With A New Dawn, Nepal Strives for Better Days Ahead

I had closely watched the Nepali people’s struggle against monarchy for restoration of democracy in Nepal. During that phase of savage repression, part of the Nepali Communist leadership was underground in India, organising migrant Nepalis, carrying out agitations, and preparing new activists. I had participated on behalf of my party, the CPI(ML), in rallies organised by them at Delhi and Faridabad. Now, when I went to Kathmandu to participate in the International Farmers’ Conference from 9 to 13 March 2019, I was curious and eager to learn about and understand the Nepal of today. Therefore, I spoke to Communist government officials, ruling Nepal Communist Party top leaders, Agriculture Ministry officials, comrades associated with the Farmers’ Commission, as well as activists engages in organisational work at the ground level in villages.

The Nepali people have succeeded in uprooting and throwing out monarchy on the strength of their great democratic movement. After a long struggle, Nepal has ratified its new Constitution. The Nepal Communist Party (ML) had chosen the path to multi-party democracy from the time of Comrade Madan Bhandari. Today the two major Communist parties of Nepal, NCP (Unified ML) and NCP (Maoist Centre) are moving forward towards unification. The unification process is not complete yet. Simple and easy as it appears from the outside, it is actually full of complexities and a learning process for all of us. The party structures have been unified from the central level to the bottom, but there are equal representatives for equal posts from both streams. So, unlike in India where there is no Presidential post in Indian communist parties, the post of President was created during the first unification of the NCP (UML) and now after the present unification there are two National Presidents in the party. When the Central Committees and Polit Bureaus of both parties were unified, the number of PB members reached 150. In this situation, a Secretariat has been elected inside the PB which takes decisions on immediate issues. Apart from this, the unification process has not progressed much in the case of people’s organisations. The people’s organisations of both streams still retain their separate existence, but participate jointly in activities. Therefore, here also there is representation from both streams on all levels. This is the process which will gradually take the entire Party in the direction of total unification.

After the new Constitution was ratified, the Nepali people elected the Communist Party of Nepal with a two-thirds majority in the Parliamentary elections held one year ago and handed over to the Communists the important responsibility of building a new Nepal according to the new Constitution. This has created an atmosphere of new hope and enthusiasm in Nepal. Leaders and activists of the CPN are also enthused by this huge victory, and discussions are on across Nepal as to how to implement the new pro-people Constitution. The government and ruling party leaders are telling the people about the virtues of the new Constitution; at the same time, the people of Nepal are eagerly awaiting the results of this change. The capitalist-feudal forces represented by the Opposition and the anti-socialist bureaucracy are adopting a policy of ‘wait and watch’. After this political and constitutional change, Nepal now stands on the threshold of a big change at ground level. After the euphoria of victory, it is only initiatives for change at the ground level which can guarantee stability to this political and constitutional change.

The ruling NCP believes that it has achieved a new democratic revolution through peaceful means. They believe the building of the new people’s Constitution and the mandate to the Communist government with two-thirds majority to be two prime examples of this. They, however, acknowledge the important role played in this change by the decade-long armed struggle and the great sacrifices of the Nepali people. It is their belief that under the Communist leadership, capitalist development in Nepal will now be joined with the policies of socialist transformation. Persons eligible for the People’s Liberation Army of the people’s war phase have been absorbed into various posts in the Nepali army. Soldiers who are unfit have been given financial aid of Rs 10 lakhs each. Vigorous discussion is going on in the government and in Nepali society on the issue of fundamental changes in the agrarian sector for the development of Nepal; discussions are also on for increasing agricultural produce and making changes in the land system. One of the big challenges is to improve farming in the terai and hill regions of Nepal and to improve the standard of living of the 65% population dependent on agricultural for their livelihood. There is a section which believes that private ownership of land should end, while another believes that cooperative farming should be started without disturbing private land ownership. The main Opposition party appears in agreement with the latter opinion. Farmers are troubled by the supply of cheap vegetables and sugar cane from India in the terai regions, because this makes the price of their produce fall and they are not able even to recover outlay costs.

As part of agrarian reforms, Nepal has constituted a National Farmers’ Commission. The decision to form this Commission was taken two years prior to the building of the new Constitution, and talks are on for giving a constitutional status to this Commission. When a Commission is formed in other countries, its Chairman is either a retired judge or official. The formation of this Commission brings hope because its Chairman is the Comrade Chitra Bahadur, the current President of CPN’s farmers’ organisation. Seven out of the four members of the Farmers’ Commission are still directly leading farmers’ movements. Comrade Chitra Bahadur remained present throughout the Conference, listened with great attention to each speaker, and personally noted down their experiences and suggestions. We also eagerly look forward to the Nepal National Farmers’ Commission’s report.

The talk among the ruling Communist Party leaders is that the new democratic revolution will move forwards to democracy and socialism only through agrarian revolution, but the Agriculture Ministry presentation did not emphasise the need to eliminate feudal remnants by changing land relationships and production relationships through comprehensive land reforms. Nepal has given food sovereignty and food security the status of fundamental rights in its new Constitution, but there still seems to be a gap between the government and Party leaders in their understanding of policies. There were different emphases between the presentation by the Agriculture Ministry and the presentation by ruling Party Kisan (farmer) leaders. The design for agrarian development presented by the Agriculture Ministry did not have any resolution for protecting agricultural lands and traditional seeds from the clutches of corporate houses and multinational companies. Without this, how food sovereignty can be protected is the question facing Nepal Communists. When I spoke about all this to CPN National President Comrade Pushp Kamal Dahal Prachand, he replied that there are indeed some differences between the CPN perspective and that of the Nepal State, and these will be resolved through internal debates and struggles.  

The earlier close relationship felt by the Nepali people and the Nepal’s Government towards India appears to have suffered a setback now. Dependent for centuries on India and Indian border roads for all essential goods, the economic blockade imposed by India which caused the people of Nepal extreme distress is still a nightmare for them. The Nepali people did not like Modi’s propaganda in the name of aid by the Indian government and by corporate houses during the terrible earthquake in Nepal. Moreover, Indian Rs 24,000 crores in notes of 500 and 2000 were in circulation in Nepal at the time of demonetisation, and a poor country like Nepal had to bear a huge loss of Rs 24,000 crores due to the Modi government’s decision to demonetise. The RSS conspiracy to meddle in Nepal’s affairs and try to make it a Hindu Rashtra once again has also played its role in widening the distance between India and the people of Nepal, who had sacrificed so much to achieve democracy. Today Nepal and its people do not want to remain so dependent on India and Indian borders in order to avoid further distress. Therefore, they are developing business and trade relations with China in addition to India. As a sovereign nation, this is the right step for Nepal so that it can increase its bargaining power instead of remaining dependent on other countries.

To sum up, Nepal has surely seen the emerging dawn, but now the Nepali people are eagerly waiting for better days ahead. Along with the people of Nepal, the eyes of the Indian sub-continent and democracy-loving forces are also focused on the steps Nepali comrades and the government of Nepal will take in the future. We have every hope that they will succeed in their goals.