Maoists at the Hearth: Everyday Life in Nepals Civil War (The Ethnography of Political Violence)

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Articles Cited by. Resistance and the state: Nepalese experiences, , Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 31 2 , , Yet it was almost certainly the example of Maoist success in Nepal that inspired the various Indian factions based in north and south to unite into a single Indian Maoist party in September At the same time, Maoist groups are part of a wider landscape of armed insurgent groups that encompasses also ethnonationalist movements, as in the northeast of the country, Kashmir, Punjab, and Hindu nationalist groups that seek to intimidate Muslims and others Gayer and Jaffrelot The rise of Maoism in Nepal is multiply paradoxical because at the time when China was most interested in exporting revolution to Nepal and elsewhere the s and s , when Marxist-nationalist peasant revolutions were occurring in Vietnam and Mozambique, no one in Nepal seemed to be interested there was in fact an underground movement, but most were not aware of it.

Today, by contrast, China's Communist Party is deeply enmeshed in neoliberal global capitalism. It believes in a strong state and is intensely hostile to revolutionary movements it supported King Gyanendra and his authoritarian attempt to suppress dissent, described in Chapter 6, until the very end. In the s, when China, in all its actions, had rejected revolution, a true-believing Maoist movement was launched in Nepal and now provides the country with its second Maoist prime minister, Baburam Bhattarai.

The top leaders of Nepal's Maoists were shunned and dismissed as shameful traducers of Mao's good name as long as they were revolutionaries. Only once they had achieved power, following the election of , were they invited to China as honored guests. The answer to Question 3 is unequivocal: yes, they are Maoists.

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The leaders and many of those in the movement have studied Mao's works in detail. The military strategies adopted in the civil war, the terminology used to describe it, and the ideological framework within the whole project was understood were taken straight from the Maoist archive. Of course, many young recruits were ignorant of ideological subtleties, and at the outset no doubt of much else, but this is necessarily true of any such movement. There may be more than a whiff of elitist essentialism lying behind the question as when Western aficionados of Tibetan Buddhism claim that ordinary Tibetans understand nothing of Buddhism.

However, the question may also be posed in a more sophisticated way: are the Nepali Maoists, like some armed groups in Africa or the JVP in Sri Lanka, adopting an off-the-peg ideology as the most convenient cover for self-interested armed revolt?

Maoists at the Hearth

Of course, there are or have been "opportunists" khauvadi, avasarvadi who join the Maoists for reasons that have nothing to do with ideology or idealism, a possibility recognized and allowed for both in popular Nepali and in Maoist understandings. But the empirical record in the Nepalese case is clear: Maoist ideas and ideology have played a highly important role in training and motivating those who have joined and suffered in the movement.

Without these ideas, the willingness of so many to face death for the future of their country, the millennial hopes that inspired a generation to sacrifice themselves for the greater good, throwing themselves against the barbed-wire encampments and superior fire power of the Royal Nepal Army, cannot be explained or properly understood. With Question 4, we reach the nub of the issues to which Judith Pettigrew's pathbreaking ethnography is addressed though it would be a mistake to jump to the conclusion that her historically rich and nuanced account is just an explanation of how some villagers came to be Maoist supporters.

No other anthropologist of Nepal, whether foreign or Nepali, has returned so often and so devotedly to the same place throughout the course of the conflict.

In doing so, she has gathered the material for a highly poignant and unique record of village Nepal. She knew the village intimately before the Maoists arrived, she tracked the Maoists' first encounters with the villagers, she saw them become the local sarkar or legitimate government in the eyes of the villagers, she was present at the election of , and she has seen the Maoists become just one political party among others, with members in the village. Furthermore, the village may have been spared the full horrors of the war. But Pettigrew was not.

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She traveled to Nepalganj, one of the worst-hit areas. Her vivid and painful descriptions bring the full horrors of the Emergency back to life: the narrow escapes, the beatings, the random killings. Her account reminds us how Nepalis had to learn to read the smallest sign in order to work out who was a Maoist and who the army.

Everyday Life in Nepal's Civil War

In the village too it was necessary to train children not to speak carelessly, to avoid adults who didn't know how to guard what they said. The village is the focus but we also learn about Kathmandu, Pokhara, and other towns. It is worth stressing that though Pettigrew's villagers did not experience the depths of suffering of some other locations in Nepal, they did live with the terrifying uncertainty that every day could be their last and that their end could come at the hands of either side. Follow this author. New articles by this author. New citations to this author.

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