There is a showdown shaping up in Nepal between the elected Maoist government and the former Royal Nepali Army, the main obstacle to getting rid of all the rotten feudal relations that keep the vast majority of Nepali's trapped in poverty. As is being reported and discussed on Kasama:
A series of events have sharpened the confrontation between the Maoists of Nepal and the high command of the National Army (which is the reactionary army formed to serve the now-overthrown monarchy.) The Nepali government, headed by Maoists, has demanded that the National Army submit to civilian control (and to a program of transformation and "democraticization"). This has been resisted at each point, exposing the Army’s class character and its anti-revolutionary intentions to a wide section of the public. Now, the Maoist government is pushing the matter — seeking to remove die-hard generals, and setting a date this summer for the completion of the demanded transformation.
The emerging showdown is the result of the refusal of the Nepali Army (foremerly the Royal Nepali Army) to abide by the peace agreements signed in 2006 that brought down Nepal's hated monarchy and opened the way to elections to a new Constituent Assembly that were won, to almost everybody's surprise, by the Maoist party that had waged a 13 year long guerrilla war against the monarchy before forming an alliance with the parliamentary parties that resulted in the King's agreement to step down.
While the culture and the geography of Nepal have been romanticized in the minds of many Western tourists, it is in fact one of the poorest countries on the planet, a country where essentially feudal social relations prevail for much of the population, trapping them in perpetual poverty. This brutal social system was maintained by the Hindu monarchy, which in turn relied on the power of the Royal Nepali Army.
In 2006 the Royal Nepali Army agreed to its democratic transformation and merger with the Maoists smaller Peoples Liberation Army which presently remains in cantonments with their weapons under lock and key under UN observation. there was considerable skepticism atthe time whether this would actually happen, since there was little indication that the traditional parliamentary parties were inclined to actually carry it out. But when the Maoists won a solid plurality in the Constituent Assembly elections last year and gained control over the government it became a burning question that has remained unresolved.
Recently the question of the Nepali Army's subordination to the civilian authority of the democratically elected Maoist government has come to a head around several issues.
The first issue is the refusal of the NA to stop recruitment of new soldiers even though they have been ordered to do so by the Defense Minister. The issue is critical because the recruitment of 3,000 new soldiers only makes the integraton of the two armies more difficult since it is widely agreed that the NA is already too large.
The second issue involves the defiant reinstatement by the NA of eight far-right generals fired by the civilian government.
The third issue was a boycott, again in defiance of the civilian government, by the NA of the Nepali National Games. Chief of Army Staff Rookmangud Katawal boycotted the games because of the participation of PLA soliers in them (hardly an auspicious sign for the unification of the forces).
This week the issue finally began to come to a head:
The Ministry of Defense has given a 24 hour ultimatum to Chief of Army (CoAS) Staff Rookmangud Katawal to furnish clarification on three controversial issues related to the army.
The Defense Ministry has given this ultimatum in a letter it sent to the CoAS Monday seeking clarification on issues related to recruitment in Nepal Army (NA), retirement of eight army generals and boycotting of National Games by NA.
The letter has been formally registered at the NA Headquarters in Bhadrakali, Kathmandu, a ministry source said.
Accusing the CoAS of challenging people’s supremacy by repeatedly disobeying the government orders, a cabinet meeting on Sunday had decided to seek clarification from CoAS Katawal.
The defense secretary had personally called up the CoAS to acknowledge the receipt of the letter, according to reports.
The cabinet decision comes as part of a plan of the Maoist led government to relieve Katawal from his position, it is learnt.
According to a military by-law, the government can relieve the CoAS from his position if the latter does not furnish clarification within 24 hours or if the government is not convinced with the clarification.
The CoAS is normally appointed for three years, but the government can retire him if it deems necessary, the by-law states. However, the CoAS should be given a chance to furnish clarifications on the charges he is accused with.
CoAS Katawal had called on Prime Minister Pushpa Prachanda on Sunday. The PM asked the CoAS to quit and offered to appoint him as an ambassador or the security advisor to the PM if he quits voluntarily, reports say. CoAS Katawal refused PM’s offer, it is learnt.
The story is widely being reported in the Indian and Western corporate media as some sort of undemocratic power grab by the Maoists. The truth, and it needs to get out much more widely, is that the NA is a bastion of the most reactionary elements of and is a major obstacle to the democratization of Nepali society. What is at stake here is the most elementary principle of a democratic society, subordination of the armed forces to a democratically elected civilian government. The leaders of the NA don't like the results of the elections and are resisting being compelled to actually carry out the agreements they made when the Nepali people took to the streets and overthrew the monarchy. They are likely being encouraged in their intransigence by both the Indian and US governments which understand that a democratized army will clear the way for extensive land reform and a clearing out of all the rotten feudal forces that are always willing to cut favorable deals with foreign corporations.