PM: We see
womenís participation in Nepalís peopleís war in a very big way. This is a
significant achievement. How did the CPN(Maoist) achieve it.?
we should notice that in Nepal, the left movement has been quite strong. Because
of this factor, leftists have been quite bold in bringing their women to
streets, be it revisionists or be it revolutionaries. Now having said that,
though we had women coming into the streets, they could not advance mainly
because revisionists did not want to go beyond legal struggle and the
revolutionary party had not yet undertaken practical implementation of their
revolutionary theory. So there was a big gap between theory and practice, so as
a result what happened was that the women in their young age were very active,
but once they got married they eventually became either the wives of leaders or
vanished into oblivion. Thus marriage became a patriarchal left institution for
producing good efficient wives for the male communist leaders at the cost of
loosing women cadres in communist movement. But because the left movement was
active, you would get fresh group of women coming and again vanishing. This
cycle of vicious circle got asunderd with the initiation of Peopleís War in the
year 1996. It unleashed the fury of women so far locked up in legal and trivial
should also know that in Nepal, the main productive force constituting of males,
migrate to either Indian cities or urban areas within the country, leaving their
wives behind to survive in a very isolated, rugged and very difficult terrain in
rural Nepal with a very little infrastructure. The women in Nepal are in fact
like de-facto women headed households. They are married but literally living on
their alone most of the years taking care of children and old parents. So you
can virtually say that women are running peasantís economy in Nepal. But the
feudal patriarchy headed by the King not only denies her identity but also robs
away her labour by denying her right to parental property.
And many times, what
happens is that, due to absence of wives from husbands lives for long period
they are easily co-wived. There is hardly legal protection as light punishment
is given (if complaint is registered) eventually condoning the second marriage.
So there is lot of anger ready to burst out which PW is able to tap. Even
without organizing them, they would just come because the situation is so bad.
And subjectively, our
Party has always been active in women front even when we had not launched PW. We
were in fact the first ones to stop the first beauty contest held in Kathmandu
in 1990. Similarly regular protests against rape and all kinds of pornography
had been held in different parts of Nepal. And we had been regularly celebrating
8th March with political statements. Especially during the Panchayat system,
when all the political parties were banned, everybody would look forward to 8th
March, where they could pour out their political statements. So there has been a
culture of the womenís movement. One very interesting thing I observed in Nepal
is that we donít have male and female divide as much as in western countries or
may be even to some extent in India. In our 8th March demonstrations you will
find quite number of men shouting slogans along with women. In fact when we go
and fight against beauty contests men accompany us.
The most radical
rupture the PW was able to bring in womenís lives was that it broke women away
from the family shackle. This has strong impact on womenís lives resulting in
unleashing their hidden talents and capabilities. The very act of rebellion
against this oldest family institution has set in a chain of reactions. The
first chain of reaction is seen in the new marriage system, which is based on
love chemistry established in the field of action and the ideological alliance.
The second reaction is seen in the way they saw their reproductive function
Earlier even among the communists no matter how many times they may raise their
fist for womenís liberation and shout against male chauvinism they would
eventually go for male lineage, thus pushing their wives to bear male children.
Earlier they would have 3, 4, or more children till they had male child or even
the most conscious women would have at least two children before the PW started.
With the initiation of PW this has changed drastically. The number has been
reduced to one Very rarely you come across two. Also there is no question of
waiting for a son now. So, in the Nepalís context, itís a big leap!
With base areas in
our strong hold rural areas we are able to practically implement equal rights
over parental property. Similarly we are able to give equal status to women, in
fact in many cases they are given first priority thus we are able to practice
what we preach. We have guaranteed special rights of representation in peopleís
power. We have now number of women model villages called Mahila Namoona
village where women have right to their parental property, where they work
in co-operative form in their fields, collective fodder collection system, and
where they execute construction activities such as making rest houses for
travelers, investing their collective money on small productions. So these
models show that we are serious about womenís issues.
