Nepal is synonymous with mountains, temples, smiling hospitable faces, and until recently peace. I remember proudly chanting “Never Ending Peace and Love” as a kid acronymous for Nepal. Hippies in the 50s and 60s found their peaceful bliss in Nepal while hoards of tourist frequent it to scale its majestic peaks, explore the Shangri La, or enjoy the hospitality of “the warmest people on earth.” Countless magazines exalted the mountain ranges, the valiant Gorkhas and honey collecting Gurungs, and the rugged beauty of the county splashed with the red of rhododendrons. However, this comforting nostalgic picture is a fabrication that masks the deep rooted inequalities, injustice, and oppression of millions of marginalized people under the autocratic monarchist system. In fact, every problem Nepal is currently facing is not a new one but one firmly rooted in the past. The Maoist insurgency is no different. A decade of the intense political conflict in
in Nepal, triggered by the initiation of the armed revolution or the “People’s War” by the Communist Party of Nepal –Maoists (CPN-M) in 1996, has left the country in tatters; and yet we have only barely understood the root causes of this conflict. This article engages in a genealogical investigation of the Maoist movement in order to understand the institutional and social basis of the rise of this radical conflict in Nepal.The roots of the CPN-M can be traced to the formation of the Communist Party of Nepal (CPN) in 1949 by disgruntled members of the Nepali National Congress party (NC), who accused the NC of betraying the democratic aspirations of the Nepalese citizens by accepting the “Delhi Compromise” of 1950, which recognized the King as a constitutional head and by ignoring their demand for a constitutional assembly to draft a constitution. Over the years the CPN underwentnumerous splits over inner-party differences following the Sino-Soviet split. King Mahendra’s
dissolving of the democratically elected parliament to reinstate the party-less Panchayat Raj in December 1960 led to further division within the CPN between those who rejected the King’s move and those wanting to work with the monarchy. It is this disunity within the left and the autocratic intervention from the King that created the fertile ground for the emergence of radical splinter groups like the CPN (Fourth Convention) in 1974, and its subsequent factions - Masal and Mashal in the mid-1980s. These radical splinter groups stuck to the demands for the election of a constituent assembly to write a constitution (as opposed to the CPN mother party which called for the restoration of parliament). Frustrated by the failure of other strategies to bring transformative changes, they became increasingly drawn towards the “successful” armed peasant Maoist movement in China.The different communist factions briefly united under the umbrella banner of United Maxist and
Leninist (UML) (except Masal and Mashal) in 1990 and collaborated with NC to stage the People’s Movement (Jana Andolan). The temporary alliance succeeded in ridding the Panchayat rule and reintroducing parliamentary democracy with constitutional monarchy. As a direct repetition of history, the left’s demand for a constituent assembly did not materialize in this second coming of democracy either. Instead a self-appointed body comprising of members of the NC, the royal palace, select leftists and few independents took on to themselves to draft the constitution in 1990. Four radical left parties (including the Fourth Convention, Masal, and Mashal) responded by forming the CPN-Unity Center and in their first conference in 1991 passed a proposal to undertake armed revolt as their primary political strategy.
RADICALISM AND ITS DISCONTENT: NEPAL’S VOLATILE EXPERIENCE WITH DEMOCRACY
Youth Reflections on the Current Political Conflict in Nepal
In order to provide a platform for critical political reflections and debate among Nepalese youth with regards to the current conflict in Nepal, the editors of Shabda magazine set aside this special section. This section titled “Youth Reflections on the Current Political Conflict in Nepal” includes three incisive articles written by three Nepalese youth of Toronto that explore some of the exigent issues surrounding the ensuing clash in Nepal between the Maoists, Monarchists and the political parties. The three youth writers of this section were invited to write these articles in recognition of their keen interest in Nepal and their critically engaged analytical abilities. With respect to the strict censorship of media and of healthy political debate in Nepal, these three articles serve as a testament of the vital role that disaporic media (including this magazine) is beginning to play not just in terms of relaying news but also in promoting critical thought and progressive activism with regards to Nepal. In conjunction, these three articles help to dispel some of the myths surrounding the current conflict in Nepal and provide fresh angles for understanding the conflict. In his article titled “RADICALISM AND ITS DISCONTENT: NEPAL’S VOLATILE EXPERIENCE WITH DEMOCRACY ,” Diplav Sapkota engages in a genealogical investigation of the ascendancy of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) to expose how the current political conflict is not a new conflict nor was it triggered by the coming of democracy in 1990 (as many conservative people have argued). Diplav insightfully argues how the root causes of the current conflict lie much deeper in history – in the persistent socio-economic and geographical inequalities, in the hundreds of years of autocratic monarchist rule, and in the blind fervor for armed revolution that some of the key left leaders developed as far back as the 1970s. Diplav just recently completed his undergraduate degree in Biology and Political Science from the University of Toronto. Yesha Subba’s article titled “Education, Democracy