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The rise of Maoists in Nepali politics: from ‘people’s war’ to democratic politics March 23, 2013

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, Nepal , comments closed

Ramesh Sunam and Keshab Goutam

Since its formation in 1994, the United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) has gone through a number of radical transformations, shifting from a guerrilla warfare unit to a key democratising force within Nepali politics.

The party’s early history is defined by its role in launching the ‘people’s war’ of 1996, a decade-long civil war that resulted in the loss of some 16,000 lives and halted the country’s economic development. The Maoists’ original aim was to benefit the poor and marginalised sectors of Nepali society by uprooting the monarchy and feudalism.

Today, many people question the necessity of the war. But the conflict did succeed in providing marginalised populations – particularly dalits (the so-called untouchables), women, the landless and ethnic and indigenous people – with a wider political space to articulate their grievances. The result was a series of protests and rights movements across the country by the Madhesi (people from the Tarai lowland) and ethnic populations. Such incidents have in turn facilitated the democratisation of Nepali politics. In the first Constituent Assembly election of April 2008, minorities gained substantial representation for the first time in Nepali history, with dalits receiving over 8.17 per cent of seats, women 33.22 per cent, ethnic and indigenous people 33.39 per cent, and Madhesis 34.09 per cent.

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FEATURE ARTICLE: Mamata’s khamota or the backlash of the bhadraloks April 27, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : Features, India, Lahiri-Dutt, Kuntala , comments closed

Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt

In 1990 after Lalu Prasad Yadav, the lower caste charismatic political leader of Bihar, became the Chief Minister of the state, the young, English-speaking, suave journalists flocked from metropolitan cities like New Delhi and Bombay to catch his sound bites on tape and camera. Their interest in Lalu was not only because of the man himself, but also his illiterate wife, his large family and his domesticated cows that apparently enjoyed chewing the grass of the palatial Chief Ministerial Bungalow built during the colonial raj. It has now become almost a myth amongst these journalists how Lalu chewed his paan (betel leaf) and spat the red spit out into a bowl, and how when asked one of those airy-fairy questions by an urbane young man from New Delhi, he raised one of his profuse buttocks to let out a loud fart before responding.

The story has become a journalistic legend because if there is one thing that India definitely respects, it is behavioural polish, whether in its businessmen or its politicians. Lalu’s lack of sophistication was deemed as crude and lower class, and he was made fun of in English-language dailies and weeklies, turning this story into a myth. There is however, an irony in the story; one might see the fart as the ultimate finger-up – bugger off as we say Down Under – to those who matter very little to Lalu. I am saying this in context of the recent rush of allegations against the Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Bannerjee, by the regional, national and even international press. The didicule-ing and ‘lampooning’ of Didi, apparently in response to her mercurial temperament and unpredictable outbursts, her dictatorial style, her preference for the colour blue, her summary dismissal of the country’s railway minister for raising ticket prices without consulting her (she herself was the previous railway minister and didn’t get a good report card), and her ultimatum to the Prime Minister for revoking the strict yearly repayment of debt by the state. Even The Economist called her the ‘Mischief Minister of West Bengal’ and made fun of her effort to change the name of West Bengal to Paschim Banga. Within a year of her election, the entire world appears to be against her, projecting her as unfit to run the country as Lalu was presented by the bemused media then.

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Inching closer to sustainable peace in Nepal November 4, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : Dowler, Amy, Nepal , comments closed

Amy Dowler

On the evening of Tuesday 1 November 2011, leaders from each of Nepal’s major political parties reached agreement on the integration of former Maoist combatants into the country’s military. The agreement resolves the chief outstanding issue in the country’s protracted peace process, and should allow the Constituent Assembly to turn its full attention to the task of constitution drafting.

The seven-point agreement, designed to provide a “detailed blueprint for the completion of the peace process”, comes five years after the original peace agreement ending the decade-long People’s War, and three and a half years after Constituent Assembly elections, held in April 2008 (The Kathmandu Post). Since those elections – in which the Maoists received the highest share of votes but not an outright majority – Nepal has seen the back of four Prime Ministers, three of them arguably casualties of the former combatant integration issue.

Singha Durbar, Kathmandu

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