The peopleís courts
too have been instrumental in enhancing womenís confidence in PW where the
general masses particularly those belonging to oppressed ethnic communities and
dalits have been getting quick and fare judgment against their tormentors under
the watchful eyes of the womenís militia which give protection to peopleís
court. Earlier not only women but even men had to travel far to fight a case in
the court, which meant losing property to pay for the endless procedure of
justice, now the peopleís court is right in front of their villages giving
And another point of
attraction is the field of peopleís army. The militia and Peopleís Liberation
Army (PLA) has become an attracting point for women. Earlier the entry point for
women in the movement had been mostly through the cultural front. But now the
military front has become an attractive point of entry for women to join PW. The
very act of joining the military field has tremendous transforming effect on
women. All of a sudden from a totally unknown, submissive woman she has now
become confident independent fighter. She looks no less smart than urban
educated women. She is increasingly becoming political and philosophical. When
you are dealing with death and life most of the time, this is bound to happen.
The protracted nature
of PW allows women not only to change the society but also change themselves. In
a pre-capitalist country like Nepal where absolute monarchy reins the state
power, the journey to communism is a long one! The protracted nature of PW
allows the revolutionaries, particularly the women revolutionaries whose
cultural level is at lower level than male revolutionaries for a long period of
Our Party considers
women as basic revolutionary force (the first to be oppressed and the last to be
liberated) who will not only work for revolution but will also fight against
counter revolution, thus carrying the banner of continuous revolution. Thus the
policy of CPN (Maoist) has been to encourage womenís participation in PW.
PM: You were
talking about one interesting point, about military and women. Even the
bourgeoisie in the past and present day also never allowed women to be part of
the military. Communist movements are trying to bring women into the military
can you theorize on this? From the beginning the notion of women is - physically
weak, muscularly. How do you visualise them being fighters?
Parvati: If we
want to fight against bourgeois we should hit them at their weakest point. Their
weakest point is women because they say they want to give freedom, equality but
in practice they are always deceiving women or at most giving it in form but not
in essence. Itís not that the bourgeoisie donít bring women into such military
activities. But not in the same strategic way as we do. They do it as a last
resort. And that too as a symbolic act, reducing them to be decorative piece and
using them as auxiliary or as reserve force, never taking them as strategic
force. Thus they are used in logistics works, as typists, nurses, intelligence
operators etc but rarely used as fighters in the field. I think it is to do with
their ideology, because the whole bourgeois system is sustained from womenís
oppression. They cannot afford to separate women from the kitchen for military
operation for too long.
Take the case of
Americans, they are deploying women but they seldom send them in the
battlefield. There have been one or two cases where women have been sent to the
front. But such experience has resulted in diverting menís attention away form
the real fight. While not fighting women combatants are looked upon as sexual
objects to be gratified and when in combat they are looked upon as weak delicate
women to be protected from the harsh fighting life. This results in
underestimating the strength of women combatants in both the situations. There
was one such case of a woman called Private Jessica Lynch who was captured by
Iraqi militia. There was a big propaganda exercise made by USA in its attempt to
rescue her as an act of heroism!
PM: I think the
bourgeois world also recruited women into the military because of the feminist
movement or womenís movement. In some services, that too in some gender
most of these Scandinavian countries have done that, because there the womenís
movement is quite strong.
PM: You were
telling about the objective conditions and the inevitability of women joining pw.
At the same time what are the conscious efforts from the Partyís side? Like how
did you apply mass line in brining women into mass organizations and the Party?
thing is that from the Partyís side there has always been attempt to mobilize
women whenever it was possible. In Nepalís context, we have various women
related festivals, like Teej, it is the time when women come out and sing songs
and dance. Although a religious occasion, this occasion has been used by women
to weave their own songs of oppression related to domestic violence, male
domination and oppression of women by the feudal culture. This sentiment we took
over from them and we started using these platforms to politically educate them
in attacking feudal practices. Everywhere in the villages and urban areas these
kinds of attempts were made. Secondly, cultural programmes have been encouraged
because such programmes attract the attention of women in particular due to its
perceptive appeal, which is then used as a means to gain access to their life
and to teach them the key issues of poverty which is the cause of their misery
and deprivations. In fact womenís front has been one of the most active front
before PW started. It laid foundation for reaching masses. After the initiation
of PW there has been developments in two fronts. In base areas we are
consolidating the capacities of women to make them more economically and
socially productive by making them literate, involving them in small-scale
handy-crafts such as shawl making industry, dry food factories, co-operative
farm works, paper making industry etc. We are making them good leaders by
involving them in running peopleís council at different levels. We are involving
them in peopleís court. In white areas we are sending them as organizers and as
fighters to mobilize the masses and to protect the masses from the enemies.
