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Naxalbari@50: How the Maoists failed in India but succeeded in Nepal

The Maoist movement in India fragmented and lost power. In Nepal, however, the Maoists have seen unprecedented political success, fuelled by astute decisions and pragmatic reasoning.

india Updated: May 27, 2017 17:35 IST
Prashant Jha
Prashant Jha
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
In India, the Naxal movement is confined to small pockets in central and south India. In Nepal, however, they achieved mainstream political success. (Samir Jana/HT PHOTO)

Right across Naxalbari is Nepal’s eastern-most district, Jhapa. As the revolution began in India, it inspired a similar radical-Left revolt against landlords - and an autocratic monarchy - in Nepal. They adopted similar methods of annihilation of class enemies. This came to be popularly known as the Jhapali revolt. It was led by leaders like Jhalanath Khanal, K P Oli and Madhav Nepal.

The revolt did not last long. The king locked most communist leaders in prison. And, like in India, the movement fragmented.

However, almost 25 years after the Naxalbari and Jhapa revolt—following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the obituary of communism had been written -- Nepal saw another revolt. This was the Maoist ‘People’s War’. Within a decade, it brought the king to its knees and an internationally backed royal army to a military stalemate. Led by Prachanda and Baburam Bhattarai, the Maoists decided to enter open politics and participate in elections. They eventually ushered in a republican order to Nepal.

The Nepali and Indian experiences are totally different. But the most striking contrast is this:

Naxal leaders in India have committed suicide, died disillusioned with the cause, been murdered, arrested, or have kept fighting with little to show. In Nepal, all five leaders - Khanal, Nepal and Oli from the Jhapali Andolan and Prachanda and Bhattarai of the more recent Maoist movement - have become prime ministers and remain active in the political sphere. Perhaps there is a lesson for the original comrades.

First Published: May 25, 2017 17:56 IST