Eight Maoist groups close ranks as judiciary takes up war-era casesVow to counter ‘any attempt by court to go against peace process and political change’.
Tika R Pradhan
Hours before the Supreme Court registered a pair of writ petitions of conflict victims, eight Maoist splinter groups held a rare gathering at the prime minister’s residence in Baluwatar on Tuesday.
They warned the judiciary that any attempt to go against the peace process and recent political changes would be resisted tooth and nail.
Leaders of the eight splinter parties said not just them, even ordinary folks would take to the streets if attempts were made to derail the ongoing peace process.
“We are ready for just about any eventuality,” said Dharmendra Bastola, convener of the CPN (Bahumat).
Earlier, on November 10, the Supreme Court administration had refused to register the writ petitions, saying that the petitioners had already registered their cases at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). But the court later changed its stance.
On Tuesday, the meeting of the eight groups concluded that issues related to the peace process must be managed as per the spirit of the Comprehensive Peace Accord signed in 2006.
“We are clear that any activities and actions taken beyond the process of transitional justice won’t be helpful in implementing the peace agreement,” they said in a joint statement following their meeting at Baluwatar.
“We strongly demand that the government make immediate legal and institutional provisions to conclude the remaining tasks of the peace process.” Ironically, one of the signatories of the joint statement was Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the government head, who is also the chairman of the CPN (Maoist Centre).
Besides Dahal, the other signatories were Baburam Bhattarai, chair of the Nepal Samajbadi Party; CP Gajurel, standing committee member of the CPN (Revolutionary Maoist); Khadga Bahadur Bishwakarma, spokesperson of the Nepal Communist Party; Dharmendra Bastola, convener of the CPN (Bahumat); Bishwa Bhakta Dulal ‘Aahuti’, general secretary the Baigyanik Samajbadi Communist Party; Karnajit Budhathoki, chair of the CPN (Maoist Socialist); and Narayan Prasad Dhimal, central member of the Maoist Communist Party Nepal.
“They [the petitioners] have obstructed the peace process and activities of the TRC [truth and reconciliation commission]. Filing a case against the person who led the movement for the republic, and who is also the current prime minister, is nothing but a demand to scrap the current system,” said Bastola, the CPN (Bahumat) convener. “This is a ploy to take the country back to a barbarian, regressive age.”
Earlier, on Sunday, various former and current Maoist leaders gathered at a function organised by the “Foundation of martyrs and disappeared fighters’ children” where they stressed the need to join hands to safeguard the achievements of the “people’s war.”
The Sunday gathering had followed a decision last week by a division bench of the Supreme Court to register writ petitions demanding action against the prime minister and CPN (Maoist Centre) chair Dahal.
This Supreme Court decision instilled a sense of disquiet among former Maoist forces who are afraid that the court could criminalise insurgency-era killings and throw them behind bars.
“We are on the same page when it comes to countering any activity against the peace agreement and political change,” the joint statement issued by the eight groups added. “[We] are committed to the fact that all the agreements and understandings signed with the state on different occasions must be implemented.”
Among the many groups of former Maoist forces, Dahal leads the mainstream Maoist force, the CPN (Maoist Centre). Other Maoist leaders including Mohan Baidya believe that Dahal has betrayed the original Maoist cause.
The eight groups assembled on Tuesday were some of the splinter groups formed by the splitting of the CPN (Maoist) that had waged the decade-long insurgency (1996-2006) that claimed nearly 17,000 lives.
The Kirati-led group had taken the helm of the CPN (Maoist Centre) after Dahal merged the party with the UML in May 2018 to form the Nepal Communist Party. But when the Maoist Centre and UML were both revived by a Supreme Court decision in March 2021, Dahal got to lead the mother party again.
When the Nepal Communist Party split, at least four senior Maoist leaders stayed with the UML—Ram Bahadur Thapa as vice-chair, Top Bahadur Rayamajhi and Lekhraj Bhatta as secretaries, and Mani Thapa as a standing committee member. Former Maoist leaders Lil Bahadur Thapa Magar and Jwala Kumari Sah are now UML politburo members.
The Maoist splinters see the petition as a ploy to reignite conflict in the country.
Addressing an event organised later in the day on the eve of the 113th International Working Women's Day, former prime minister and chair of Nepal Samajbadi Party Baburam Bhattarai, who was also present at the Baluwatar meeting on Tuesday, said that the case against the prime minister intends to push the country back into conflict.
“This looks simple, but this is an issue of serious nature,” Bhattarai added. “We respect the court, but all conflict-era cases should be resolved by the TRC, something that is clearly stated in the constitution.”
Though the Supreme Court’s decision has brought the former Maoist forces together again, they are poles apart on ideology and therefore a unification of all those forces appears nigh impossible, at least for now. But they are ready to develop a working alliance.
“There is no possibility of unity with the forces like the one led by Dahal, but we are together on transitional justice issues,” said CP Gajurel, a senior leader of CPN (Revolutionary Maoists). “We will certainly forge a working alliance with all the former Maoist forces to fight any conspiracy against the peace process.”