The campaign against
liquor has been time and again conducted. Similarly campaign against bar women
being used as sexual tools in urban areas have been continuing. Recently our
woman front All Nepalese womenís Organization (Revolutionary) gave a nation wide
"Band" on the occasion of 8th March in 2004 against rape, torture and murder
being perpetuated by the old state and against US intervention in Nepal. This
was the first time in Nepalese womenís history that a nationwide call was being
given by a womanís front. The band was completely successful.
PM: In one of the
issues of the Worker, there was a write-up on mass line campaign in Nepal. It is
very interesting. Please elaborate about this campaign with regard to the
has been conscious effort by the Party to make new culture in base areas and
other strong hold areas. New festivals like Peopleís war initiation day,
martyrís week, Maoís birthday are being celebrated with lots of gifts being
exchanged. In these activities women are found most active as they run mess,
restaurants, selling their products made in small-scale cottage run by the
Party. All this give mass character to such celebrations thus preparing ground
for more masses to be mobilized on new cultural values. Community based works
such as Parma system of exchanging labour in plantation and harvesting seasons
which has been in practice for long has been given boost by spreading it in
other fields such as collecting fodders, and fuels from forest. Much old culture
activity has been adopted with new inputs and with progressive values imparted.
Take the case of Mayur dance in Rukum, Rolpa, which is exclusively menís dance
today even women are participating in it. There has also been campaign to
militarize the masses. This we are able to do so more efficiently because we
have strong womenís militia present in our strong hold areas. In far western
region we have even cultural company which gives their programs as they march
along, thus giving cultural programme a mass and military appearance. This
campaign has become so popular that the old state is propagating their joining
this campaign and other militia programme as abductions and kidnappings done by
Maoists. We have also developed the concept of one member, one house; one
village one organization thereby multiplying our memberships in mass fronts.
Today most of our women fronts are not only self sufficient but have more money
with them because our women are not only actively engaged in productive works
but also are good at keeping good records of its saving without wanton spending.
There has also been
conscious effort to organize the families of soldiers and army of the old state.
Our women militia regularly visits them who help them in their hour of needs,
such as catering to their fieldwork in peak agricultural season. They then
slowly give them political classes to dissociate their husbands from joining the
old force and to join the Maoist force. There has been conscious effort to
mobilize children under Bal Sangathan, thus preparing ground for the
continuation of the movement and mass mobilization.
PM: What are the
problems manifested in women because they are deprived of political and
ideological education since ages. How are you trying to resolve this?
Parvati: The most
blatant manifestation seen among women due to deprivation of political and
ideological education is their silence in the meetings. They seldom participate
in political discussions. Women hesitate to take initiative. The question of
initiative is related with them being deprived of their share of parental
property. Males are expected to be leaders right from their childhood so that
they can protect their right to their lands. Because women are not associated
with any property, the leadership quality is not required of them. This problem
of leadership and developing political and ideological level can be tacked at
two levels, one at organizational level and another at a practical level. Women
should be given responsibility where policy related works are involved, together
with facilities to develop her political and ideological capacity. At practical
level, women should wage inner struggle in terms of marrying late, and even if
married she should avoid having children or postpone having one. They should be
daring to take their own independent work, which may take them away from their
husbands for long period. It is with this in mind that womenís department has
been created to develop leadership among women so that they can reach
policy-making body in all the three fronts, the Party, the army and the front.
At mass level providing equal parental property to women will create atmosphere
for developing leadership quality right from home, which can later be tapped by
the Party to give political and ideological education.
At present, womenís
leadership quality is fast developing in military front. Women are successfully
proving their worth by showing that they too can live bravely and die bravely
and that they too can command the fighting force. The main challenge for the
Party is to channelise this leadership quality to political and ideological
and political deprivation is there among women. So how are you tackling that?
