Fourteen years after they took up arms against the government and four years after the rebellion ended with a truce, Nepal’s former Maoist guerrillas on Saturday celebrated the anniversary of the uprising amidst angst and suspicion of the ruling parties.
Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, the farmer’s son who was catapulted into world limelight in February 1996 when he led his Maoist party to war against Nepal’s powerful royal family and the government, said he saw no reason for optimism.
Mr. Prachanda, who signed a peace pact in 2006 ending the 10-year “People’s War” fought by his party, told party mouthpiece Janadisha daily that he feared a “remote-controlled” move by the Indian government to disband the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
Calling it a “huge conspiracy” supported by members of Nepal’s current government, Mr. Prachanda said there would be an upheaval if the “conspiracy” to keep the PLA out of the national army succeeded.
On the anniversary of the guerrilla war that was the catalyst transforming Nepal from a Hindu kingdom to a secular republic, the Maoists, now a mainstream party, also announced a new round of protests against the current government.
It is a continuation of the protests started by them last year, after the government they had formed following an electoral victory fell over their attempt to sack the chief of the Nepal Army.
The sacked general was reinstated by President Ram Baran Yadav, causing the eventual collapse of Prime Minister Prachanda’s government.
Though the Maoists have been opposing the move since 2008, the new coalition government has refused to undo the presidential step.
A second bone of contention between the former rebels and the government is the PLA’s future.
Though in the 2006 peace pact both sides agreed to induct the PLA in the national army, the merger has not taken place even four years later due to opposition by army officials, who fear it would lead to the politicization of the army.
On Saturday, a high-level committee including members of the ruling parties and the Maoists met in the capital to discuss the situation.
However, the meeting ended inconclusively after Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal sought to push the rehabilitation of the PLA but the Maoists demanded a political resolution before they agreed to disband the guerrilla army.
By political resolution, the Maoists are seeking the formation of a new government under their leadership, claiming it was the People’s War that brought the new changes in Nepal.
The protracted stalemate has raised serious doubts about the fate of nearly 19,000 PLA soldiers who remain confined to barracks since the insurgency ended and the new constitution that has to be promulgated by May.
The international community says there will be no lasting peace in insurgency-racked Nepal as long as there are two armies.
However, with the PLA still intact, the Maoists celebrated Saturday also as PLA Day in imitation of Army Day celebrated a day earlier.
The PLA held tourneys in Kathmandu’s prime sports stadium as a reminder to the country and the world that it was still a force to reckon with.