Powell on the People's War: Lies in Kathmandu
Revolutionary Worker #1137, February 3, 2002
"It's a pleasure to have you on board
for another of our magical mystery tours," Colin Powell
told a BBC reporter.
The U.S. Secretary of State visited Pakistan,
Afghanistan and India.
Then he headed for Nepal, where Maoist guerrillas
have been leading an armed insurgency since 1996. The country
has been under a "State of Emergency" since November 26. The
Royal Nepalese Army has been carrying out "search and destroy"
campaigns in the countryside, killing hundreds of people.
The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), leading the People's
War, has been declared "terrorist" by Nepal's government.
And taking a page from John Ashcroft, the "T word"
is being used to justify a whole slate of repressive measures
throughout the country.
A high U.S. official like Colin Powell hasn't
visited Nepal in over 30 years. So why did the "magical
mystery tour" go to Nepal?
Referring to Nepal's "Maoist terrorist
insurrection," Powell told reporters, "You have a
Maoist insurgency that's trying to overthrow that government
and this really is the kind of thing that we are fighting
against throughout the world..."
The day before Powell arrived, a commentary
in the Kathmandu Post observed: "Call it the 'September
11 syndrome,' but the fallout from America's global war against
terrorism has helped to line up important international constituents
behind Mr Deuba's [Nepal's Prime Minister] own war against
Months of bombing Afghanistan. U.S. troops
in the Philippines. Threats aimed at Iraq, Somalia, Indonesia,
and Yemen. War-happy Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld says, "If
we have to go into 15 more countries, we ought to do it."
The U.S. is puffed up and swaggering. And
Powell's trip to Kathmandu made it clear that this corner
of the earth, too, will not escape the hand of U.S. domination.
Now, the U.S. can use its "global war
on terrorism" to justify war on any and all insurgencies--including
genuine revolutions aimed at overthrowing oppressive governments.
a Corrupt Regime
Powell landed in Kathmandu on January 17
and in the next two days met with King Gyanendra, Prime Minister
Deuba and top officials in the Royal Nepalese Army.
While fully backing the corrupt and reactionary
Nepalese government, Powell could not ignore the brutal and
murderous nature of the State of Emergency. He told the press
he hoped the current State of Emergency would be of "limited
duration" and encouraged the government to "focus on protecting
human rights while dealing with this emergency."
But as Powell dined with the king and discussed
military aid with Nepal's generals, the Royal Army continued
its "search and destroy" campaign in the countryside. And
the whole country remained under a heavy clampdown.
Hundreds of people in the countryside are
being killed, and many more rounded up and jailed. Constitutional
rights--to assembly, information, free speech, and privacy--have
been suspended. Searches and arrests can be carried out without
warrants; suspects can be detained for up to 90 days. "Terrorists"
and suspected supporters can be given life imprisonment. Doctors
have been warned not to treat wounded Maoists, or face punishment.
A "shoot on sight" order has been given for anyone putting
up posters or other material sympathetic to the Maoists.
The government has cracked down on dozens
of groups accused of having "Maoist links." The offices
of trade unions, student groups and newspapers have been shut
down. The central bank in Nepal has frozen more than a dozen
accounts of people accused of supporting "terrorists."
Newspapers sympathetic to the Maoists have
been raided, journalists arrested, computers and records confiscated.
Strict press guidelines have been issued. Negative coverage
of the king, the army or the police is not permitted. Only
"official news that comes from His Majesty's Government and
the official media" is allowed. Editors of mainstream newspapers
have been hauled in for interrogation after publishing quotes
from Prachanda, the Chairman of the CPN (Maoist).
What does it mean when the U.S. Secretary
of State thanks Nepal for its support in "fighting international
terrorism"--while the Nepalese government is arresting
and interrogating people because they are suspected of being
"sympathetic to the Maoists," or have simply published
the words of Maoist leaders. And this is hardly the first
time the U.S. has hypocritically mouthed words about "human
rights" while backing a brutal regime. Another example
to put on the list of why people around the world hate the
War of Liberation
The peasants in Nepal, like millions of other
people on the planet, suffer from poverty, malnutrition, illiteracy
and caste and ethnic oppression. Like women in Afghanistan,
Saudi Arabia, and India, women in Nepal are beaten down by
cruel feudal traditions. But in Nepal, there is a growing
armed struggle, aimed at overthrowing the oppressive regime.
And this Maoist People's War has given hope to the hopeless.
In 1999, I traveled deep into the guerrilla
zones of Nepal, in the western districts of Rolpa and Rukum--where
the Maoists now have strong base areas. I saw what it means
when the masses of poor peasants take things into their own
hands, stand up against their hated oppressors, and fight
to change the oppressive relations of feudalism and capitalism.
Poor peasants told me how they worked hard
on their small plots of land only to be ripped off by "liars
and cheaters"--corrupt politicians, landowners and money
lenders. One young farmer told me, "We work all year but
the crops that we harvest only provide food for three to four
months. So our vision is if the revolution is successful we
can seize the land of landlords and socialize the land and
grow crops on those lands and have everyone work together."
In a land where more than 90% of the people
are poor peasants living in the countryside, the Maoists'
slogan of "land to the tiller" has given hope to millions
of people. And as land is seized and redistributed, the peasants
are not only able to grow more food, but they are starting
to work together in new ways. The young farmer told me, "We
are thinking about how to transform farming in a revolutionary
way. Some forms of cooperation have been tried in the past,
but the government always intercedes. But if there is a base
area, and around this a guerrilla zone, the base area will
be secure and we will be able to implement new forms of cooperation
I also saw how the fight for women's equality
and liberation is an integral part of the People's War--and
how this has attracted many young women to join the people's
Feudal traditions subject young Nepalese
girls to "arranged marriages." Sons go to school,
while daughters remain illiterate. Women are denied the right
to own property and get a divorce. Hundreds of women are in
prison for the "crime" of having an abortion. Every
year thousands of Nepalese women are sold to brothels in India.
If they ever make it back to their village, chances are they
will die of AIDS.
But now, where the Maoists have control,
women have the freedom to divorce, own land, go to school
and participate fully in the new social order. One woman told
me, "We are illiterate. Due to our traditional customs,
we did not learn to read and write, because it is said daughters
should not be educated. But now we are beginning a new people's
education. Before we only passed the time working in the fields,
bringing food and grass to the cattle, and doing other household
work. The main thing we have come to know is that all the
oppression we are facing today is due to the reactionary state
In the areas where the Maoists have control,
new revolutionary governments have been established where
millions of peasants are involved in building a "new people's
power"--carrying out land redistribution, running schools,
holding "people's courts" and building local militias to support
the armed struggle against the government.
Powell's "magical mystery tour"
to Kathmandu made it clear that the U.S. stands behind Nepal's
corrupt and brutal regime. And by branding the Maoist People's
War with the "terrorist" label, the U.S. now hopes
to justify a vicious counter-revolutionary war in Nepal.
What does it say about the U.S. "war
on terrorism" that it is now being used to attack the
People's War in Nepal -- a revolution where millions of peasants
are casting off their chains, and fighting for a future free
of all the oppressive relations of feudalism and capitalism?
The people cannot let the U.S. get away with
their threats and lies.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolution
Write: Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654
Phone: 773-227-4066 Fax: 773-227-4497