Parvati: In order
to test the ideological and political deprivation it is important to test their
present level of understanding of their outlook in various fields. Our Womenís
department had issued a set of questionnaires related practical and strategic
issues comprising of 9 headings (please see the end note) to women cadres
operating in Party, army and front levels. The answers have now been received of
which synthesis is now on the process. One should also realize that ideological
and political level of the cadres in general would depend upon how the Partyís
inner line struggle is being carried out. If it is being carried out with the
correct orientation it can lead to healthy development of ideological and
political consciousness of the cadres thereby leading women cadres too to
develop in this field. It is also important to impart regular classes on the
latest political development in the national and international arena fusing it
with MLM theory. This can also be tackled in bringing out regular magazines,
bulletins, weekly papers together with talk programmes on relevant subjects. All
these have been taking place at various levels. The Party has been very
conscious of the importance of bringing women to policy-making bodies. The
recent incorporation of more women in Central Committee of CPN (Maoist) is a
welcome step. Similarly women have been incorporated at Politburo level too.
Today in CPN (Maoist) there are nearly 10% of women comrades at both Central
Committee and Politburo level. Now the balls are in womenís court to prove their
worth as ideological and political leaders!
PM: In the
article on leadership question in Nepal, you mentioned about class struggle,
inner party struggle and inner struggle. We can understand about class struggle
but it is interesting to know about the inner party struggle and inner struggle.
Please elaborate on this?
Parvati: Let us
be very clear inner party struggle is there in every healthy functioning Party.
The point is how to identify such struggles in the field of women and gender
relations within the Party. Let me tell you one example of how to understand the
attitude of communists towards women in communist movement. There is one section
who consider their participation as having strategic importance and constituting
of basic revolutionary class. They are willing to accept and guarantee special
rights of women. And hence strives to transform the structure of the Party, the
women and gender relation based on this principle. There is another section who
may agree this in principle, but in practice sees women as secondary force thus
relegating them as practically necessary for mobilizing the masses. For such
people, any changes they try to bring in organization structure or women or
gender relation will be cosmetic, formal and skin-deep. For example let us take
the question of remarriage. Everybody agrees with it. But in specific issues the
differences crop up showing differences in outlook. Take the example of the
definition of family of martyr. We place high value on celebrating martyrís week
programme in Nepal where we invite families of martyrs to give speeches and to
give them gifts. There was a debate whether once martyrís family remarried (with
the notice of the Party) if he or she had the right to represent as martyrís
family on martyrís week programme. Those with conservative out look had tough
time accepting them as martyrís family.
Similarly, there is
tendency of taking womenís leadership formally, as some thing imposed by the
Party. In such case higher authority (specially males) will not take pain to
help women to exercise their leadership in the organization they are leading. As
a result women have to struggle doubly to establish their leadership in their
respective fields. Firstly, to gain recognition. Secondly, to exercise her
leadership. But those who take womenís participation strategically they have
been found very sympathetic, and willing to wait for the development of
leadership qualities in women.
PM: what about
the inner struggle you are mentioning? Are you telling about the struggle with
self-struggle everybody has to undergo as a routine, be it in revolutionary life
or evolutionary life. Let me be specific about inner struggle although I have
mentioned it above! One thing we must understand is that the main tendency in
most of the Parties, which is undertaking PW in this difficult unipolar world,
is generally the rightist tendency. Having said that, rightists cannot come in a
bold way (as they can be easily exposed), so they take the form of
dogmato-revisionsist tendency. Letís take the question of reproduction in
revolutionary life. The rightists will say I want to take a break from
revolutionary life because I want to bear children. Such blatant statement would
draw the attention of the cadres as being rightists and finding excuses for
running away from the movement. So how does one hide this? By being dogmato
revisionist. The dogmato-revisonist tendency is seen by romanticizing the
bearing of children as yet another front where women can prove their mettle in
class struggle. But in practice, all this revolutionary romanticism looses its
heat when practical problems of bearing and bringing up children start hindering
the combat life of the cadres amidst fierce class struggle. This eventually
results women to take back seat in the revolutionary movement. The revolutionary
line in this aspect sould be to discourage reproductive activities as yet
another front where sacrifice is needed as much as one would sacrifice oneís
life for the sake of movement. Having said that one cannot impose such sensitive
emotional issues on couples. Only political consciousness and the development of
PW can generate such self-voluntarism in this field. Hence this issue should be
dialectically handled; preventing, or delaying or bearing children depending
upon the level of political understanding of the couples (specially woman
cadre), their position in the organization, the safety of the place where they
are operating etc.
