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Thursday, 5 April, 2001, 12:57 GMT 13:57 UK
Mao in the mountains
Police carry the body of a colleague killed by the rebels
A demoralised and under-trained police force is frequently targeted
By Daniel Lak in Kathmandu

Armed Maoist insurgents began fighting to establish a "Peoples' Republic" in Nepal in mid-February of 1996 and they are now active, even influential, in more than half of the country.

Successive governments have failed to quell the rebellion, either with force or with expensive development spending in affected areas.

Maoist graffiti
The rebels are fighting for a "People's Republic"
With a shadowy underground leadership and thousands of well trained fighters, the Nepali Maoists model themselves on Peru's Sendero Luminoso.

In some areas of western Nepal, Maoist cadres run a parallel government.

Their avowed strategy is straight from Mao Tse Tung's writings - a peasant takeover in the countryside to surround and threaten elites in urban areas, selective use of violence and re-education of civilians.

'People's War'

The Nepal Communist Party, Maoist, used to be part of the country's democratic parliamentary system.

Maoists fought alongside centrist parties and mainstream communists for the establishment of democracy in 1990.

Rebel goals
Widescale land reform
Break close ties to India
No more foreign aid
No role for the royal family
They held a few seats in parliament after a multi party election in 1991.

But a falling out over elections in 1996 lead to the first shots being fired in the Peoples' War.

More than 1,500 have died since then.

The rebels usually attack the police, trying to demoralise an underpaid and badly trained force.

At an earlier stage of the uprising, the Maoists issued 40 demands including widescale land reform, an end to close links with India, no more foreign aid and no role for the royal family.

Lately, there have been indications that Maoists are flexible on some key points.

Mao Tse Tung
The writings of Mao Tse Tung provide the strategy
Attempts to hold peace talks with the government failed in October amid confusion over the release of two jailed Maoist leaders.

Both sides say they are still willing to talk.

A committee of respected people has been set up to examine the possibilities.

Rural support

Deeply entrenched rural poverty and social inequality provide fertile ground for the rebellion.

The Maoists are most successful in parts of the country with the worst development statistics - life expectancy in the midwestern area of Rolpa, a Maoist stronghold, is just 52 years, and per capita annual income is below $100.

The Maoists fund themselves by bank robberies and collection of often involuntary donations.

Nepalese peasant woman
The rebels have strong peasant support
Almost every business in Kathmandu is said to pay some money to the rebels.

A paint shop owner who resisted earlier this year had his business blown up with a crude homemade bomb.

Weapons are purchased on the illegal arms market.

So far, the Maoists do not have sophisticated arms but neither do their opponents, the police.

The government would like to use the Royal Nepal Army to fight the Maoists but senior generals, and possibly the King, are opposed to sending out regular soldiers to fight Nepali citizens on their own soil.

A new battalion of armed police officers is to be raised but few Nepalis now think this conflict can be resolved by violence.

Peace talks with unfettered negotiations about the future shape of Nepal's political scene may be the only way to avoid many more years of escalating violence.

See also:

02 Apr 01 | South Asia
16 Oct 00 | South Asia
25 Sep 00 | South Asia
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