On Friday, November 23, Maoist guerrillas in Nepal launched a daring new offensive, carrying out actions in more than 20 of the country's 75 district headquarters.
The People's War in Nepal, led by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) has been gaining strength and spreading throughout the country for almost six years, since its initiation in February of 1996. This new offensive by the revolutionary forces breaks a four-month-long ceasefire and ends the talks that had been going on between the government and the revolutionaries.
As we go to press, fighting between guerrillas and government forces is continuing throughout the country. Nepal's King has called a "State of Emergency." For the first time, the Royal Nepal Army is being fully unleashed against the people's army. And there is a heavy clampdown of repression with arrests, censorship, and the suspension of constitutional rights.
India has offered weapons and assistance to help the Nepalese government put down the Maoist insurgency. And the United States, China, Russia and Japan have all issued statements supporting the King and the Nepalese government.
News reports are sketchy and many accounts in the bourgeois press, which quote Nepalese government and military sources, are inconsistent and unreliable. But it is clear that this bold, new offensive by the Maoists in Nepal has unleashed fierce fighting by thousands of revolutionary combatants throughout the country and shocked and stung the Nepalese ruling class.
Government forces suffered the biggest blow on Friday night in the Dang district, 280 miles west of the capital of Kathmandu. Maoist guerrillas raided security posts, killing 14 soldiers and 9 police officers. This was the first time Maoist guerrillas attacked a Royal Nepal Army (RNA) barracks. And this barracks in Dang has been one of the headquarters for the government's military campaign against the People's War.
According to news reports, just before midnight, coordinated attacks began on the district administration office, the police station and the military barracks. The rebels hit when most of the barracks' personnel were on leave or had been deployed to other parts of the region. The barracks has a capacity of 200, but only about 45 to 50 soldiers were there, most of them sound asleep, when the Maoists launched the surprise attack. One of the soldiers killed was the commander of the barrack.
Government offices were ransacked, cash was taken from banks, and the district administrator was captured by the guerrillas. The office of the district administration, the police district headquarters, the Royal Nepal Army barrack, the jail, banks, land revenue office, tax and forest offices were completely captured and destroyed. 37 prisoners were freed from jail. Hundreds of guerrillas were involved in the raid and many weapons and large amounts of ammunition were captured. One news report said the guerrillas seized an estimated U.S. million from banks in Dang.
In another raid on an army camp in the same area, 11 soldiers were killed and more than 50 army and policemen were wounded.
The same night, rebels carried out another raid in Syangja, 140 miles west of the capital, where 14 policemen were killed, including a police inspector. News reports said the bank and jail were captured, prisoners were freed, and money was seized along with weapons and ammunition. Radio reports said up to 1,000 rebels were involved in the raid on the Syangja police post.
Maoist guerrillas also attacked and destroyed an airport in Surkhet, also in the western part of the country. A helicopter which had been used against the People's War was destroyed. The Russian-made helicopter was operated by a private company, Asian Airlines--the company which is set to provide the RNA with two sophisticated Mi-17 helicopters with night vision equipment. News reports said, "Before blowing up the helicopter, the Maoists had cut off the electricity supply in the Surkhet airport tower and within 25 minutes they attacked the helicopter." Two other helicopters belonging to Gorkha Airlines and Air Ananya were also damaged.
The Friday night raids shocked the Nepalese government, and Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba immediately called an emergency meeting to unite the government around a counter-revolutionary offensive. On Sunday night, November 25, as the King was getting ready to declare a State of Emergency and mobilize the army, Maoist guerrillas struck again, this time in Salleri, in the Eastern part of the country.
In Salleri, hundreds of rebels attacked government targets in the area of Mount Everest, in the Solukhumbu district. According to government reports, there was a six-hour battle involving hundreds of Maoist guerrillas. This was the first time people's army forces carried out a battle of this magnitude in Eastern Nepal, where Maoist forces have not been as strong as they are in the West.
Rebels also attacked and destroyed the nearby Phaplu airport tower and took cash and gold from banks and launched simultaneous attacks on the District Police Office (DPO) and the quarters of the Chief District Officer (CDO).
One report said that at 10:30 p.m., the CDO of Solukhumbu informed officials in the neighboring districts that almost a thousand Maoists had gathered in the headquarters. According to the Deputy Superintendent of Police of the Eastern Region, at midnight, a shrieking voice came over the radio communications set, saying that the rebels were attacking the headquarters from all sides. Then the connection was cut off.
New People's Council
As the people's army carried out this new offensive, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) announced a new 37-member "People's Council." According to a report on an internet website sympathetic to the People's War: "The council was formed by a conference of the representatives of the Peoples Liberation Army, different National and Regional Liberation Fronts, different Mass organizations and district United Peoples committees. The council is an assembly, which is a transitional and temporary united body of the people, which would carry out the administrative, legislative and wartime function in the liberated areas and will direct the united peoples committees. It is the alternative of monarchical structure and would work for a People's Republic of Nepal."
The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) also called for a week of "people's action" and a nationwide "Nepal bandh" (strike) on December 7.
