Nepalese Maoists strike for integration of Maoist Soldiers into Nepal's security forces, 2009

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Timing
Time Period:  
Time period notes: 
The general strike was indefinitely suspended in late May 2010.
May
2009
to
May
2010
Location and Goals
Country: 
Nepal
Location City/State/Province: 
Kathmandu, Nepal
Location Description: 
The majority of protests took place in the capital city but strikes and protests affected all areas of the country.
Goals: 
Initially: to integrate Maoist combatants into Nepal's security forces.

Later: the resignation of Madhav Kumar Nepal and formation of a government led by the Maoists promoting a New Nepal based on civilian supremacy.

 

The ten year civil war in Nepal that claimed over 13,000 lives ended in 2006 when Maoist insurgents gave up their armed revolt in order to integrate themselves socially and politically. At the end of the war, more than 19,000 former Maoist combatants remained sequestered in barracks controlled by the U.N. Part of the peace agreement called for their gradual integration into Nepal’s security forces, but army chief Rookmangud Katawal, who strongly opposed the integration of politically indoctrinated enemy soldiers, blocked this process.

In April 2008, Maoists won the majority of seats in a constituent assembly formed to draft Nepal’s new constitution. The Constituent Assembly declared Nepal a federal republic, thus ending the 239 year Hindu monarchy. The United Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists (UCPN(M)) became the largest political party in the coalition government alongside the two other main parties, the United Marxist Leninists and the Nepali Congress. In August, Maoist leader, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, known as Prachanda (the fierce one), was elected Nepal’s prime minister. The new government faced the challenge of improving the lives of 27 million people in one of the world’s poorest countries facing fuel shortages and widespread hunger in the countryside.

In May 2009, Prachanda fired the army chief for his continual refusal to move forward with the process of soldier integration. Nepali President Baran Yadav quickly overturned this firing and reinstated Katawal. The Maoists, furious at the president’s violation of his limited constitutional power, left the coalition government with Prachanda resigning in protest.

The Maoists then engaged in a four phase protest against the government. They demanded the integration of former Maoist combatants into the army as required by the 2006 peace accords. Following Prachanda’s resignation, Maoist politicians protested within parliament buildings and on the streets, obstructing normal parliament sessions and all public engagements of the President and newly appointed Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal.

The second phase of protests commenced in November 2009. Prachanda believed that India wielded too much influence over the government in Nepal and the government was not accountable to the Nepali people. Maoists demanded the formation of a government led by the UCPN(M) based on civilian supremacy. Starting on 11 November, thousands of Maoists and supporters marched in the capital city, Kathmandu, blocking access to main government buildings for three days. The Maoists organized torch rallies in the capital and other urban districts. Protesters picketed government administration offices and village development committees across the country, largely preventing government employees from going to work.

The third phase of protests began on 11 December. Over the following week, the Maoists declared 13 symbolic autonomous states within Nepal based on ethnicity and region to establish civilian supremacy, which they accused the government of undermining.

Prachanda called for a three day general strike starting on 21 December that all but paralyzed the country. The largest Maoist protest yet blocked all main roads of the capital and rendered vehicle traffic nearly impossible. This general strike protested President Baran Yadav’s administration and demanded that the current Nepali government restore political power to the Maoists.

The first day of protests accompanying the strike turned violent when police officers brutally retaliated after some protesters began throwing stones. Police had moved in to clear the roads as protesters tried to prevent Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal from returning to his home. Police beat protesters with batons, used water cannons, and doused them in excessive amounts of tear gas. Police arrested over 70 protesters on charges of vandalism. Maoists claimed that police injured more than 100 protesters. Government sources and Maoist representatives debated who initiated the violence during the demonstrations.

On 22 December, the nationwide protests continued. Protesters shouted anti-government slogans in the capital streets and human blockades continued to prevent all vehicle traffic. Police estimated that 4,000 people protested in Kathmandu with other demonstrations taking place in other cities across the country. The following day, protesters engaged in sit-downs in groups of roughly one hundred people, in streets and intersections throughout the city.

The fourth phase of protests began in the last week of December. Prachanda announced that Maoists would launch an open ended general strike if the government failed to address issues of civilian supremacy by 24 January 2010. This meant bringing an end to Indian interference with Nepali politics and establishing a government more truly representative of the Nepali people, headed by the United Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists (UCPN(M)). The Maoists, however, decided to change their strategies just before the launch of the general strike. Prachanda called for the burning of all Indo-Nepal treaties established since 1950. Maoist leaders burned treaties in symbolic protest and organized mass gatherings along the Indo-Nepal border, where Maoists believed Indian encroachment had taken place.

The UCPN(M) had built strong ties with communist China, and the Indian government increasingly sought to isolate the UCPN(M) despite it’s status as the largest party in Nepal's Parliament. Anti-Maoist opposition condemned the UCPN(M) for failing to prioritize the peace process and disrupting the formation of the country’s new constitution. Indian and Nepali governments did not trust the Maoists, fearing they would revert to armed force to pursue their political goals.

