13 MIN READ
There's a popular saying: no one is a permanent friend or enemy in politics. Minister for Home Affairs Ram Bahadur Thapa, alias Badal, and Nepal Communist Party chief Netra Bikram Chand, alias Biplab, were Maoist comrades for 16 years, in the same party's central committee.
On December 24, 2017, Badal issued an arrest warrant for Biplab. So far Nepal Police have arrested more than a hundred of Biplab's party cadres including central committee member Kiran Rai, and Biplab himself is in hiding.
Badal and Biplab had worked in same party committee. Both aimed to establish naya janabadi byabastha (new democratic system) in Nepal. Both had carried guns against the parliamentary system and the monarchy during the 10-year long Maoist conflict.
One of them switched his stance and entered government while the other chose to continue his line of ideology.
Ram Bahadur Thapa, comrade Badal
The Rolpali guerilla team did not know where they were to attack. To maintain secrecy, they had not been informed what their target was. They trudged across snow at night to reach Hyang, their third shelter. Local Maoist cadre Kriti Man Pun was hosting them. Each guerilla practiced rifle-firing twice with the only rifle they had, named whole timer. Comrade Badal gave them their final instruction:
"We guerilla are going to attack against reactionary state power. We could be martyred."
The team's attack on Holeri Police Post launched the People's War in Nepal, on 13th Feb 1996. Among them was Onsari Gharti Magar, female guerilla and Speaker of the second Constituent Assembly. Recalling that night, she said, "We used to worship Badal in Rolpa, and his speeches were like 'the speech of God'."
One of the architects of the People's War, Badal was a hero for the cadres, who copied his hairstyle, way of walking, dress, and manner of speaking. "Almost all of us cadres had joined the war because of Badal. Rolpa and Rukum would not have been [Maoist] bases without Badal," added Onsari.
Rolpa is home to a large number of Magars, the largest single ethnic group of Nepal. Badal, himself the son of an ex-Indian Army Magar, had been sent to Rolpa to develop the foundation of the People's War. His first stage of attack was to damage the "eyes and ears of the reactionary state power"; the supporters and cadres of the ruling party. As part of the Maoists' rural class struggle, they took action against such 'class enemies'.
They killed and injured some Nepali Congress and Rastriya Prajatantra Party cadres. The government then filed cases against hundreds of Maoist supporters and imprisoned them, which pushed members and sympathizers even closer to the party. As a result, the Maoists got chance to recruit hundreds of party full-timers.
Badal ran Sija miteri abhiyan (Sisne-Jalajala friendship campaign) in Rolpa and Rukum, which conducted political activities to attract downtrodden people, building a foundation for the People's War.
Badal, 63, was born in the hills of Gulmi. He had gone to Russia for study, and upon returning, become a communist whole-timer cadre. The Communist Party of Nepal Ekata Kendra (Unity Center), mother party of the Maoists, participated in the parliamentary election of 1991, under the name of Samyukta Janamorcha Nepal (Joint People's Front). The largest party was Nepali Congress, while UML was second. Trailing far behind in third place, with 9 out of 205 seats, was Janamorcha. This left Ekata Kendra with two alternates: to follow UML into parliament or to run an armed struggle.
Ekata Kendra chose the second option, the political line of the People's War, during the Chitwan congress of 1990.
Badal was established as a leader within the Maoist party, and Baburam Bhattarai was established as a Maoist leader among non-Maoists. The party chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda' did not figure anywhere in this equation. Prachanda saw close friend Badal as the main threat to his political career, and he sacked Badal. This happened at a time when the government had been killing Maoist cadres and supports day by day. There were two allegations against Badal. One, that he was a Lin Piao in the party (Lin Piao had attempted to usurp power from Mao in the Chinese Communist Party), and the other, that he was having an extra marital affair with Pampha Bhusal (alias comrade Bidhhut).
Prachanda failed to prove that Badal was a Lin Piaoist, and while Badal and Bidhhut had been demoted to general cadres, eventually both returned to their party ranks.
However, the party's action affected Badal. His personality changed; the charismatic leader and organizer disappeared. His 'model' activities in Rolpa-Rukum never revived, although he had led the valley during a crucial period of the conflict. Badal's aide was arrested, and he himself nearly was too.
Badal and Prachanda's relationship later patched up in the Chunbang meeting, when the Maoists decided to enter parliamentary politics. Badal became general secretary, the second powerful post in the party after chairman Prachanda. Badal became Minister for Defense in the Prachanda cabinet. During the wartime conflict between Prachanda and Bhattarai, he took Prachanda's side. In the Kharipati meeting of 2008, he was only one among the 35-member central committee to side with neither Baidya nor Prachanda. Because they had 17 supporters each, Prachanda united with Narayan Kaji Shrestha's party overnight to make his majority.
After this, Badal took the side of Baidya-Biplab.
Netra Bikram Chand, comrade Biplab
Born 13 years after Badal, Biplab was the son of a Thakuri father and Magar mother in Rolpa. He became a party full-timer while studying Bachelor's in Law. Biplab was the Lalitpur secretary while Maoists launched the People's War in Nepal. The party sent him to Karnali to build a Maoist base there. He was also among the few lucky youths who were quickly promoted into the central committee.
Biplab led the Maoist base in Rolpa and other districts as in-charge for four years. When Prachanda returned from India, he stayed with Biplab and the two became close. Given Biplab’s political views, Prachanda sensed that Biplab would not assist his entry into Baluwatar (to become Prime Minister). Prachanda transferred Biplab to the Far West (Seti-Mahakali in-charge); this was a means of separating Biplab from the Maoist heartlands.
In the first Maoist meeting after the peace process, in Balaju, cadres questioned Prachanda about the legacy of the People’s War, and the future of the martyr families, the injured, and the party cadres. Prachanda failed to answer to their satisfaction.