Growing Strength of the People's War
For years, the Nepalese government has been in a constant state of crisis over how to deal with the growing Maoist insurgency--which has gained control in vast areas in the western part of the country, centered in the districts of Rolpa and Rukum.
The people's army is now in a position to conduct successful actions at the level of temporary battalions [of several hundred soldiers] and permanent and temporary companies have been built up under different regional commands. There are dozens of regular platoons and hundreds of regular squads in addition to thousands of armed masses who have enrolled in people's militias.
In vast rural sections of the country, there are guerrilla zones and base areas in which new forms of revolutionary people's power have been set up. Elections have been held to form Local United People's Committees and District United People's Committees, which formulate and carry out new governing policies. In May 2001, the formation of people's governments were announced in huge mass meetings in districts in the West, where the People's War has been the strongest.
After the June 1 palace massacre--when King Birendra and eight other members of the royal family were killed by Birendra's son--the people's army intensified the struggle. On July 6, raids were carried out on police posts in three different districts, killing 41 policemen and injuring many others. On July 12, a successful nationwide bandh (strike) was held. Then on July 12, Maoist guerrillas carried out a big raid on the Holleri police post in the Rolpa district in the West, taking 70 policemen prisoner.
This sent the government into even sharper crisis and Prime Minister Girija was forced to resign. The new Prime Minister, Sher Bahadur Deuba, called for a unilateral ceasefire and negotiations with the Maoists and the CPN (Maoist) responded by instructing the people's army to hold off any offensive actions.
In the last four months, three meetings were held between the CPN (Maoist) and the Nepalese government. During this period, the Maoists put forward their main demands for an interim government, a constituent assembly, a new Constitution and a Republic. They also demanded that the government reveal the whereabouts of imprisoned comrades and release them--and a number of revolutionaries, including some top Maoist leaders, were freed.
Then, on Wednesday, November 21, Prachanda, Chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), issued a statement saying there was no reason for the CPN (Maoist) to participate in further talks with the government because the main demands of CPN (Maoist) had been refused. Two days later, the ceasefire was dramatically broken with the Friday night raids in Dang and Syanja.
Government Crisis, State of Emergency
On Monday, November 26, Nepal's King Gyanendra declared a State of Emergency, authorizing the mobilization of the 50,000 soldiers of the Royal Nepal Army. Previously, the army, which is under the command of the King, had been sent in to areas where the people's army was active, but had not engaged in any major combat with Maoist guerrillas.
On the advice and recommendation of the cabinet, the King instituted the "Terrorism and Subversive Activities Prevention and Punishment Ordinance." And learning from the United States, Nepal's government officially declared the Communist Party (Maoist) "terrorists"--in order to justify a whole slate of repressive measures.
The right to assembly has been suspended. "Terrorists" and anyone who supports them can be given life imprisonment. Newspapers sympathetic to the Maoists can be closed down. Police can search properties without warrants. People no longer have the right to information, free speech, and the right to privacy. Suspects can have their bank accounts frozen and their passports suspended. Law enforcement and security officials have been given sweeping powers to search, arrest and detain suspects for up to 90 days--and the Home Ministry can approve an extended 90 days of detention. Security has been tightened all over the country. On November 30, the government warned doctors and medics not to treat wounded Maoists unless given permission to do so by security authorities. The Health Minister said if any doctor defies this warning, action will be taken against him/her according to the "Ordinance against Terrorists."
This is only the second time in the country's history that a State of Emergency has been declared. Public activities by Maoists and publications supporting them have been banned. And an overnight curfew has been declared in a number of districts, especially in the West. The Nepalese police now have orders to shoot on sight anyone seen putting up posters or other material supporting the Maoists.
The main opposition party in the government, the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist) announced its support for the government's State of Emergency, saying, "Such a decision was made due to the terrorist activities of the Maoists."
Arrests and Censorship
As the emergency order was being announced there were reports that security officials had raided the offices of newspapers sympathetic to the Maoists, including the daily paper, Janadesh. Authorities arrested revolutionary journalists and confiscated computers, fax machines and records. Others were also arrested in Kathmandu, including some well-known Maoist leaders. And in Pokhara, according to news reports, about five dozen students were arrested on the suspicion of being affiliated with Maoists.
Along with such blatant and repressive censorship, the government is also trying to completely control the mainstream news media--dictating in detail what can and cannot be published.
The Ministry of Information and Communication issued a set of strict guidelines for the media. Among the things the directive says should NOT be published are: "Anything that aims to create hatred and disrespect against His Majesty the King and the Royal Family"; "Anything likely to create hatred against Royal Nepal Army, police and civil servants and lower their moral and dignity"; "Any news that supports Maoists, including individuals or groups"; and "Any matters that aim at overthrowing the government."
Meanwhile, the directive says the media can publish three things: (1) "News that expose criminal activities of Maoist terrorists. But alertness has to be made not to raise the morale of terrorists." (2) "News regarding bravery and achievements of Royal Nepal Army, police and civil servants," and (3) "Officials news that come from His Majesty's Government and the official media."
