Journalist | Writer | Analyst
In an interview conducted over the telephone, Baburam Bhattarai, senior member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), says implementation of the peace roadmap requires India’s cooperation.
May 6-19 2006, Vol. 23 No. 9
‘The King is down but not out’
BY SIDDHARTH VARADARAJAN
|Interview with Baburam Bhattarai.|
DEVENDRA M. SINGH/AFP
CPN(Maoist) leader Baburam Bhattarai.
What is your reaction to the G.P. Koirala government’s ceasefire offer and its decision to remove the terrorist tag from the Maoists?
We welcome this decision of the Seven-Party Alliance (SPA) government as a positive step that will allow us to move ahead and implement the 12-point understanding reached between us last November. But we should remember that the King is down but not out. The Royal Nepal Army, the bureaucracy and other instruments of the state are still wedded to the King.
In an interview to Nepal One channel, you mentioned the release of Maoist prisoners in Nepal and India as a condition for the peace process going forward. There has been no announcement by the government on that front.
They should at least start releasing our comrades. The best, of course, is a general amnesty for all political prisoners, but if that is not considered possible right now the government should ensure that our senior leaders like Matrika Yadav, Suresh Ale Magar, and Kiran and Gourav, who are in Indian prisons along with our central committee members imprisoned in a Patna jail, are all released. The other thing is that we had a bitter experience the last time, when the RNA, instigated by the U.S. government, committed the infamous Doramba massacre during the second round of our peace talks with the government in August 2003. Now once again, we have the U.S. getting involved… .
Are you referring to the statements made by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Richard Boucher during his visit to Kathmandu?
It is interesting that this time Boucher has not only started giving lectures to the people of Nepal; he actually went and met the head of the RNA. This means U.S. imperialism is up to its intrigues again.
The SPA is concerned that Maoist cadre are brandishing their arms openly. This kind of activity might intimidate cadre of other parties…
We have prepared a draft code of conduct on how our cadre and the government force should operate during this transition period and have handed it over to [Home Minister] Krishna Prasad Sitaula. The idea is to reach an agreement on a minimum code of conduct.
The House of Representatives voted unanimously to go in for elections for a Constituent Assembly. What is your sense of the timeframe for this process?
Elections to the Constituent Assembly should be held within six months… . If you give more time, the feudal forces will realign themselves and try and sabotage the process.
But aren’t there practical difficulties such as a fresh delimitation of seats to ensure that all ethnic and linguistic groups are represented in the Assembly?
Of course, the re-delineation of seats has to be done. Our party has always believed that all oppressed nations and nationalities within Nepal, as well as Madhesis, Dalits and women have to have proper representation in the constitutional process. There are also the historically oppressed regions such as Mahakali and Karnali. So, re-delineation of seats is a basic demand that has to be fulfilled before elections. Otherwise, the process doesn’t make any sense.
Your party has been fairly clear that you are prepared to send your fighters into their barracks under international supervision during the election period provided the RNA is also restrained. What form should this supervision take?
This issue is also there in the 12-point understanding with the SPA and will have to be discussed in detail. Both the PLA [People’s Liberation Army of the Maoists] and the RNA should be placed under credible international supervision, preferably that of the United Nations. If the U.N. is not involved, then we are prepared to accept some other impartial player, in consultation with our neighbours such as India and China. I understand that India is reluctant to see the U.N. get involved but I want to stress that at this stage of the road map, we need India’s cooperation.