PM: In this
society patriarchal ideology so deeply penetrates that it operates also within
women. So because of this patriarchal ideology, starting from lack of
initiative, lack of self confidence, some petty feelings all those things women,
I think may not be right to generalize but women easily accept male leadership
but at the same time they have problems to accept their female colleagueís
Parvati: Yes it
does have effect on women in terms of underestimating themselves and
PM: Those things
I consider as inner struggle. I mean fighting patriarchal ideology within
women are often themselves victim of patriarchal ideology that is deeply
ingrained within them. I have seen females who get scared when one talks of
womenís oppression and label one as being feminist. They often try to suppress
the fight against womenís oppression in the name of fighting against class
oppression. It is another form of dogmato-revisionism whereby one emphasizes on
class, physical work and redness at the cost of gender oppression, mental work
and expertness without looking at their dialectical relationships between them.
PM: Taking the
class exploitation side is a heroic thing, but taking womenís exploitation is,
you know, compared to that an inferior thing.
Parvati: I think
one need not feel defensive when talking of womenís oppression. This is because
we are waging PW, and that takes care of the class struggle. In fact in such a
situation if we do not address womenís oppression in the name of addressing
class question then we may become left sectarian and isolated from rest of
PM: This point is
very important. In the same class we are discussing, we are not going out of
that class. If one is being branded as feminist that is wrong.
Parvati: Yes it
is wrong to brand revolutionary women as feminist if one raises issues related
to patriarchal oppression within the PW movement. Such labeling may stand valid
if one is raising the banner of patriarchal oppression without primarily
addressing the class oppression.
PM: This also
obstructs womenís development.
insensitivity becomes a hindrance when there is unhealthy inner party struggle.
In such a situation it can have a very negative impact on women. Women begin to
be used against each other, not on the basis of ideology but on the basis of
petty personal differences. Instead of discouraging low cultural values that are
generally prevalent amongst women they are used to polarize the cadres and
masses. Husbands will try to coarse their wives to align with their side, and
wives may be lured with power to influence their husbands to switch sides.
Marriage itself may become tool to perpetuate unhealthy inner-party struggles
whereby women are lured to marry comrades on the basis of not ideological unity
but on the basis of increasing the strength or attaining power.
PM: Just to
co-opt, forcefully co-opt.
PM: What is the
reaction of the state? Targeting movement physically, militarily to dissuade
women from joining the protracted peopleís war.
Parvati: It has
become very difficult for the old state to check the movement politically, so
they are resorting to brutal means. They are arresting women, raping them,
killing them. The RNA canít tolerate to see young women fighting and rebelling.
In fact they feel loss of masculinity to see women taking arms because they have
deep notion that arms are for men to handle and it is the men who are supposed
to protect their women. So in the beginning they were raping women to prove
impotency of male Maoist fighters. But in the field when they found that women
indeed fought bravely, they started taking them seriously as a result they are
being killed (and additionally raped) in combat at the same rate as male
RNA is highly sexist
in their outlook. This can be reflected in the way they use rape as a means to
expose Maoist movement by forcing surrendered women to say that they have been
raped and used as sexual instruments by the Maoist men. Such condition was never
imposed on male Maoists when they agreed to surrender. So this way they are
using rape as an instrument to scare away women from Maoist movement.
PM: How are you
taking the question of NGOs. NGOs have a very big influence on the society. How
you are tackling the question of NGOs in Nepal.
we had problem with NGOs but now we donít have much problem with them now. With
militarized masses and the instant judgments given by peopleís court, masses are
no longer influenced by the evolutionary, reformed methodology used by the NGOs.
On top of it the brutal repression unleashed by the old state machinery leaves
them no space for their method of functioning. Their class alliance approach to
any problem becomes immediately exposed before Maoists who use class approach to
solve problem at the spot.
PM: What about
the problems in the social sphere like liquor or trafficking of women into India
and all those things. How you are tackling them?
