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Are Nepal's Maoists a threat to India?

By Vivek Gumaste
September 15, 2009 17:02 IST
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There is more to it than meets the eye. It is not merely a squabble over custodial rights to the overflowing coffers of the Pashupatinath temple. Neither is it a dissension prompted by nationalistic sentiments. The attack on two Indian priests in Kathmandu, earlier this month, is in fact another facet of China's multi-pronged design to contain India by curbing its influence in Nepal with Nepali Maoists willingly acting as the front paw.

During Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal's recent visit to India (August 18-22) he remarked: 'Both our societies derive their fundamental social norms and values from a common pool of ancient wisdom and cultural heritage whose timelessness has been universally recognised. As the proud inheritors of one of the enlightened and ancient civilizations known to mankind, our two countries have much in common. These shared commonalities and the deep sense of social affinity subsisting between our two peoples since time immemorial need to be nurtured and consolidated further for our mutual benefit in the days ahead.'

Conscious of Nepal's newly anointed status as a secular state, Madhav Kumar Nepal appears to have deliberately refrained from mouthing the word 'Hindu' in describing the shared legacy of the two nations. Semantics, however, cannot deny the intrinsic nature of Indo-Nepali ties which is grounded in a common cultural and religious heritage that is basically Hindu in character; a bond that has remained indelible over the ages because of the privileged status of Hinduism in that country. The recent conversion of what was historically a Hindu kingdom into a secular state must be deemed as the first step of a grand communist design to erode Nepal's Hindu identity and weaken its fraternal ties with its predominantly Hindu neighbour. 

But mere decrees rarely produce tangible results and the Maoists seem to be fully aware of that; hence the need for a direct physical assault on the sanctity of the Pashupatinath temple, the most prominent symbol of Hinduism in Nepal. Hindu temples imposing in their architecture and resplendent in their affluence have been a source of inspiration and strength to Hindu societies in the sub-continent through the ages. But their striking visibility has also made them easy targets for those who wished to weaken the fabric of these societies. Islamic invaders destroyed thousands of Hindu temples in order to crush the morale of locals in their unholy rampage across the subcontinent. The Pashupatinath temple episode represents a modern day avatar of this same intention albeit with a slight twist. In lieu of a direct destruction that modern times will not allow, unscrupulous detractors, read Maoists, have resorted to malicious interference in the traditional workings of the temple in order to gain control and eventually destroy this Hindu icon.

Baburam Bhattarai, the Nepali Maoist ideologue in an interview to the International Humanist and Ethical Union in August 2008 remarked: 'We are Materialists and Marxists and in a secular state we should be promoting scientific and atheistic values; not merely delinking religion and state. Today there are more religious channels and programs than any other on TV; programs glorifying the Ramayana and the Mahabharatha are amongst the most popular. Polluting the minds of the young is not what we need. Religion should find no place in school text books and public programs, we must discourage such kinds of beliefs and values, and then slowly religions will die out.'

Erasing Nepal's Hindu identity would facilitate the spread of Maoist ideology transforming Nepal into a Communist fiefdom ripe for exporting its virulent ideology across the border. A completely Maoist Nepal, a distinct possibility in the future, poses a real security threat to India. Nepali Maoists have had close links with radical Communist organisations in India since the early nineties and together they envision a 'red corridor' of Maoist control that stretches from Nepal in the north to Tamil Nadu in the south panning across the Indian states of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh. This swath of communist influence is referred to as the Compact Revolutionary Zone in Maoist literature.

What makes this scenario even more scary is China's new found love for the Nepali Maoists. After siding with the King Gyanendra in the early phases of the Maoist revolution, the Chinese have changed track and are firmly behind the Maoists today as they see in them a malleable via media to carry out their anti-India activities.

Completing an unholy troika of anti-Indian interests is an unlikely third player whose role may not be obvious: the Indian Communists particularly the Communist Party of India-Marxist. One must be wary of the CPI-M and its ideologue Sitaram Yechury's growing influence over the changes unfolding in Nepal. Under the guise of promoting democracy in Nepal, the CPI-M maybe orchestrating a far bigger gameplan that conceives bringing India into the gambit of an international camaraderie of communism through a bloody revolution with China acting as the 'friend, philosopher and guide' and Nepal being the access route.

