Chand commits to peaceful politics but many questions remain unansweredThe three-point deal signed with the government does not say much about arms management and addressing the Communist Party of Nepal’s political issues.
After almost two years underground, while his Communist Party of Nepal adopted violent means for political ends, Netra Bikram Chand, the party’s general secretary, made his first public appearance on Friday and expressed commitment to peaceful politics.
He, however, said that the Nepali people should be given a choice on the political path the country follows.
“What do Nepali people want? Is it their fate to always remain within the trap of comprador capitalism?” he said. “Once again Nepali people should get an opportunity to choose the fate of the country.”
His party signed a three-point agreement with the government amidst a ceremony in Kathmandu, in which Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli was present. As per the agreement, the government will release all arrested cadres of the party.
Chand tried to defend his party’s political doctrine of ‘unified people’s revolution’, saying the existing political system is outdated and that it needs to be changed for which his party has been demanding a referendum to decide between the parliamentary system currently in practice or scientific socialism.
The details of what scientific socialism entails remain unclear.
“War ends when there is no suppression. Therefore, we should dare once to allow people to make a choice,” Chand said.
Chand’s public appearance comes days after the government formed a two-member talks team led by Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa which held two rounds of dialogue on Wednesday with a team led by Khadga Bahadur Bishwakarma, the Communist Party of Nepal spokesman.
On Thursday an agreement was reached between the two sides and on Friday Chand appeared at the agreement-signing ceremony after holding talks with Oli at the prime minister’s residence earlier in the day.
A Cabinet meeting on Thursday decided to lift the three-year ban on the party and the Home Ministry directed the police to release all cadres of the party. The government is also committed to withdrawing all cases pending in courts against cadres of Chand’s Communist Party of Nepal.
Chand’s promise to shun violence comes at a time when Prime Minister Oli is facing a challenge to save his position as the faction led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Madhav Kumar Nepal of the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) is preparing to oust him through a no-confidence motion when Parliament convenes on Sunday.
At the agreement signing ceremony, Oli said the country has now reached a peaceful era with no party taking up arms and engaged in violent politics.
“Now no party is in a violent movement in the country,” Oli said. “Now Nepal is a peaceful country. Here is peace now.”
In 2019, the Oli government had managed to bring CK Raut, who was spearheading a secessionist movement in the Tarai, to mainstream politics.
Although Chand has renounced violence for the present, his party has not ruled out taking up arms again in future depending on how events unfold.
“He has made all the issues of the party clear to everyone,” said a Central Committee member of Chand’s party. “He [Chand] has expressed commitment to peaceful means of movement but [use of] violence will depend on how the state treats the party.”
There has been no mention in the agreement about the party handing over its arms, a fact that is not lost on other political parties.
Nepali Congress spokesperson Bishwa Prakash Sharma questioned the agreement asking where it contained the point stating that Chand’s party will hand over the arms to the state.
“When Prachanda came, he said some weapons were swept away by the river but when Biplav came, have all the arms been swept away? Where is the fourth point saying they will hand over arms to the state?” Sharma wrote on Twitter. “The whole country wants the answer to this serious question.”
Sharma was referring to Dahal’s explanation about the relatively small quantities of arms that his Communist Party Of Nepal (Maoist) surrendered following a peace deal in 2006 after 10 years of fighting in which more than 13,000 people were killed.
Chand then belonged to Dahal’s Maoist party but parted ways with him along with incumbent Home Minister Thapa in 2012. Chand again parted ways with Thapa to form the Communist Party of Nepal in 2014 while Thapa returned to Dahal’s fold in 2016 and became the home minister in 2018.
Days after its formation, the government had issued an arrest warrant in February 2018 against Chand on charges of murder and multiple explosions. A year later, following two blasts in the Capital, in which one person was killed, his party was banned. His cadres started being arrested soon afterwards.
“More than 150 of our leaders and cadres are still behind bars,” said Chand on Friday. “They will be released gradually and soon we will be meeting in the open space.”
But it is unclear what political activities Chand will pursue—his party is not illegal anymore.
Analysts say there was a lack of clarity on their future programmes and what they actually want and, on its part, the government has ignored the fact that Chand’s outfit still possesses weapons.
“Both Chand and the government were silent on some pressing questions—the rebels did not clarify what they were up to after coming to peaceful politics and the government did not talk whether they have arms or not,” said Hari Roka, a political economist. “Oli has just created an illusion in the eyes of the people.”
Chand in his remarks on Friday hinted that his fight was not over.
“The wishes of some people may have been fulfilled but aspirations of the majority of the people have not,” Chand said.
Leaders of the Dahal-Nepal faction are also sceptical of Chand’s commitment.
“Chand was defeated and he realised that his line was impractical but it’s suspicious why he was in such a haste to join hands with Oli as any government that will be formed soon could have lifted the ban,” said Maheshwor Dahal, a central committee member of the Dahal-Nepal faction of Nepal Communist Party. “This unnecessary haste to join hands with a regressive leader leaves anyone wondering if there is any tacit understanding with Oli.”
But for the moment, Chand said that the situation has changed with the agreement with the government and they are ready to become messengers of peace.
“Communists do not only revolt, they are also the messengers of peace when the situation changes and the state accomplishes its role,” he said.