Narayan Hiti Killings and After

Anand Swaroop Verma

The prominent Nepalese daily ‘Kantipur,’ which is published from Kathmandu, carried an article by an important Maoist leader Dr. Babu Ram Bhattarai, in its June 6 issue.

This article describes the massacre of King Birendra and members of his family as an international conspiracy in which the US intelligence agency CIA and the Indian counter-intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) had their hand. It was asserted in this article that India has got in the new King Gyanendra a new Jigme Singhe (King of Bhutan) and a ’grand design’ has been prepared to Bhutanise Nepal and thereafter embark upon its Sikkimisation. Dr Bhattarai has said in this article – ‘Despite numerous differences we believe all the kings of the Shah dynasty, right from Prithvi Narain Shah to King Birendra, struggled – first against the British colonialists and then the Indian expansionists - so as to contribute to the defence of the sovereignty and independence of Nepal.’ Dr. Bhattarai called upon the officers and men of the armed forces, dedicated to serve the ‘King and the country’ that now when they have failed to protect the King, they should devote themselves, in a new manner, to defend the country. He further appealed to the armed forces ‘to stand with the patriotic people of Nepal, who are the sons of the soil, rather than serve as the puppet of expansionism, who has been born as a result of palace intrigues.

It was just two days ago that the new King Gyanendra had ascended the throne and he also knew that the people had thronged the streets to brand his son Paras as the ‘killer’ and were demanding that the two be hanged. The attitude of the newspapers, too, was antagonistic. All this was a matter of concern and anxiety for the King. Prime Minister Koirala was angry with ‘Kantipur’ for quite some time. The young editor of ‘Kantipur’, Yuvraj Ghimire had written quite a lot to highlight the Lauda aircraft scandal and Koirala’s involvement in it. ‘Kantipur’ editor Yuvraj Ghimire was arrested by the time dusk set in. He was charged with sedition. Its Managing Director Kailash Sirohiya and director Binod Gyawali, too, were detained. King Gyanendra and Prime Minister Koirala did not have the slightest inkling of the wave of indignation and resentment these arrests sparked off the world over - including Nepal and India. These arrests were a bonus for the Maoists in as much as the people in Nepal and India took pains to find out ‘Kantipur’ and read the article.

The unfortunate and gruesome massacre at Narayan Hiti sparked off sudden political turmoil in Nepal. It was very difficult for the common masses to understand why was it considered necessary that King Birendra had to be eliminated from the political scenario. But we know too well that nothing happens in such an apparent huff and whatever appears at the surface is the culmination of whatever we regard as ‘sudden’. Generally people are unable to detect what conspires under the surface.

The United States, the Nepalese Congress and the ruling Indian elite are the lot who are the most worried by the escalation of the People’s War - launched by the Maoists in Nepal. As far as America is concerned, it did accord a prominent place to Nepal in its anti-communist agenda as early as 1990, when multi-party democracy was restored there. The intensity of the US animosity towards the CPN (UML), which had come into being through the amalgamation of various communist groups, is too evident in the statement of the then General Secretary Madan Bhandari. I interviewed Bhandari on May 3, 1991. He wanted his Party and the Nepalese Congress to jointly contest the elections as they had, till recently, struggled together which resulted in the ‘limited’ gains of democratic rights for the people. He wanted the elections to be fought on a common programme. The Nepalese Congress, too, was inclined towards this. However, this could not materialise. While explaining this Bhandari said, ‘In fact, US senator Stephen Solarz’, who looks after South Asia affairs, visit to Nepal caused a sea change in the attitude of the Nepalese Congress. He emphasised that the leftists should not have been inducted into the interim government. He asserted that the communists are being ‘wiped out’ all over the world and therefore they should not be encouraged in Nepal. Solarz assessed that if the leftists won the elections then it would be a very dangerous situation for democracy. The CPN (UML) is a parliamentary democratic party and its agenda has no mention of armed struggle – even for the distant future – and yet the US was worried about any increase in its sphere of influence. It is easy to imagine, in this context, the extent to which America is worried over the ever growing influence of the Maoists.

