Daya Varma


Recent  protests on the streets of Nepal  led by the Communist Party of Nepal  (Maoist), ostensibly demanding civilian supremacy are in essence intended to ensure the integration of the cadres of the Peoples Liberation Army into the main Armed Forces of Nepal.


Massive demonstrations led by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)[Nepal Maoists]paralyzed the capital Kathmandu on November 12 and 13, 2009; the event received massive coverage in the left circles but was  somewhat ignored by Nepal’s neighbours, India and China. For the size of the demonstrations, they were very orderly and peaceful, thanks to the organizational skill of the Nepal Maoists and restraints exercised by Nepalese authorities. Naturally the question arises what the demonstrations were all about, especially because the current peace is just an interlude and new wave of protests may come any time. 


The stated purpose of these protests is to ensure that the present government led by the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist) affirm civilian supremacy in governance. It is a very simple demand. Indeed democracy by definition is based on civilian supremacy. If the government can ensure it then it follows that constitutionally civilian supremacy already exists. If it did not exist then one must conclude that the government is helpless there is no democracy in Nepal. The episode that the Nepal Maoists refer to is the decision of the civilian President to refuse the termination of the services of the army chief as demanded by the then Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal (Prachanda).  At least technically, civilian authority was not violated because the President represents civilian authority no matter how ceremonial it is.


But there is some link between that episode and the present demonstration and the issue of civilian authority. The link is the status of the cadre of the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA), which is now disarmed and located in camps and not in the jungles of Nepal. The key issue is thus not civilian supremacy but rather the hesitation of the existing government and the army to integrate the PLA cadres into regular Nepal Army as was originally envisaged by all parties including the UN.


Of course integrating guerrilla fighters with loyalties to a political party and not to the ostensibly non-partisan army presents some problem both with regard to training and discipline and accepted norms of recruitment to the army. Notwithstanding all these problems, some solution must be found. Nepal Maoists should demonstrate on this key issue rather than the more amorphous demand of the supremacy of the civilian authority. The government must recognize that Nepal Maoists did not just lead the most powerful militant movement but also the one which had the most popular support. 

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