoist leader in the abduction of a doctor.
The party’s exasperation was evident when Prachanda blamed the media and intelligentsia for working against Maoists and threatened to settle scores after a failed six-day strike last month to remove the government.
Following widespread criticism, he apologised for the remark later. But many in Nepal still fear likelihood of a Cultural Revolution — similar to one witnessed in China during Mao’s time — if the party comes to power.