May 9, 2009
The Asian Human Rights Commission has just released an abridged transcript of the controversial videotape, in which Nepal's former PM Prachanda is captured mocking and defying the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that he signed with Nepal's political parties on November 21, 2006.
The tape, leaked to the media, came on the heels of Prachanda’s May 4th resignation from office after his determination to sack Chief of Army General Rookmangad Katawal was scuttled by President Ram Baran Yadav. The video intensified the vitriol of street demonstrations already beleaguering the peace process.
The video was filmed during a speech Prachanda made to Maoists’ People's Liberation Army commanders sixteen months ago (January 2, 2008) at Shaktikhor Cantonment in southern Nepal. Prachanda’s speech offers a rare peek into the Maoist ploy to politicize and take over the national army. But it also documents Prachanda’s successful plan to inflate the actual size of the PLA in an effort to hoodwink the UN’s verification process – a strategy designed to boost monetary assistance to the PLA fighters sequestered in UN-monitored cantonments.
Highlights from the speech are as follows:
On national army:
Integration will not happen before the Constituent Assembly elections. It cannot happen. You just have to look around, and you will know. Do you understand? This is the reality. Nowhere does it say that integration has to happen before the elections – there is no decision, no agreement and no understanding. We have said that it will happen after the elections. About the elections, either the Congress will not let it happen, or we won't. Let us say that somehow it does happen. We cannot say it will not happen, 100 percent. Marxists do not say such things.
If it looks likely that the Maoists will capture power before the elections, they may be compelled to go for elections, thinking it will allow them to last for a few more months. If we do well, then we can implement socio-economic change under our leadership, with our majority. If we win, then the current verification will not be considered to be the criteria. Please explain this to all of our friends. Once we become the rooster – please pardon expression – once we have won, why would we need to obey the verification? When we win, we will just create a new law that includes our people and eliminate those from the other side. When we have already won and have the upper hand, why would we obey the current verification?
We will have integration – in a way that decreases the size of the army. From the start, I have said that we do not need such a large army. Let's keep it between 30,000 and 50,000. We will bring it down from 100,000 to 50,000. Ours may drop from 20,000 to 10,000, let's just say. You heard what Katawal said the other day. Even if the army absorbs only 3,000 Maoist combatants, that the whole army will be finished. Did you read that? He said a mere 3,000 could destroy their 100,000. That is true.
If we are going to place 10,000 combatants in the army, the whole force will come under our influence. It will be Maobaad-maya, under our total influence. I fully believe this. We will introduce our agenda in there at that time. The issue here is not about more or less; it is about awareness. We have concepts, policies and vision. They do nothing but bang their boots. The enlightened ones will eat up the boot-bangers. The 3,000 will swallow the rest.
If there are no elections, we will win through a movement. We will first capture power, and then work on integration. We will not throw out all of them, as it will be necessary to keep some of them. We will reduce them systematically, and bring the army under our leadership.
You expressed worries about continuing the revolution. This is how it will happen. It will happen in a new way. Please don't look for examples from Russia or China, or Vietnam or Cuba. Our solution will be specific to Nepal, but it will happen. Integration will happen in this way. It will not happen one-by-one, on an individual basis. We will do it unit-wise. Our battalions and theirs will be separate, under one command. Our people will also be in command. The plan is to 'democratize' the army, which means to politicize it. It'll take five to seven years to do that. If we are really going to have integration, the way to do it is unit-wise, so that our units remain with us. This is important: if we do it unit-wise, we can react if we are betrayed. I have had talks with the army leadership about going about this on a unit-wise basis.
On funds, arms and elections:
We have said that for elections to happen, the martyrs' families must receive relief, information on the disappeared must be gathered, the injured receive relief, and the combatants be paid. Elections cannot happen without these conditions. Over the last 3-4 months, the world has been repeating our formula; it has been accepted all over. They've been saying the Maoists are right on this. Believe me, I have seen it all. This is great for us; this will take us to the top. When we insist that we will not go to elections without money for the families of martyrs, they all say, "Yes! Yes!"
Now a relief package is being promised to the martyr families by Magh (Jan/Feb). For now, this is one lakh [one hundred thousand], though the full compensation is 10 lakh. Now don't think this is just money; it is politics. We will distribute this money in mass meetings. We will make a plan from the top and go district to district. All of this is not preparation for elections; it is preparations for revolt. With the money, our relationship with the people will improve. They will feel this is their party. And we will say, "One lakh is not enough, we will get you the nine lakh." Of course, we will not say, "Take this and go home."
Now, about the 60 crore [one crore is equivalent to ten million] for the cantonments, we will use this for the revolt. We need money to prepare for the revolt. Remember my point about the need for 10 crore, to bring it all in a truck. We need money for what the truck carries; nobody gives it for free. We don't have enough money for that. Of the 60 crore, you will take a little bit, and about 20 crore will come to us. Just imagine the preparations we can do with 20 crore.
To make good battle plans you need money. With lots of money, we can make good plans. We need quite a bit for a revolt. So, it you only look at the form, it may look like the party is heading towards agreement. Look deeper and you will understand how the brave party is preparing for revolt.
