This newspaper had supported the ban on the Netra Bikram Chand ‘Biplob’-led Communist Party of Nepal (CPN) after the group orchestrated a couple of blasts in the national capital at the start of 2019. The outfit was behaving less like a political party and more like a terror group. Its political existence should be recognized and formal negotiations for its mainstreaming should begin only when it unconditionally laid down arms, we had argued. The government seemed to agree. Today, the party is still to formally renounce violence and yet the same government that banned the outfit has started talking to it.
Whatever our earlier reservations, we would be happy if these talks led to a peaceful settlement of the CPN’s misguided armed revolt against the state. And in politics you can never rule out any outcome. Yet the timing of the current talks suggests the KP Oli-led government reached out to the armed group as the Nepal Communist Party faction Oli leads was running out of options. The Supreme Court put paid to Oli’s plans for snap polls. Now he is looking to shore up political support from anywhere he can get it, including from the radical left and the radical right.
The NCP’s Oli faction has sent feelers to the pro-royalist Rastriya Prajatantra Party as the prime minister seeks to project himself as a savior of all Hindus in Nepal. The faction, meanwhile, is also courting disqualified Maoist fighters and now Chand’s outfit. If Oli wants to join hands with these forces under the status quo, he risks putting the country’s recent progressive gains in jeopardy. His government must also explain why it banned Chand in the first place if talks were to be later held with no change in the CPN’s violent modus operandi.
If the armed comrades want to join peaceful politics, they should be welcomed with open arms. After all, the long and bloody Maoist insurgency would not have ended had the then insurgents not been given a space in mainstream politics. Yet right now many suspect Oli’s goal could simply be to use the muscle-power of Chand’s militia to hound and harass the leaders and cadres of the NCP’s rival Dahal-Nepal faction. If so, the already worrying state of criminalization of Nepali politics could get worse, and even as the victims of the Maoist war await justice, the use of violence will once again be legitimized.