Santosh Budha Magar, 45, is the chief of Magarat Autonomous Republic, the largest ethnic wing of Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist. With his influence spanning in 12 of the 75 districts in Nepal, Magar is believed to be one of the 20 most influential leaders in Nepal's Maoist outfit that has staged the most successful communist rebellion in the twenty-first century. He began left politics in 1979 and has been with the Maoists since the beginning. He is underground ever since Nepal's Maoist insurgency started in February 1996.
In late November this year, IPS interviewed Magar in a remote village in Rolpa district, the headquarters of Nepal's Maoist movement. Here are the excerpts.
IPS: Can you disclose your exact position in your party's political leadership?
Magar: Sorry. We have to keep that a secret.
IPS: Will the ceasefire be prolonged after the three months lapse on December 3?
Magar: It depends on how things unfold. We declared ceasefire (on September 3) with a sincere intention to pave way for peace. The government did not reciprocate. It wants to pull us into war. But there has been a major breakthrough in terms of the recent 12-point agreement with the seven agitating political parties. What I can say for sure at the moment is that we won't allow the government to conduct elections, both municipal and parliamentary. These are mock polls. We won't allow them.
IPS: Lenin saw the urban proletariat as the base for armed revolution, while Mao saw his base in the rural populace. What is different with Nepal's Maoists?
Magar: We have identified our own core people for the revolution on the basis of the demography of our country. We have very few true proletariats here. But we have a large number of oppressed minorities, women, and dalits. They form our revolutionary base. But that does not mean that we have divorced from Marxism, Leninism and Maoism. We have interpreted them in the Nepalese context.
IPS: In the past, communist insurgencies have failed in many parts of the world. Why do you think it will succeed in Nepal?
Magar: We have a very creative leader in Comrade Prachanda. He has learnt from failures of international communist movements. He is aware of the possibility of a counter-revolution. In USSR, there were some weaknesses. Comrade Stalin failed to recognize the counter-revolutionaries who were close to him. Still Comrade Stalin was a great leader. His only problem was that there was no prior experience in the world to draw lessons from.
IPS: What about China?
Magar: After Comrade Mao passed away, China moved towards capitalism. That has disappointed us. We are also disappointed by the fact that China has supplied military hardware to our enemy to kill us.
IPS: Don't you think that communism is an anachronistic political philosophy?
Magar: No. Communism is the most modern political philosophy. It is only 150 years old. On the contrary, capitalism is 600 years old. Capitalism replaced feudalism. Now communism will replace capitalism. This is the law of nature. Capitalism is just for the rich, not for the people.
IPS: But communism has failed in Europe while capitalism has done wonders there.
Magar: It's not that communism has failed in Europe. In fact, capitalism is failing. Communism has only had some rehearsals in Europe so far. When communism replaces capitalism, social issues will receive the priority they deserve.
IPS: Is your party ready for elections?
Magar: Let me explain it to you this way. There are three forces in Nepal right now: feudal represented by the King, capitalists represented by the political parties and communists represented by us. The first and the third forces are fighting. The capitalists are the weakest and the most confused. But still capitalism is more progressive than feudalism. We are ready to work with the capitalists, as multiparty system is always better than feudalism. But we can't go for a multiparty system while the King is still there. We can't overthrow the King through parliamentary elections or even constituent assembly elections. If a constituent assembly decides to remove the King, he will never accept it and the fight will resume. If we win parliamentary elections, still the King will not allow us to rule. He will use his army and arrest us.
IPS: But what good are the parties as allies if they are so weak?
Magar: There is strength in peaceful dissent. In the past, Belgium and the United Kingdom gave weapons to the King to fight us. The people in those countries protested and the arms supply was halted. That was a big help for us. The political parties can help us topple the King. They can create pressure. We have a common enemy: the King.
IPS: Does your party allow non-governmental organizations to initiate development works in areas under its control?
Magar: We are at war. We cannot allow non-governmental organizations to work in total freedom. We have some policies for NGOs and INGOs. For now, all non-governmental organizations are welcome except for those from the United States.
IPS: How did you become a communist?
Magar: Social injustice used to revolt me as a kid. In 1981, there was a big military operation in Thawang (the Maoist capital). I am from Thawang. Many people were charged for various offences. I was charged for sedition. That was my biggest personal encounter with state injustice.
IPS: Is the party's policy different as regards to China and India?
Magar: We believe that India has always seen Nepal as a prospective colony. It has assisted the royal regime against us, and has arrested our comrades. India's intentions are not good. It's not exactly the case with China. Though we are fighting against the state army right now, we will join hands with them if a foreign force enters Nepal.