On combatant numbers and verification:
Revolution calls for renunciation, penance, and sacrifice. How is today's situation different from during the people's war? Talking of form, earlier you were holding the machine gun, killing or being killed. Today, it seems like we are sitting at the table with the enemy, chatting and sipping tea. The form is very different. But the gist is still the same: we are both taking the revolution forward.
Did you see the Naya Patrika the other day? It says that B. P. Koirala said that if he had been able to keep just 500 soldiers in 1960, the Panchayat takeover would not have happened. That seems correct. If they had not dissolved their insurrectionary force, Mahendra would not have had the guts to act. Because we have thousands in the People's Liberation Army, nobody has the guts to challenge us.
Your position today can be called renunciation, penance or sacrifice. I would say you are doing penance, for revolution. Our actions in Baluwatar, Singha Durbar, inside and outside the country, have been successful only because of you. Without you, nobody would listen to us. Because we have an army, everybody is petrified, even now. The Congress and UML don't want to admit it, but they feel the fear.
Earlier today, the UML's Bam Dev called, saying that our friends in Kavre had badly beaten up their party workers. I said yours are hardly better, they beat us up yesterday. His reply was, "We can hardly hurt you. Yours are all trained, and they beat hard." They are terrorized by us – everyone is. I have also talked to the top officers in the other army, and they too feel terror, great terror. They fear our numbers.
You say our numbers have decreased. That's not true. Our army has grown significantly. Where is the shrinking? You must understand strategy and tactics. Tell me, how many of us were there earlier? Speaking honestly, we were few before the compromise. We were at 7,000 to 8,000. If we had reported that, we would have had 4,000 left after verification. Instead, we claimed 35,000, and now we have 20,000. This is the truth. We cannot tell others, but you all and I know the truth.
How can anyone say our numbers have decreased? Look how wisely our leadership took a 7,000-person army and made it a 21,000-person regular army. That is what you are now. We have not shrunk; we have grown. And on the outside, we have created the YCL infrastructure, and we have thousands in the YCL. So we have built a lot, and are still building. It is true that there are some complexities, but they are still a strength. About our friends who did not make it through the verification process, there is a fear that they are done. But arrangements will be made.
On Constituent Assembly elections:
What will come of the elections is not agreement but revolt. First, let me assure you that elections will not happen. But we cannot share this understanding. We must insist that the country needs elections that it is the only way out. If we show enthusiasm, then they will stop the process. You may remember that in June, before the peace process, I said that if it looks like we will win they would not let it happen. And if it looks like they will win, we will not let it happen. Either way, I have said there will be no elections. I was never confused about that.
If it looks like the Maoists are going to win, the reactionaries, America and India, will together prevent the elections. If there is an anti-Maoist conspiracy making things difficult for us, we will not let the elections happen. Before we had the meeting with the UML, you may recall that I told them, "If you go above board on this, we can break the legs [of your candidates] across the country. We can destroy your elections." This, then, is our line today. It is the only line that prepares us for revolution. One cannot have a revolution by panicking and merely wanting it.
[The Asian Human Rights Commission, founded in 1984, is a Hongkong-based non-governmental organization that monitors human rights issues in Asia.]
FALLOUT FROM THE SPEECH
The leaked footage created an outcry from the opposition Nepali Congress (NP) party, who said it proved that the Maoists had no moral authority to lead a new government. An indignant Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML) also pressed Prachanda for a clarification.
Prachanda’s response was as swift as it was dismissive. “I made that speech one and a half years ago,” Prachanda told journalists on Wednesday. “Things were different then. We were an underground party with a price tag on our heads. …There are innumerable such videos.”
He also took the offensive by saying the tape scandal was simply a red herring to deflect attention from the “unconstitutional” step taken by the president, which put the army “above civilian supremacy.”
Interestingly, some analyists are saying that Prachanda’s resignation this week -- the embarrassing video notwithstanding -- actually works in the Maoists’ favor. John Narayan Parajuli wrote this week in Kantipur:
Apart from measuring the preparedness of their adversaries, these conflicts provide a big propaganda victory for the Maoists. First, it keeps the cadres united and prepared against the "enemy". Second, every reaction or criticism is an opportunity to highlight how "regressive elements" are working to scuttle the aspiration of the people. Dahal's resignation shows to what length they will go to keep the party united. But they have killed two birds with one stone. They have managed to bury their poor performance with a political drama that ended with Dahal appearing to be resigning over a principle.
In the event, Maoists are not pleased with the leakage of the video. They have detained an unknown number of “suspicious people” for interrogation, according to Image FM. These suspects include the videographers who filmed the speech in January 2008.
And outside the Kathmandu Valley, away from bothersome photojournalists, Maoists have stepped up attacks on other political parties, specifically the CPN-UML and NC, who are working on forming a new coalition government to replace the now defuct Maoist government.
This week Maoists thrashed NC and the CPN-UML supporters in Ramechhap and Rolpa districts. In Ramechhap, the Maoists Ramechhap district committee ordered NC and UML activists to leave their village by Saturday. In Rolpa, over a dozen NC workers were beaten.