Maoists celebrate uprising anniversary under shadow of rift

February 12th, 2009 - 4:20 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Feb 12 (IANS) Remembering this day 13 years ago when they first began an armed insurrection, Nepal’s ruling Maoist party Thursday began spectacular celebrations of the 14th anniversary of the revolt even as a top leader quit to form his own faction.

In a show of might, nearly 2,000 combatants of the guerrilla People’s Liberation Army (PLA) staged a marchpast at Hattikhor village in western Nawalparasi district as Maoist supremo Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, who had led the 10-year “People’s War” as its supreme commander, inaugurated the festivities that will run for a week.

Besides speeches by the formerly underground party’s top leaders and cultural shows, a six-day long sports tourney has also been organised to mark the uprising anniversary as well as the eighth PLA Day.

Welcome gates have been erected at the site, that is actually a PLA barracks, and 14 messes have been set up to feed the thousands of guests expected during the week-long programme.

On Feb 13, 1996 - the first day of spring according to the Nepali calendar - the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) launched its war to end Nepal’s Shah dynasty of kings, attacking six places simultaneously at night.

Besides a police post at Holeri in remote Rolpa district, considered the cradle of the red revolt, a rag-tag army armed with mostly home-made guns and bombs also attacked two more police posts in Rukum and Sindhuli, a bank in Gorkha and an individual in Kavre district.

In capital city Kathmandu, their target was the Pepsicola factory.

Due to the vagaries of the Nepali calendar, the anniversary this year falls Feb 12.

Since the start of the People’s War in 1996, Nepal has undergone a sea-change. The former guerrillas won their war against king Gyanendra, effecting the abolition of monarchy last year.

The Maoists also laid down arms and signed a peace pact three years ago to take part in a historic election last year that saw their party come to power for the first time in Nepal.

This year, there was further cause for jubilation as the Maoists united with a fringe communist party and rechristened itself the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist).

A discordant note, however, came from former Maoist minister and leader from the Terai plains, Matrika Prasad Yadav, who quit the party.

Lawmaker Yadav has also resigned his seat in the Constituent Assembly, accusing Prachanda of deviating from the principles of the revolt and becoming the stooge of “landlords and foreign powers”.

On Wednesday, Yadav said he was resurrecting the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and asked other disgruntled leaders and PLA soldiers to join him in staging a new revolt.

The decision will further complicate the fragile situation in Nepal, especially in the Terai plains where several bands of former Maoists are at war against the Maoist government, giving rise to violence, killings and anarchy.

The Maoist celebrations were also partially dimmed by the absence of senior officials from other parties and foreign dignitaries.

Nepal’s first President, Ram Baran Yadav, did not attend the celebration despite receiving an invitation.

While a few officials of the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) that has been supervising the PLA since the Maoists signed the peace pact, attended the inaugural programme, other foreign envoys, including officials of the Indian Embassy, were conspicuous by their absence.

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