The Maoists identified with the poor majority in Nepal and interpreted their campaign as a struggle for a new Nepal based on popular democracy and social justice. On 1 May, over 100,000 villagers and laborers flooded the capital. Supporters stockpiled rice, lentils, and vegetables in wedding halls, schools, and construction sites around the city that served as makeshift camps for protesters. The next day, Maoist leaders declared an open ended strike (Bandh). Supporters closed businesses, schools, and shut down transportation services within the capital and throughout the country. Protesters formed 18 human barricades throughout the city. Music and dance performances surrounded by protesters engaging in sit-downs blocked the major intersections of the capital city and made vehicle travel impossible.

Over the week, the size of protests in Kathmandu became the largest mobilization in Nepali history, involving over 500,000 participants. On 3 May, protesters literally encircled Kathmandu twice, holding hands in two 28 kilometer chains. Protesters burned paper-mâché effigies of the puppet government and cried “La Salaam!” (Red Salute) in the streets. Protesters greeted Prachanda with cheers as he drove the length of the Ring Road encircling the capital.

On 7 May, 20,000 mainly upper class non-Maoists organized an opposition “peace rally,” but anti-Maoists soon began attacking encampments of protesters and taunted crowds with derogatory shouts such as “Prachanda’s head in a noose!” Protesters responded by turning up their music and encouraging people to dance rather than be provoked. That night, Prachanda appeared on TV calling for the suspension of the general strike and for a rally the next day. He stated that the strike was suspended, but the struggle had not ended.

The Maoists refused to negotiate with the government until Madhav Kumar Nepal resigned. Towards the end of May, Maoists threatened to destabilize the country if Nepal did not step down, and the Prime Minister resigned on 30 June 2010 in what he stated was an attempt to save the peace process. The Maoists had come to an agreement with the government to extend the deadline for drafting the new constitution to 28 May 2011. Parliament could not agree, however, on Nepal’s replacement, and he remained in office until Jhalanath Khanla of the United Marxist Leninists party, backed by Prachanda, was elected Prime Minister on 3 February 2011.

The three major parties in parliament came to a consensus on integrating former Maoist combatants into Nepal’s army in November 2011 and over the course of the next two years, 1,460 of the 19,000 soldiers joined the army, 70 at the rank of officer, while the rest returned to civilian life with rehabilitation packages of up to $10,200.

Research Notes
Influences: 

Not known

Sources: 
Brandt , Jed. 2010. “Nepal's 'May Days': a New Phase of Struggle.” Green Left Weekly. Retrieved Oct 24, 2015. (https://web.archive.org/web/20151025041228/https://www.greenleft.org.au/node/44108).

CNN Wire Staff. 2010. “Embattled Nepalese prime minister resigns.” CNN. Retrieved Oct. 25, 2015. (https://web.archive.org/web/20151025220312/http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/asiapcf/06/30/nepal.pm.resignation/).

CNN Wire Staff. 2010. “Thousands of Maoists rally in Kathmandu.” CNN. Retrieved Oct. 25, 2015. (https://web.archive.org/web/20151025215845/http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/asiapcf/05/01/nepal.rally/).

Parajuli, Kalpit. 2010. “Indian interference in Nepali affairs leading to unrest among Maoists.” Asia News. PIME. Retrieved Oct 24, 2015. (https://web.archive.org/web/20151025041411/http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Indian-interference-in-Nepali-affairs-leading-to-unrest-among-Maoists-17287.html).

Pokharel, Tilak and Somini Sengupta. 2008. “Nepal, a Hindu Monarchy For Centuries, Elects a Maoist to Be the Prime Minister.” The New York Times, pp. A6–A6.

(http://search.proquest.com/hnpnewyorktimes/docview/897152409/75D671104A1C435APQ/4?accountid=14194).

Raghavan , V. 2011. “Internal Conflict In Nepal: Implications for India .” Pp. 215–225 in Internal Conflicts in Nepal: Transnational Consequences. IN: Vij Books India Pvt Ltd.

Sharma, Gopal. 2013. “Ex-Maoist fighters join army in Nepal but challenges remain.” Reuters. Retrieved Oct 24, 2015. (https://web.archive.org/web/20151025041525/http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/one-country-two-armies-situation-ends-in-nepal/article3958061.ece).

Yardley, Jim. 2009. “Police And Maoists Clash in Nepal, With 70 Arrested.” The New York Times, pp. A11–A11. (http://search.proquest.com/hnpnewyorktimes/docview/1029887357/75D671104A1C435APQ/1?accountid=14194).

Yardley, Jim, 2009. “Strike Enters Second Day, Paralyzing Most of Nepal.” The New York Times, pp A13-A13. (http://search.proquest.com/hnpnewyorktimes/docview/1030689981/837B64F39CE4437APQ/3?accountid=14194).

Additional Notes: 
As of 2015, the struggle of drafting a constitution for Nepal that fairly represents all sections of society continues.
Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Molly Murphy 25/10/2015