Sarat C Das speaks to Bhattarai in Katmandu to understand the Maoists' preparations for the election, their contribution to the peace process and willingness to make India a partner in the future development of the state.
Interview with Baburam Bhattarai, Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)
Nepal is rife with speculation about Baburam Bhattarai's assuming the office of deputy prime minister in the interim government as Communist Party of Nepal (UML) agreed to the Maoist proposal for proportional electoral system.
Sarat C Das spoke to Bhattarai in Katmandu to understand the Maoists' preparations for the election, their contribution to the peace process and willingness to make India a partner in the future development of the state.
You strongly believe in Mao Zedong and draw inspiration from "Revolutionary Internationalist Movement" and Peru's left wing extremist guerrilla movement. What is your real ideology?
Marxism- Leninism-Maoism-Prachanda path is the guiding force of our ideology. However, when you draw a parallel with other communist movements such as Peru, we would find us different in terms of our adherence to the Prachanda path. Knowing Prachanda path would bring you closer to the historical importance of our movement.
There are many groups, both active and defunct, by a common abbreviation CPN (Communist Party of Nepal). Do you think this would confuse the identity of CPN (Maoist) during the poll?
There are various ideologies that creep into the communist movement at different points of time; hence there are splits and counter splits resulting in so many parties. However, there are two major forces -- one is the reformist communist party known as CPN (Unified Marxist-Leninist) which believes in parliamentary form of democracy and other one is the revolutionist communist party known as CPN (Maoists) which believes in the revolutionary path for the development of society. Any layperson knows both parties; hence there should not be any confusion.
Do you think CPN's (Maoist) membership with Revolutionary Internationalist Movement and the co-ordination committee of Maoist parties and organizations South Asia have paved the way for its greater international acceptability?
Marxist ideology is an international ideology. All the revolutionary movements in the world express their solidarity with us. However, they don't have any impact on the current political movement of Nepal. We are chalking our own strategies.
You claim that Maoists People's war always aimed at establishing a "new democracy" in Nepal through a historical revolt against federalism and imperialism. Then why are you not contributing enough to the peace process that can lead to early democracy?
We think we have hugely contributed to this ongoing peace process and somebody who thinks it is otherwise he or she is totally wrong. Our ultimate goal is socialism and communism and we believe it can be achieved through various stages of the development of democracy. We are trying to achieve a federal democratic republic as an immediate need of the society. For this we armed the people's war and then led them to a peaceful movement.
Maoists initial memorandum presented to then Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba on Feb 4, 1996 demanded the abrogation of Mahakali treaty with India on distribution of water and electricity. Do you still stand by this?
We are keen to redefine our relation at the international level. Nepal's current diplomatic relation with India stems from a strong British legacy in India. The unequal treaty, imposed on us in 1816 following Anglo-Nepalese war, is still continuing. Hence, we want this legacy to be done away with so that we have mutually agreeable and beneficial relationship. We want the abrogation of some of the treaties such as on distribution of water which is one of our major resources. However, it does not mean we would have an antagonistic relation with India as we understand India is our most important neighbour and it is difficult to progress without its support.
The abrogation of Mahakali treaty is a 40-point demand. Do you want all these demands to be fulfilled? We would like to sit down and discuss and find a way out.
How do you foresee Nepal's relation with India post-election?
We have always had a good relation. Unfortunately people of both countries have been exploited by the ruling class for their selfish interest. I think we will have a very cordial relation.
India insists that Nepal Maoists must delink themselves from Indian naxalites to pave way for a better political relation!
We only have ideological and political links with them but no military links. And we would never have military links. Various communist parties of the world have similar political links among themselves. So what is the problem!
But you have alleged military collusion with some radical naxalite groups such as ULFA!
We have come across some news claming our association with ULFA which is baseless. We don't have any association with them and we can never have since they don't believe in Maoism. These are various nationalistic movements in their own rights and we have nothing to do with them.
What role do you visualise for the King now?
We are for a democratic republic in which there is no role for the King even as a ceremonial head. However, his existence in the country would depend on how he cooperates with the new political system. If he chooses to live as an ordinary citizen he is welcome or else he would call trouble for himself.
You are an alumnus of India's Jawaharlal Nehru University, which is a bastion of communism. How much has JNU influenced you in your revolt against the establishment?
JNU has had a great influence on me. I learnt my Marxism there not only in theory but also in practice.
Let us visualize the scenario post-election in April. Where do you see yourself in terms of political achievement?
The way we have supported various movements in the country such as dalits, women and janjatis, we think we will attain the majority in the election. It is based on a real assessment.
Would you predict a date for the elections?
We always want elections to happen at the earliest. As of now it appears to be in April.
Do you want independent international observers to oversee the elections?
It was we who wanted independent observers from UN and elsewhere to ensure a free and fair election.
Would you want India to become a part of the international observers during elections?
People from civil societies and human rights groups in India are always welcome to become a part of independent observers.
Are you chalking out a bigger political role for your wife Comrade Parvati as the country is going into polls?
I don't chalk out plans for her. She has her own independent contribution to the communist movement in Nepal. In fact we met during the struggle. She is capable to chalk out her career and she has contributed a lot to women liberation movement in Nepal.
Are you planning to contest in elections?
Definitely, yes. Our chairman has already indicated that all our top leaders will be in the electoral fray.
Can you give an estimate of the number of Maoist combatants, militia, cadres, hardcore followers and sympathisers?
There are 30,000 combatants and another 20,000-22,000 will soon be added to this list following verification. There are 50,000-70,000 people in our cadre and our hardcore followers and sympathisers are in millions. We have nearly 200,000 people as our followers from the trade unions of Katmandu.
Is this huge following going to translate into votes?
We are confident of emerging as the party with majority in the election. However, it is a little early to predict the exact number of votes.
According to a UN report Maoists have procured some 85 percent of weapons from Police and RNA during their struggle against monarchy. There are reports that the loot is still continuing. Is it true?
After the ceasefire there is no arm struggle.