It was just this February that a noted American intelligence firm Stratfor published its global intelligence update, in which it was stated, ‘...Maoist insurgents have already captured one-third of the country and announced the creation of a provisional government that aims to takeover the country within one or two years. Whole units of Nepalese police have abandoned their posts and fled from the line of confrontation with the rebels, reported the Kathmandu Post on January 3. The army prefers to stay neutral, even if Maoist detachments are nearby. The population in Maoist-dominated regions seem to support the insurgents while some in government-controlled districts sympathies with them... if current trends are unchanged, the chaos could ultimately lead to the government’s collapse and the potential victory for the Maoist rebels.’ It further states that ‘if a future Nepal Government becomes Maoist, this government will likely lean toward Beijing. China’s presence in Nepal would complicate positions for the US Navy in the Indian Ocean.’

A possible victory of the Maoists in Nepal can significantly change the balance of power in South Asia in favour of China. A situation which certainly is a cause of serious anxiety for America. It believes that it has, after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, contained the ‘danger’ of communism. According to a news report published in the Washington Post on March 24, 2001, the US Secretary for Defence Donald Rumsfeld, has advised President Bush that ‘there should be a shift in policy from Europe to Asia, where China is seen as a growing threat compared to the decreasing danger posed by Russia.’ Defence Secretary Rumsfeld’s advice is nothing new. Even during the days of the Clinton Administration America’s principal target was South Asia. Lieutenant General Patrick M. Hughes, Director of the American Defense Intelligence Agency had told the US Senate Committee, in 1997, and warned about the potential threats to the American interests in the days to come. His report on the subject stated – ‘China is one of the few powers with the potential – political, economic and military – to emerge as a large-scale regional threat to US interests within the next 10-20 years. Given Asia’s growing global economic importance, its unsettled security picture, and the fact that four of the world’s major powers – China, Russia, Japan and the US – all have interests and a presence there, the continued monitoring of Asia’s security environment – and notably its biggest country, China – will remain a primary task for the US Defense Intelligence Community.’

This report was presented in 1997, when the Maoist People’s War in Nepal had hardly completed its first year. Everybody expected at that time, that this would soon come to an end. But as the People’s War spread and advanced the US activities increased in this region. Simultaneously, the economic sanctions, imposed by America against India after Pokhran II were steadily withdrawn. It was followed by fresh proposals regarding the cooperation between the US and India in military spheres. The most significant event in this series of defence cooperation occurred when US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage visited Delhi and secured the total support of the Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh on the US sponsored National Missile Defense (NMD) system. On May 17, Frank Pallone, the founder and co-chairperson of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, said on the floor of the House of Representatives ‘it is time the world’s two greatest democracies came together as natural allies...such an alliance would help secure our national security and those of our allies while isolating nations, such as China which pose a threat to India and other democracies.’

The process of intense cordial military relations began in 2001. It is in this backdrop that sponsored and planted news could be found in the Indian media about the establishment and the working of ISI centres in Nepal. Knowing well that the Nepalese Maoist leader-ship considers China as a revisionist state the US Administration is quite confident that if the Maoists come to power in Nepal, China would be naturally and favourably inclined towards them. It is equally relevant that the US involvement in Tibet might give rise to some new complications. It is evident that America had started to loath King Birendra because he did not allow the use of the Army against the Maoists. Even when he softened his stand, under terrific pressure, it was only for the deployment of the Army and not for combat.

Koirala too had a similar grudge. Ever since the serious action and attack by the Maoists in Dolpa he was demanding military support from King Birendra and the pressure for this intensified after the April incidents in Rukum. Koirala had some success in April when King Birendra consented to promulgate an ordinance for the formation of an Armed Police Force. Then the King also agreed to the deployment of ‘armed forces’ in Maoist dominated districts, under the Integrated Security and Development Package (ISDP). And still, the King did not deviate from his concept that the army should be used only to counter foreign aggression and not to repress any people’s movement. He was equally aware of the increasing cordiality in the relations between India and America. He was particular in maintaining a balance in his relations with India and China. On the other hand the Koirala Government did announce and attempt negotiations with the Maoists, but there was an element of cunning, every time, behind such moves. The talks (3 November, 2000), which Deputy Prime Minister Ram Chandra Paudel conducted with the Maoists, ended in a fiasco, thanks to his mischief. The CPN (Maoist) Chairman Prachand issued a statement on April 7 and urged the Government and other forces to ‘seriously work for dialogue or be ready for even graver consequences’7 but the Government did not take any initiative for talks. Of course, Defence Minister Mahesh Acharya offered the information that the ‘political sub-committee under ISDP under the chairmanship of Deputy Prime Minister Ram Chandra Paudel is there for the purpose of conducting dialogue with various political parties including Maoists.’8 She however made yet another comment through which the increasing contradictions between the government and the palace surfaced. While agreeing to the deployment of the army under the ISDP King Birendra had told the Government that it should develop a national consensus on the issue. But this statement of Mahesh Acharya that ‘national consensus cannot be a precondition for the government implementing any programme such as ISDP’ is a clear indication that the Government was not agreeable to King Birendra’s suggestion.

