News Analysis

Why Chand-led Maoists are now inclined to talks

Published On: July 20, 2019 06:00 AM NPT By: Kosh Raj Koirala  | @KoshRKoirala

KATHMANDU, July 20: The outlawed Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) led by Netra Bikram Chand had publicly ruled out any possibility of talks until just a few weeks ago. Upset with the government over its decision in March to outlaw it , the Maoist outfit responded with various aggressive measures such as enforcing a general strike and setting off bomb blasts .

In a series of strongly-worded statements signed by Chand himself, the outfit not only excoriated Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli and Chairman of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) Pushpa Kamal Dahal but also vowed revenge for the killings and arrest of its leaders.

But in a dramatic turn of events, senior leaders of the same outfit have now started speaking publicly in favor of holding talks with the government . They have shown a willingness for talks if the government agrees to withdraw its earlier decision to outlaw the party . This is a seemingly trivial demand, given the outfit's previous stance. What has brought about this shift?

According to political analysts, the Chand-led Maoists, who had been on the same path of violence as the then underground Maoist rebels during their armed insurgency , are now more amenable to talks because they are feeling the heat of the police crackdown following the government's decision on March 12 to ban their activities and step up its offensive against the group.

Security personnel have so far gunned down three senior leaders of the group and arrested nearly 600 of its central to district level leaders . This has left the party structure decimated. At least five of their cadres were killed when bombs they were handling went off accidentally.

CPN Standing Committee member Mani Thapa, who was also involved with the former Maoist rebels, said internal circumstances in the country could have led the Chand group to readiness for negotiations with the government.

“I think they had ever thought that the government would ban their party this early. They had to go underground once they were banned and involve themselves in violent tactics similar to those of the insurgency period,” he said, adding, “This has left them unable to build up their strength through a popular social movement as initially planned .”

A second factor that, analysts say, forced the Chand-led Maoists to rethink their strategy was the unification between the erstwhile CPN (UML) and the CPN (Maoist Center). The party's publicly available political documents suggest that it intended to build up its strength while taking advantage of possible political contradictions between UML and the Maoist Center even as they intensified their own activities.

Although some contradictions are visible between the leaders of the erstwhile UML, Maoist Center and the main opposition Nepali Congress on the way to deal with their activities, this does not seem to have helped them in any way. “Of course, a section of CPN leaders have been showing sympathy towards them. But since this has not brought a softening of the government's stance , the group must have found itself under pressure to seek some negotiated settlement,” Thapa argued further.

Some CPN leaders, who are in regular contact with key leaders of the Chand-led Maoists, say the disproportionate losses the party has faced have led it to think more positively about talks with the government. While a large number of party leaders including Hemanta Prakash Oli and a number of district in-charges are already in jail, the party leaders have suffered a blow to morale in recent days as they lost at least five cadres after some of their bomb explosives went wrong.

Most recently, a cadre of Chand-led group was killed in Dhangadhi after a bomb explosion left him seriously injured on Thursday evening. “This shows that the Chand-led group is not in a position to launch a full-fledged insurgency. It leaves them no option but to find some negotiated settlement,” argued a ruling CPN leader, asking not to be named. “But the government has to be cautious so that any talks strategy is not used just to secure the release of jailed cadres and accumulate their strength.”|

CPN Standing Committee member Yubaraj Gyawali said the Chand-led Maoists should come for negotiations sooner rather than later as they do not have any agenda to fight for. “The agenda the Chand-led group has taken up is wrong. In fact, they do not have any agenda,” said Gyawali at a function held in the capital on Friday. “The government has been holding informal talks with them. It is time both sides held formal talks to resolve things.”

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