At the outset this may seem farfetched or the fantasy of hare brained chauvinists. But close scrutiny tells a different story. The exponential growth of Naxalism in India specifically during the last five years is a cause for concern. In 2004, the Naxalite problem was confined to 156 of India's 602 districts. By 2008, Naxalites had expanded their reach into 180 districts or roughly one third of the nation's territory. Home ministry sources state that there were 1,509 Naxal-related incidents in 2006, 1,565 in 2007 and 1,591 in 2008. In 2009 with half the year still to go the number of Naxal related attacks stood at 1,128.  Not only have the attacks increased in number but have become more daring as well. The capture of Lalgarh in West Bengal by the local Maoists was a flagrant exhibition of violent Communist power.

Interestingly this was the period when the CPI-M wielded great influence over the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre. Whether this upsurge in Naxalite activity was coincidental or consequential is open to question? Another factor providing impetus to Naxalism in India could have been the Maoist victory in Nepal.

Indian Communists have always subscribed to the notion of internationalism as opposed to nationalism, colluding with China and even blatantly endorsing China's viewpoint with regard to the Sino-Indian border dispute; a position the Communist Party of India maintained even during the difficult period of the war of 1962. Excerpts from declassified CIA documents titled Caesar, Esau and Polo papers released in 2007 throw light on the subversive tendencies of the united CPI during the late fifties and early sixties and clearly substantiate this anti-national attitude:

'In the midst of these dealings with the CPI left faction (read present day CPI-M) leaders, Peiping (Beijing) at the  end of December is believed to have sent a formal party letter to CPI headquarters -- the only such message known to have been sent through official party channels after the Moscow Conference. Details on this Chinese message are sketchy although it was in large part concerned with the border issue. The CCP (Chinese Communist Party) expressed readiness to support any just struggles of the Indian people and expected the CPI to reciprocate on international issues of concern to Peiping (Beijing); the Indian party was particularly expected to oppose and expose the Indian bourgeoisie when the latter instigated border difficulties.

'Finally, a sharp battle was fought in the National Council (of the Communist Party) on the border issue, with inconclusive results. An effort by some of the rightist to secure an open condemnation of China was overwhelmingly defeated, and a subsequent attempt to obtain endorsement of the Indian case on the basis of the report of the Indian negotiating team was blunted.'

The CIA papers further indicate that the Communist Party's faith in parliamentary democracy was only skin deep and nothing more than subterfuge to buy time for an armed struggle, that was being clandestinely planned:.

'While the leftists (left faction of the CPI) were thus stalemated on the question

of national democracy, they were apparently successful in imparting a more militant and revolutionary tone to the meeting generally; in line with the earlier Soviet stipulation in Moscow, the National Council members were reported to have been generally agreed that a peaceful transition to power was possible only if preparations for an armed capability were made simultaneously. Jaipal Singh, the head of the secret CPI organisation in the Indian armed forces, was subsequently said to have been heartened by this new militant trend in the party and to have decided to reactivate his organisation in May 1961 following an expected victory of the left faction at the party congress.'

Eventually the dichotomy of views with regard to supporting China vis-à-vis the border dispute was an important factor that led to a split in the unified Communist Party with the left faction metamorphosing into the present day CPI-M. Most Naxalite groups are offshoots of the CPI-M. No distinction must be made between the Naxalites and the mainstream Communist parties that outwardly profess faith in Indian democracy for they are two sides of the same coin with possibly covert interaction.

One wonders whether the Communists in India are still at their old game: ostensibly nurturing democracy (in Nepal) but in reality waiting for the right moment and the right circumstances to launch an armed bloody revolution in India via Nepal with the backing of China. China has already made known its preference for the balkanisation of India using internal dissenting forces, the Communists being one of them. India needs to be cautious.

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Vivek Gumaste