| Baburam Bhattarai
Kathmandu, April 26: The Nepalese people should be “fully sovereign”, they should write their own constitution and the armed forces should be under the complete control of the people’s representatives and not the King, Maoist leader Baburam Bhattarai said, enumerating the basic demands of his organisation.
He described the parliamentary system that was introduced in 1990 as “partial democracy” and claimed that it had finally collapsed after the King dismissed Sher Bahadur Deuba’s elected government on October 4, 2002.
“The political parties in Nepal compromised with the King in 1990 and, as a result, they are nowhere today. We want them to work along with us to usher in full-fledged democracy. They should join us to complete the democratic revolution in Nepal,” he said.
Bhattarai, who has often talked of the need for “new democracy”, explained the concept saying: “In new democracy the leadership is with the proletariat. That remains our long-term programme. But our immediate programme is to have what we call complete democracy. We want a new model of democracy.
“In our country, the sovereign right is exercised by the palace and the King can do away with the constitution. The people should have the right to make their own constitution. That is why we are asking for a constituent assembly. After October 4, there has been a constitution vacuum in Nepal — the old constitution no longer exists and there is nothing to take its place.”
The Maoist leader said the immediate need was to hold a round-table conference of all political forces in the country.
“The round-table conference will write an interim constitution and form an interim government. This interim government would then hold a general election to form the new constituent assembly,” he said, explaining the Maoist road-map ahead.
Bhattarai claimed that the monarchy had played out its historical role in Nepal. “If even now the King wants a role, then he will have to abide by the will of the people as expressed through the constituent assembly. Only the constituent assembly can decide whether the King is still needed or not,” he said.
Explaining his agenda for social transformation, Bhattarai said Nepal was basically an agrarian economy and the Maoists “would like to bring about fundamental changes in agrarian relations by destroying the feudal system and handing land to the tiller”.
He said Nepal needed to industrialise so that surplus labour from agriculture could be absorbed.
“Our only natural resource is water and we need to use it in the best interests of the people,” he said.
Nepal, Bhattarai claimed, suffered from “aggravated dependency” and needed to be self-reliant. “I am not saying that we should close the door on foreigners. If after using our resources judiciously, we feel that we need selective assistance, then we can seek foreign help,” the Maoist leader said.
To make Nepalese democracy more inclusive, Bhattarai said: “We want the right to self-determination for the various ethnic groups and autonomy for the regions within a unified state”.
“The gender question is also on top of our agenda. Nepal was never a Hindu state. Hinduism came from India and was imposed on us. Our women were oppressed because of the social caste culture that comes with Hinduism,” he said.
“We want to free them from the patriarchal caste culture. Their representation in the legislature should be proportionate to their population. More than 20 per cent of our population consists of Dalits who are oppressed and excluded from the political structure. They too should have their representation,” the Maoist leader added.
If peace were to eventually break out, how would the armed Maoist cadres be rehabilitated' “Where is the question of rehabilitation of cadres' We are not surrendering. Since we would be destroying the old system a new system would take its place. Everyone — including us, the King and the political parties — will have to rehabilitate, adjust ourselves to the new reality,” he argued.
However, Bhattarai suggested that the armed cadre could be integrated into the Nepalese army. “One of the issues being negotiated is the creation of an integrated national army under the control of the people’s representatives. This even the political parties realise,” he said.