Targeting India

Baidya's breakaway Maoist party has demanded that relations with Delhi be based on 'equality'

On occasions, organised protests against certain decisions by India represent "national cause" in Nepal. But such protests have often been symbolic and of short duration. Between the 1960s and the mid-1990s, such protests centred round border disputes and the trade and transit rights of a landlocked country. But in 1996, when the Maoists launched a decade-long armed insurgency, India's projection as a "hegemonic" power with the intent to "colonise" its small neighbour also became the core issue of Nepali nationalism and sovereignty as far as the leftist "revolutionaries" were concerned.

By playing a mediator's role in bringing the Maoists and other major political parties together in 2005, India may have hoped to neutralise the anti-Indian worldview of the Maoists. But current developments send across a different message. The Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M), headed by Mohan Baidya Kiran, has imposed a ban on Hindi films in cinema halls and Hindi songs played on FM radio as a protest against "cultural invasion". The party, which broke away from the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists (UCPN-M) in June, has also been preventing vehicles with Indian number plates, including goods carriers, from entering Nepal. This is exactly what the Maoist party had promised to do when it launched the insurgency.

Nepal's major political parties have criticised the "movement" that may embitter relations, and it coincides with the "stern instruction" Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai issued to the home ministry to not let the agitators take the law into their own hands. But the imposed ban goes on. "We are entitled to access to the ports as a landlocked country. Why should Indian vehicles alone be ferrying goods right up to our capital, denying our vehicles any access to Indian territory?" Baidhya asks.

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