The Second Congress of the CPN (Maoist) made alterations in the organisational structure of the Party. It restructured the Party with a three-tier system: a Central Committee, a Polit Bureau and a Standing committee. The then General Secretary Prachand was elected the Chairman of the Party. The most important part of the Congress is related to its political programmes, which the Party described as an ‘ideological synthesis’.9 It expressed the hope that ‘this would play important role in unifying the Nepalese communist movement and in forwarding world revolution in the 21st century’.10

The national and international forces who were determined to crush the Maoist movement in Nepal were greatly perturbed by the documents of the Second Congress of the CPN (Maoist) in which it had developed a mass line through the ‘fusion of armed insurrection and people’s war’. If the party would have confined itself to the activities such as guerrilla warfare, developing base areas, formation of liberated zones or mobilising a people’s army, it would have not raised such an alarm among its enemies. The experience of the past two and half decades teaches us that many revolutionary groups in the world could not go further to any significant stage merely through such programmes. They were suppressed either by national and international reaction or they themselves stagnated. It was difficult to retain even their initial advances. Party leader Prachand too had asserted once that an armed struggle without vision becomes victim of a type of armed economism, i.e. a kind of reformism, armed reformism.11 It is for this reason that a living and vibrant relationship between the armed struggle and the mass movement was evolved. The relevant and significant decisions, in this regard, adopted by the Second Congress are as under:

(a) No definite model based on past proletarian revolution can he applied as due to new changes in the world, it has brought forth concrete methodology of fusion of the strategy of general insurrection into the strategy of protracted people’s war in Nepal;

(b) A materialistic review of the Nepalese history shows that the Nepalese society, in essence and in psychological make up, has remained pro-democratic and self-governing and feudalism has forcibly suppressed that great tradition of the people of Nepal. Through this review of the Nepalese history it has provided the materialistic ground for forging a broad united front by concretely locating the historical roots of the patriotic and traitorous trends seen in the country today;

(c) The Congress, has seriously raised the issue of the historic necessity of developing only one communist party based on correct ideology. It has appealed to all the communist revolutionaries of the country to march ahead with the process of unification and speed up the process of revolutionary polarisation;

(d) By identifying many weaknesses that have come up during People’s War, it has put forward a clear methodology of correcting such weaknesses.

(e) The question of organising people’s army at the central level and the military strategy and tactics under the new condition (including fusion of the strategy of insurrection into that of protracted people’s war) has been dealt with in detail;

(f) The document has provided detailed explanation of a mass line based on the experiences of the People’s War... It has stressed the development of a mass line based on new thinking;

(g) The party has formulated the main strategic slogan for the coming days as ‘consolidate and expand base areas and local people’s power’ and ‘March forward to the direction of building central people’s government’; and

(h) On a tactical plane it has been proposed to have dialogue with all concerned sections to call an all-section conference of all political parties, organizations and representatives of mass organisations in the country, election of an interim government by such a conference and guarantee of a people’s constitution under the leadership of the interim government.