Despite his low profile, Biplab organized the dissatisfactions in the lower level party committees. He united those who had been sidelined, who were without power or money in the party committee. He spent more time meeting cadres than senior leaders, winning the cadres’ trust.
Biplab’s wife Shobha Malla helped further reify support for him. She ran goat farming and vegetable farming in Maoist base areas, while wives of other Maoist leaders had gained notoriety for treating cadres as servants.
Biplab rejected the government positions be had been offered. Despite this, his rented room at Chabahil was always full of cadres from across country. For the youth cadres of the party, Biplab became Badal, erstwhile hero of Rolpa-Rukum.
Badal and Biplab
Badal and Biplab became comrades of same party committee in 1998. Mohan Baidya and other leaders were released from jail in India 10 days after the signing of the comprehensive peace accord in 2006. Baidya’s return led to a schism: whether to accept the multiparty system or go further into establishing communism.
Badal sat in the middle for a long time. His neutral role indirectly helped Biplab continue organizing dissatisfactions in the party ranks.
Some months after the peace process began, Biplab reached Kathmandu, where he met Prachanda and other senior leaders. He was aware that Prachanda and the 'class enemies' were becoming closer.
Biplab went back to the Far West, and ran a sukumbasi’s (landless people’s) campaign. Badal, then an in-charge of the party’s Eastern command, issued a ‘Red Salute’ through a press statement. This brought Badal and Biplab closer.
Under Girija Prasad Koirala’s premiereship, the government restored police posts in villages affected by the Maoist conflict. However, Biplab captured weapons from the restored police posts in western Nepal, creating waves both inside and outside the party. Prachanda attempted to take action against Biplab, but Badal opposed it, preventing Prachanda from doing anything about it. This brought Badal and Biplab closer.
In the Dhobighat meeting of 2011, Mohan Baidya, Baburam Bhattarai, Badal and Narayan Kaji Shrestha took a unified stance in nominating Baburam for PM, making Prachanda a minority. This brought Badal and Biplab closer.
Questions and dissatisfactions in the party intensified, but Biplab had no towering personality to consolidate those grievances against Prachanda. So Biplab convinced party vice chairman Mohan Baidya and general secretary Badal to carry on the flag of the unfinished revolution. That day, Biplab shared with his aides, "The volley ball game will be interesting now. Finally we have spikes."
Badal-Biplab formed the new Maoist party, Communist Party of Nepal- Maoist (CPN-M) under the leadership of Baidya in 2012. Badal was nominated as the general secretary and Biplab as the secretary.
It was 12th Feb, 2013. A team that included Badal, Biplab, C.P. Gajurel and Indra Mohan Sigdel left Tharpu village to head to Thabang, heartland of the Maoist insurgency in Nepal, to celebrate People’s War Day the next day. The jungle path was a straight ukalo (uphill).
Badal and Gajurel were having difficulty climbing the slope. When the team reached Bhedikhark khola of Uwa, Badal sat on a rock. Standing in front of him, Biplab said with a smile, “Ukali-orali has become difficult for you [seniors]. The party should be handed over to the youth, isn't it, Badal dai?”
The cadres laughed at this question, but the senior leaders’ faces grew dark. Badal did not answer.
A rift had long been growing between the two. Party leaders and cadres used to meet Biplab more than Badal despite the former being of lower rank. Biplab spent most of his time outside the valley, forming party organizations. CPN-M had failed to deliver on their promises. The party was divided between Biplab and youth leaders and cadres on the one side, and Badal and senior leaders on another.
Biplab waited for Badal's answer for two years and then chose a separate road in 2014. Badal's ideological line was that of people's revolt on the basis of people's war, which stipulated that the war created a foundation, and now was the time for urban insurrection as a means of takeover of power. Biplab's, on the other hand, was that of ekikrit janakranti, unified revolution; according to this line, the structure of Nepali society had changed, and both the proletariat and middle class needed to be unified for class struggle.
Confrontation between comrades
Badal returned to the old Maoist party to shake hands with Prachanda. Badal was elected in the upper house.
Biplab boycotted the elections.
Three days after becoming Home Minister, Badal issued a warrant against Biplab to appear in court within 70 days. The warrant was posted at the home of Biplab's elder brother Chandra Bahadur Chand, in Kapilbastu.
Responding to the warrant, Biplab's party Communist party of Nepal (CPN) sent letters to chiefs of local bodies to resign from their posts and issued a warrant against Prime Minister KP Oli and Prachanda, demanding they attend jana adalat (people's court) in Rolpa within two weeks.
The Biplab-led CPN had already formed jana sarkar (people's government) under the leadership of Santosh Budha Magar.
Badal also ordered a list of the all the cadres and leaders affiliated with Biplab, to track them, intensifying the search for Biplab.
"The 'sarkari (government) leftists' want to stop the revolt by arresting the 'bidrohi (rebel) leftists', and 'bidrohi leftists' want to replace sarkari leftists through revolt. Now, both are in crisis," said former chief of CPN-Maoist Center's cultural wing Balaram Timilsina.
Cycle of history
Around the beginning of the People's War, the late Khum Bahadur Khadka, and post-royal takeover Kamal Thapa, as home ministers, had a policy of suppressing the then Maoist rebels by force. They took no initiative for dialogue. Now, Badal is following in their footsteps.
At the time, Badal had been an important mobilizer for the People's War. Now, Biplab is following in his footsteps, with his ekikrit janakranti.
The actions of both indicate a new conflict simmering beneath.
We welcome your comments at [email protected]
Nabin Bibhas Nabin Bibhas has worked as a journalist for a decade, and closely follows Nepal's politics. He is the author four collections of essays, poetry, and short stories. He tweets @NabinBibhas
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