‘Our challenge is to live up to peoples’ expectations’

Akash Bisht Nepalgunj

Veteran Maoist leader Narendra Jung Peter left his family and friends and took up arms when the Maoists declared the People's War in 1996. He was called insane by some - they obviously didn't believe in his cause. Since then, his life has never been the same. He calls himself a communist of the 21st century and sports a smile that radiates optimism. He now lives a peaceful but active life in Nepalgunj, deeply involved in the political transformation that Nepal is witnessing. He is certain that the republic of Nepal will have a bright and democratic future, though the 'class struggle' will continue.

What are your thoughts on the political turmoil taking place in Kathmandu?
The Maoists have won the elections by a huge margin but they do need the support of other parties to form the government. Since all the parties have different agendas it is becoming difficult to reach a common consensus. But these issues can and will be addressed in due course of time. All parties are unanimous in abolishing monarchy and establishing a government that will pay heed to people's aspirations. They can't chase their own interests anymore. I look forward to the formation of a republic of Nepal.
Our primary responsibility is to form a Constituent Assembly and a democratic set-up so that the mandate given by the people can be respected. It's a new environment, a democratic one, and we have to initiate new steps in the right direction so that we can take Nepal on a path of peace and prosperity. Even Maoists will have to follow this democratic path and work in tandem with other parties for a better Nepal. Therefore, I urge the political parties of Nepal to not dither over trifles, sidelining the national agenda.
How do you look at the Madhesi movement in the Tarai region? Will their suppression continue?
Maoists are not anti-Madhesi. It was the Maoists who took up the Madhesi cause a decade back. Most top leaders of the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF) are ex-Maoists. It was us who demanded autonomy for Madhes when we started the People's War since we understood their issues. For the past 250 years, the people of Nepal have been exploited and suppressed by the ruling classes irrespective of caste and class. We are with the Madness. We understand their angst. But they will also have to understand the current scenario. They must to give the new government a chance to address their problems. This issue cannot be resolved in a day. It has to be dealt with dialogue and discussions in a democratic manner.
Our revolution is not very different from that of the Madhesi movement because we are also fighting the same cause; but we have fused the crisis of identity and class revolution together. We have had many Madhesi leaders and comrades who have died in our revolution because we were fighting against the same evil - feudalism and monarchism. More than 52 of our valiant comrades from Madhes have died fighting this battle. We gave the slogan of Garv se kaho Madhesi that was later used by the Madhesi parties.
Your views on the mandate.
It is unbelievable because we never thought that we would be able to win the people's hearts. For us it is a miracle because it took us only 10 years to do that and no one imagined this. Before elections, all international bodies, including the UN and India, among others, thought we would be the third largest party; but we proved them wrong because the survey they conducted was confined to the metros of Nepal and they didn't consider the rural population. It was because of rural Nepal that we have got such an overwhelming response.
What are your views on the monarchy?
There are no two views about the abolition of monarchy. It was because of monarchy and feudalism that we started our movement and were successful in doing so. The king's days are numbered because they have suppressed people for centuries. Gyanendra and his son are businessmen, not rulers. The cultural, religious and traditional monarchy died with the palace massacre in 2001. Whatever faith people had in the monarchy died on that particular day and now we are just doing the formality.
Maoists have said they want to review the 1950 treaty between India and Nepal. What do you think are the reasons behind this?
When the treaty was signed, India was a poor nation that just got independence and the situation was different then, compared to the present. Today, there is a new world order and both countries should respect it. The 1950 treaty should be looked at in a new manner as needs and expectations of both countries have changed drastically in the past 50 years. Instead of treating Nepal as a younger brother, India should consider it as humane and friendly neighbouring country.
There can never be a treaty between an elephant and an ant. Thus the treaty needs to be reviewed for better relations between the two countries. That doesn't mean we need to alienate ourselves from India. We share so much that even if we want it, that would just not be possible.
What is the biggest challenge for Maoists?
The foremost challenge is to live up to peoples' expectations. We have given the poor the hope of a new republic that will not discriminate between its people. We have told them that there would be no such thing as upper class and lower class and our sole concentration would be on eradicating poverty that has been inflicted upon them for centuries by the ruling classes. Living up to these expectations is the biggest challenge that we face.