The methodology of political mobilisation, which the Party began practicing in the post Second Congress period, indicates quite a flexible attitude and approach. The Party chairman Prachand went a step further in inviting ‘all such sincere elements who are willing to shed off their narrow and personnal interests in the larger interests of the country and the people to participate in the all Party conference’.12 Barring Nepalese Congress all other parties have shown positive attitude towards this initiative from the Maoists. However, the main opposition Party, CPN (UML) expressed its discord by saying that the present Constitution is the outcome of the 1990 movement and yet it accepted that there are certain shortcomings in this Constitution which could be removed through amendments. Criticising the Koirala government a senior politician and a member of the Standing Committee of the UML, Jhal Nath Khanal said that it lacks political vision, due to which it is not prepared to talk with the Maoists. He said, ‘the process can begin by bringing them to the negotiating table to discuss what are the main changes they want to the new constitution, and if those things can be corrected through amendments... we are optimistic that we can reach an agreement on constitutional reform with the Maoists.’13 CPN (ML) leaders, Bamdev Gautam and C.P. Mainali, are willing to talk with the Maoists and participate in the all Party Conference sponsored by them. Even in the ruling Nepalese Congress former Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and the faction led by him favour a compromise with the Maoists. Yet Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and Deputy Prime Minister Ram Chandra Paudel are of the view that the Maoists should be handled sternly. Paudel says ‘The Maoists won’t come to the talks unless they are cornered.’14 He does regard the CPN (UML) positive attitude towards the Maoist proposal as their compulsion. He says that ‘the Maoists are pulling the rug from beneath the UML and wooing away their cadre.., if this situation continues, the UML could even be pushed aside.’15 Quite obviously he is confident that the Maoists can be beaten on the battle front, yet has conceded in this interview that the men or the Armed Police Force, which is being raised to contain the Maoists, would need a years training to be competent enough to combat them. In the mean time the newspapers are devoting more and more space to the news that there would be an all Party Conference at the initiative of Maoists in which a new government might be constituted. A favourable atmosphere is developing in the support of such an eventuality.

The Maoists wanted to communicate to Koirala and Paudel through their attack and loot on Rukumkot and Dailekh police posts, that there is no doubt they have put the task of political mobilisation and mass struggle at the top of their agenda, but that they have not abandoned the military line. One of the Maoist leaders Bigyan Roka told a mass meeting on April 7, at Simli (Rukum) that the Party undertook that action in order to challenge the government’s decision to form the Armed Police Force and Regional Administrators through ordinances.

Despite this stand the Maoists leadership would try not to involve itself unnecessarily in military confrontation. It is quite conscious that the national and international conspiracy, of which King Birendra was a victim, might logically culminate into engulfing Nepal into a civil war in which foreign interference might become inevitable. Such a situation might provide a respite to the political life of Prime Minister Koirala, but it would force the people of Nepal to inhale gunpowder as their fate at least for quite some time. Even at the time of the days of action in Dolpa, the CPN (ML) leader Bamdev Gautam and others had warned that the use of the Army against the Maoists would push the entire country into civil war. If the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister would have put in even a fraction of their energy, which they did in order to push forward their plan for the deployment of the Army against the Maoists, in sorting out the political solution to the problem, then the situation would have been possibly quite different. Last year Paudel deliberately sabotaged the talks with the Maoists. Despite this the Maoists continuously sent feelers to the Government so that the talks could begin. The noted human rights leader Padma Ratna Tuladhar had mediated in the talks which ended in fiasco. He asserted – in March 200 l – ‘Prachand ji has told me personally that if there is a progress in talks then the Peoples War could be halted. And the Prime Minister has told me that there could be a general amnesty and compensation if talks succeed.’ When both sides were eager and willing to negotiate why did these talks not materialise? Did they fail simply for want of an agreement over the modalities? Were there such forces which were instigating a military solution rather than a political one? Who was conspiring to push the country into a civil war? To whom was Tuladhar was pointing by saying that ‘violence could be benefiting some, there are profits for those dealing in arms. Those groups may not want talks’. Tuladhar had expressed his apprehension, in this very interview that if the present situation deteriorated civil war might erupt. King Birendra’s hesitation in deploying the army must have been prompted by these reasons. No doubt, the political scenario in Nepal, just before the massacre of King Birendra and his family was quite turbulent.

The United States State Department’s reaction, on exactly the second day of the gruesome killing, is worth noting. It issued a statement in which it asserted – ‘our embassy in Nepal says that King Birendra was reportedly killed last Friday in Kathmandu along with other members of his family. It is not clear who was responsible but it does not appear to have been a politically motivated assassination.’ A senior official of the US State Department asserted, in this context that, ‘the killings apparently were the result of an incredible quarrel in the family that went incredibly bad.’20 The same official expressed his concern that the Maoists might draw mileage out of this situation. It is quite interesting and surprising that even the Nepal Government had not been able to determine, at this stage, how and why this massacre took place. Home Minister Paudel was issuing contradictory statements and shifting his positions. In one of these statements he had stated, referring to high level military sources, that crown prince Dipendra was the killer; but he contradicted himself only the next morning, saying that the administration had no knowledge and information how this massacre took place as everything occurred in the palace. And yet, the US State Department was insistent that there was no conspiracy and Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee echoed this by dittoing the US State department saying that he did not see any conspiracy in it. If the people were demonstrating on the streets of Kathmandu, this June 3, branding Koirala government ‘a puppet government with the strings in foreign hands’ they had some valid reasons for the same.