and Revolution: the struggles over education in Nepal” investigates the impact of the current political conflict on the education system of Nepal. While highlighting the need for contesting the emergence of the polarized dual education system (comprising of high quality but expensive private schools and low quality but relatively affordable public schools), Yesha takes some of the key Maoists leaders to task for their rigid, patronizing approach to education. Yesha is currently pursuing an undergraduate degree in Architecture at the University of Toronto. The third article titled “WOMEN RISING: THE COMPLEXITIES OF WOMEN’S INVOLVEMENT IN THE MAOIST MOVEMENT IN NEPAL” by Manisha Paudel examines the gender dimensions of the current political conflict of Nepal. Manisha discusses the nature of participation by women in the conflict and investigates why a large number of women are involved with the Maoists. The article also details the negative impacts that women in Nepal are having to bear (both direct in the form of death, injury and sexual assault but also indirectly in having to survive as widows and single mothers in highly patriarchical society). Manisha is currently undertaking her bachelors studies in international studies minoring in philosophy and public policy at the University of Toronto. Yogendra Shakya
HOMOSEXUALITY IN NEPAL: AN INTERVIEW WITH SUNIL BABU PANT I am delighted to have the opportunity to interview the founder of Blue Diamond Society (BDS); the one and only official community for the sexual minority in Nepal. Although many of us remain unaware of the existence of BDS, it has been successful in aiding more than ten thousand homosexual/transgendered individuals in Nepal. Pant has been successful in making BDS internationally recognized, and, at one point, the society was even supported through donations by the celebrated singer Sir Elton John. The Shabda team was extremely curious to learn more about this growing community. Without further ado, here is our dialogue: Homosexuality is a taboo topic in most cultures because it is considered “unnatural”. Let’s start with your personal perspective on this topic. How do you react to the nature versus nurture argument in relation to homosexuality? As the first Hindu Religious Epic has claimed "Bikruti Evam Prakriti". This means diversity is what nature is about. We believe it's very natural to have diversity amongst living beings and their lives including sexuality, sexual orientations, gender and gender identities. Because the apple from "Jomsome" is different from the apple from "India" in terms of its color, size, taste, juice etc doesn't make the apple from 'Jomsome" is unnatural or vice versa. Forming an official society for the sexual minority in a conservative society presents inconceivable challenges. Was there any specific event that occurred which declared that it was now the time to officially form a society and to take on the challenges dished out at you? I cannot point out a specific event however I can say that it was a multitude of experiences. When I returned from abroad after finishing my higher studies, I was curious to know about the gay culture in Nepal. I was surprised to not see any programs that raised awareness on HIV/AIDS within the gay community. I started approaching the gay individuals in Kathmandu by distributing condoms in Ratnapark with the help of an organization called FIAR, which is based in New York. Within two weeks, I met more than 400 gay men who regularly came to Ratnapark but none had knowledge of HIV transmission through male to male sex. They seemed to have very little concern with safe sex. When I questioned their unsafe sexual practice, they responded with "why do we need to use condoms, there is no pregnancy to worry about and STD/HIV is transmitted only if one has sex with a female sex worker." Not only that, I also found high levels of abuse and violence against the gay individuals. I met people that were paying 50% or so of their salary to the police regularly to protect themselves from being bullied, robbed, and raped. I have seen exclusion of homosexual and transgendered individuals from school, the hospital, workplaces, and even from their families. The abuse from the citizens and even the police is rampant. All these facts motivated me to start this organization. Is it true that, in your initial efforts to form this society, you were expected to modify your objectives so as to encourage “homosexual behaviour correction”? We tried to register as an NGO working for the benefit of the Homosexuals in Nepal but the CDO office was not happy with it and demanded that we change our objectives. It would have been wasteful to fight with them without having any stable ground and support because nobody knew us then. I didn’t know much about the Nepalese law. So, I changed the words and made the objectives general; we are now working on Human Rights and sexual health. How difficult is it to receive funding from sponsors? It's like chewing "Phalam Ko Cheura". The government is hopeless. There are a few donors that are giving us funding on HIV/AIDS prevention program but no support for the Human Rights work, which is much needed. We can't even hire a lawyer. How are the Drop In Center, STD clinic, computer education training and various other programs being funded? The Drop In Center and STD clinics are funded by donors under HIV/AIDS prevention program. The fund we get so far is very limited and only for HIV/AIDS related projects. We don't have any funding for Lesbian / Gay / Bisexual / Transgendered (LGBT) rights promoting activities and movements. Is BDS receiving any support from the government at all? No. In no way is the government supporting us. They are, in fact, avoiding us and excluding us from other development programs. Instead, there are a lot of brutal obstacles from the government. The government's security forces continually attack us.