On November 27, the Nepalese army issued a notice to the media asking them to seek permission from the army's Information Department before publishing any news about military affairs. And the Nepalese government's Department of Information (DoI) has also formed two news monitoring groups, for print and electronic, to keep track of news about the army and police operation against the Maoists. The director of the DoI has said that the press, both national and international, will have to abide by the guidelines issued by the Minister for Information and Communications.
Appeal to Indian Expansionism
India has a long history of dominating Nepal, both economically and politically. The ruling classes in Nepal have long been subservient to India. And India has been eyeing the People's War in Nepal with growing concern.
The CPN (Maoist) has warned of the danger of India getting more directly involved in fighting against the revolution. And now, as the Royal Nepal Army is being fully mobilized, the King and the ruling Nepali Congress Party are looking to India for assistance.
The Indian Embassy in Nepal issued a press communiqu stating its support for the King's State of Emergency. But even before the State of Emergency was declared, the head of Nepal's army, General Rana, went to India to ask for weapons and military supplies. And in a phone call with King Gyanendra, Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee offered assistance to help Nepal crush the Maoists.
According to news reports, Nepal has asked New Delhi for more ammunition, weapons, and engineering equipment. And the Nepalese government also wants India to help train a 30,000-strong Nepalese paramilitary force.
According to Nepal's Home Minister, "Nepal is purchasing two helicopters and other equipment from India for the exclusive use of the armed police force." The Home Minister also said that Nepal is seeking assistance from other countries as well, including the United States and China.
Such "assistance" from India is hardly new. India is a major supplier of military hardware to Nepal, and recently it has been laying the basis for getting more directly involved in helping the Nepalese government fight the Maoists.
In recent months, the Indian government put thousands of soldiers on the border with Nepal. And now, Nepalese and Indian security forces are working together to secure the border. Earlier, in the West Bengal area of India where many Nepalese people live, the Indian government had carried out raids and arrested a number of Nepalese Maoist leaders. Now, Indian authorities in West Bengal have stepped up security to stop Maoist rebels from crossing the border.
After the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center in New York, the Foreign Minister of India made a point of calling the Maoists in Nepal "terrorists"--a label that had, up to then, not been used by India to describe Maoists in Nepal. Many saw this as a sign that India was laying the basis for getting more directly involved in attacking the People's War. Now the threat of military intervention by India is even stronger.
Imperialist Concern and Counterrevolutionary Help
Other reactionary governments have also rushed to express support for Nepal's new counter-revolutionary measures and condemn the new offensive by the Maoists in Nepal.
The same day the King announced the State of Emergency, the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu issued a statement approving "the use of force by the government to counter growing Maoist violence.
Earlier in the month, a Nepalese government official had revealed that the U.S. had promised to supply Nepal with a number of modern fully armed helicopters. In today's climate, where everything is justified in the name of "the war on terrorism," it was said that these helicopters were being supplied to "fight terrorism." Nepal's ASssistant Home Minister stated, "Since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the U.S. is committed to eliminate terrorism from the globe and its promise of supplying us the helicopters is part of that goal."
The European Union and the Russian, Japanese and Chinese governments have also issued statements in support of Nepal's government and its repressive moves against the Maoists.
Today, China is a capitalist country -- the Chinese government hates the legacy of Mao Tsetung and it certainly doesn't want a successful Maoist revolution right across its border. Last May, the Prime Minister of China met with Nepalese officials in Kathmandu and it was widely reported that the "problem" of the Maoist insurgency was high on his agenda. Around this time, a leading U.S. State Department official also traveled to Kathmandu and discussed the growing Maoist insurgency with Nepalese officials.
Now the Nepalese Army is counting even more so on "international help" to supply it with new weapons to fight the People's War. According to news reports, the Royal Nepal Army hopes to purchase 50,000 assault rifles over the next five years, two Russian Mi-17 helicopters to be delivered in January, and new German guns already ordered. Five arms suppliers from South Korea, Germany, Israel, the United States and Belgium are hoping to win the contract to replace the army's out-dated self-loading rifles (SLR). And then there are reports that the army is also considering purchasing second-hand reconditioned Mi-24 helicopter gunships--the type seen in the film Rambo II.
As we go to press, there continues to be intense fighting between the Royal Nepal Army and Maoist guerrillas.
On Thursday, November 29, Maoist rebels bombed a Coca Cola factory--the first attack in the capital since the State of Emergency was imposed. Two explosions rocked the factory before workers arrived, damaging equipment and the building. The president of Nepal's Chamber of Commerce and Industry condemned the bombing as an "anti-American" attack. The U.S. Coca Cola company had invested nearly .31 million in the factory.
Nepalese authorities continue to control media and news sources, and this has made most reports of military encounters and casualties (on both sides) highly inconsistent and unreliable. But one thing is clear. The daring new offensive by the Maoists in Nepal has shocked the Nepalese ruling class and sent the government into a whole new crisis. The reactionaries in Nepal are lashing back--instituting a campaign of repression throughout the country and mobilizing the army to commit even greater crimes of murder and brutality against the people.
For almost six years, the People's War in Nepal has been growing, getting stronger, and spreading throughout the country. Now, after launching a daring new offensive, the Maoist revolutionaries in Nepal are pressing ahead and facing new challenges and twists and turns in the fight for liberation.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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