The Maoists have commended the nationalist approach and vision of King Birendra while some political analysts have termed it as ‘opportunism’. They find it hard to believe how those calling themselves republicans are appreciating the king. They forget that the Maoists are opposed to the institution of monarchy and despite praising and hailing the nationalist approach of King Birendra, the struggle for the abolition of royalty can be led to a logical conclusion. Not to understand this dialectics is to over simplify things. There are numerous examples in history how a nationalist king can join, at the time of an imperialist aggression, the ranks of patriotic forces.

The lobbying to build a favourable atmosphere in support of the new King Gyanendra in the country and abroad has begun. Some aristocratic journalists, displaying their political and economic clout, are working overtime to acquaint people with the ‘expertise and talent of King Gyanendra’. These elements are arguing that only those people are trying to see a conspiracy in the massacre in Narayan Hiti who find the conspiracy theory suitable to their agenda. Some of these intellectuals have landed in India to conduct a propaganda drive here in favour of the new king. Though their presence undoubtedly, is more required in Nepal itself, at the moment, as Parliament is to begin its session there from June 26, 2001 and the leader of the Opposition Madhav Nepal has raised a discussion on the report of the high power Enquiry Committee. A member of the Human Rights Commission of Nepal Sushi Pyakurel has called upon the parliamentarians that they should courageously act to bring out the truth behind the massacre.

Nepal, today, is passing through the most crucial period of its history. The days to come are most challenging for it. The people of Nepal have never been under imperialist domination. As such their psyche has never been colonialised. In fact herein lies their greatest asset and strength. If Nepal and its people emerge successful in meeting the challenges at this critical juncture, they would carve out a new vision and path - not only for the people of South Asia, but for the entire world.


1. Baburam Bhattarai’s article Nayan ‘Kot Parv’ Lai Manyata Dinu Hundaina (We Must Not Legitimise This Massacre), Daily ‘Kantipur’, 6 June, 2001.

2. Ibid.

3. CPN (UML) General Secretary Madan Bhandari’s interview in the film Dawn of Democracy (Produced by Third World Studies Centre, Delhi) in 1991. Later this interview was published in the May-June 1993 issue of Samkalin Teesari Duniya, Delhi.

4. Stratfor Report on Nepal, Newslook online magazine, 4 January, 2001.

5. Global Threats and Challenges to the United States and its lnterests Abroad, Statement for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Lt. Gen. Patrick M. Hughes, 5 February 1997.

6. Times of India, 19 May 2001.

7. Kathmandu Post, 8 April 2001.

8. Kathmandu Post, 18 May 2001.

9. Press communiqué of the Second National Congress of CPN (Maoist).

10. Ibid.

11. See the interview of Prachand by Li Onesto, Revolutionary Worker, Chicago, February 2000. In a reply to a question, Prachand said – ‘...In South Asia there is a tendency of armed economism – a kind of reformism, armed reformism...Armed struggle with no vision – this line exists in India. Some groups say guerrilla zone, guerrilla zone. For 25 years they say guerrilla zone, but there is not any perspective, real perspective. And we knew this question of guerrilla zone and base area was going to be a very serious question. We tried to clear up these questions because base areas is a strategic question for protracted people’s war. Without the aim of base areas there is no real people’s war.

The question of guerrilla zones is not a strategic question. It is a transitional question – from unarmed masses to armed masses and from the masses without power to the masses with power. To go through this process, the guerrilla zone is only transitional. It is not a strategic question. Therefore we should not confuse the terms guerrilla zone and base area.’

12. Interview of Prachand in weekly Janaadesh (Kathmandu), 17 April 2001.

13. Interview of Jhal Nath Khanal in weekly Nepali Times (Kathmandu), 25-31 May 2001.

14. Interview of Ram Chandra Paudel in weekly Nepali Times (Kathmandu), 25-31 May 2001.

15. Ibid.

16. Kathmandu Post, 8 Apri1 2001.

17. Interview of Padma Ratna Tuladhar in weekly Nepali Times (Kathmandu), 16 March 2001.

18. Ibid.

19. Los Angeles Times, 3 June 2001.

20. Ibid.

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