Nepal Civil War

Nepal Civil War
Nepal Civil War

The Nepal Maoist/communist rebellion, more often called the Nepal civil war, started on February 13, 1996, as an armed attempt by communist forces to overthrow the mainstream government and replace it with a targeted “People’s Republic of Nepal.” The rebellion was spurred by growing dissatisfaction and unrest with the monarchy and mainstream political groups. In late 2006, the conflict was ongoing.

The war’s origins can be traced back to Nepal’s political past. Nepal started out as a monarchy in the 17th century under the Shah dynasty and came under British rule in 1816 as a result of defeat in the Anglo-Nepalese War. Nepal gained independence from British rule in 1923.

During this period, some Nepalese became interested in communism while others favored democracy. In 1959 an experimental democratic government was instituted, but it was overthrown by King Mahendra in 1961.

Communists were present in Nepal in the 1960s, but King Mahendra had banned political parties. When King Birendra allowed political parties to exist again in 1990, with Nepal’s government transforming into a constitutional monarchy, the communists formed the United People’s Front (UPF).

In 1994 the antigovernment element of the UPF split, forming the Communist Party of Nepal (CPN), which upheld the communist principles of Mao Zedong. Tensions in the country, because of corruption and controversy in elections, led the CPN to decide that an armed uprising was the only way to achieve their goals.

On February 13, 1996, the CPN launched simultaneous attacks on police and government targets. The leader of the communists is a shadowy figure called Prachanda. However, the methods used by the communists within Nepal can be considered something short of terrorism; there have been reports of torture, random killings, bombings, abductions, and intimidation of civilians and government officials. The Royal Nepal Army fought the communist forces in what they called a police action, and have not declared war.

Kilo Sera 2, launched in June–August 1998, was a government operation cracking down on the communist rebels. The government believed that enforcement of law and order was all that was needed to quell the rebellion. The operation is considered to have added fuel to the rebellion instead of discouraging it, since the people were more sympathetic to the rebels.

In June 2001 Crown Prince Dipendra went on a shooting rampage and killed most of the royal family—including his father, King Birendra, and his mother, Queen Aishwarya. As a result, Gyanendra, the late king’s brother, took the kingship, although he let the parliamentary government continue operating.

Although disagreement on the prince’s choice of wife was considered the reason for the rampage, conspiracy theories circulated that made King Gyanendra the mastermind of the killings for the purpose of seizing power in Nepal.

In 2002, under the banner of the War on Terror after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the United States, Europe, and India began supporting the Nepalese government with supplies and financial aid.

On February 1, 2005, King Gyanendra dismissed Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, restoring an absolute monarchy in Nepal and further fueling suspicions that he had masterminded the 2001 royal family killings. This action, however, caused further aid from other countries to cease.

In April 2006 King Gyanendra agreed to cease his absolute monarchy and return power to his parliament, led by Prime Minister G. P. Koirala. In May 2006 the Nepalese government called a cease-fire and started peace talks with the rebels, though the rebels participated in talks without agreeing to lay down their arms. In July, a United Nations delegation came to mediate peace terms, and both the government and the rebels agreed to let the UN team mediate.

As of 2006 more than 12,700 casualties had been reported, and 150,000 people had been displaced as a result of the war. On November 21, 2006, a peace accord was signed between the rebel forces led by the mysterious Prachanda and Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, officially ending hostilities. But it remains to be seen whether this will be the end of long-term tensions in the country.