Parvati: In our
country we have a particular community called the Badi community. They are
basically dalit class; within dalits also they are the most oppressed community.
They were traditionally entertainers for the feudal society. But now with
feudalism eroding they have switched into prostitution. Many of them are now
joining the PW. Similarly, there is Tamang community in Kavre district near
Kathmandu valley, which has been historically providing prostitution for the
Ranas in the olden days, and are now providing for the Indian market at present.
But the spread of PW and creation of Tamang Mukti Morcha has created awareness
amongst themselves about the ill effects of their profession. Now the same
community are providing good fighters for the PW. From these examples I want to
expalin that those who are in this profession know very well what is good for
them and what is bad for them, but are forced to take this profession out of
cumpulsion. The PW has given them powerful alternative to live for. Rather than
killing themselves every night they have now chance to show that they too can be
socially useful, responsible and to live a dignified life and dignified death.
Earlier before the PW started we used to solve this problem in a peace meal
manner, but it was not so effective. Today we are also able to identify and
punish the traffickers much faster than the old state. Regarding tackling liquor
problem, once we had movement against liquor consumption at the national level,
which forced the then government to meet some of our demands. Since then such
activities have been taking place at the local level. We have not banned liquor
but have adopted controlling measures, such as punishing those who sold liquor,
punishing those who drank in public place, or punishing those who disrupted
peace in their drunken state.
PM: To solve the
problems and gender based discrimination, what are the organisational efforts,
like you have this womenís department in the party. What is the organisational
structure of the womenís department how does it function?
Parvati: We have
womenís work at two levels. At the mass level we have womenís front known by All
Nepalese womenís Organization (Revolutionary) which has its presence throughout
the country at various levels. At the other end we have womenís department
directly under the Central Party which is basically a policy making body to
develop leadership qualities of women in all the three fronts, the Party,
military and the united fronts. So this department is basically a think tank, it
is not an organizational structure with hierarchical subdivisions that will
function like other fronts. However womenís departments have been created in PLA,
students front as according to the necessity felt by the Party. One may say if
womenís department represents theory then the womenís front represent practice.
It acts as a bridge between the front and the Party. As earlier mentioned above
the womenís department had issued set of questionnaires relating to their
strategic and practical problems, so that a policy paper can be made based on
this exercise. Similarly it is preparing study course for women and is bringing
out collection of articles written by senior comrades on women. The Department
has been engaged in giving classes to women working on all three fronts at
PM: What is the
specific syllabus for women? Like for general cadre, general masses we are
having general political, economical philosophy like that. So for women, what is
I think is for those who are working in womenís organisation they need to know
about the origins of patriarchy, private property land all those things. So that
will be a specific syllabus. Otherwise what is the specific syllabus for general
women, women working in all fronts.
Parvati: We have
a schooling department, which is preparing syllabus for general course such as
philosophy, scientific socialism and political economy. Besides this, separate
syllabuses are being prepared for women and oppressed nationality. Our efforts
have always been to relate womenís issues with the political lines that are
adopted. For example take the case of developing democracy in the 21st century,
which has been adopted by our Central Committee, we have to see how this
question is linked with the question of status of women.
material regarding womenís question.
Parvati: Yes we
have already translated the material provided to us by your Party. And we have
also translated material received from Peru. And we are still looking out for
more materials to be translated.
PM: What is the
role in cultural organisation. Formally and informally. And how are raising the
consciousness at the cultural level?
Parvati: I told
you, we have tried to demarcate certain villages as womenís model village where
we are introducing new cultural values, such as raising children collectively,
collecting fodder collectively. We are also creating new culture of celebrating
martyrs week, initiation day of PW, birthday of Mao as socially, politically
eventful days. We have broken barrier of cast, religion, ethnicity in marriage,
today Brahmin cadre is marrying dalit, similarly people from Himalaya are
marrying people of Terai region. Today re-marriage is not a taboo. Similarly the
concept of impurity attached to menstruation has given away instead it is being
looked upon sympathetically. With the functioning of local FM radio, creativity
of local cadres and masses are being aired in terms of propagating new songs,
poems or stories, new developments in agriculture or breeding etc.
PM: What do you
feel about the present condition of the International communist movement and the
Parvati: I think
the present condition of International Communist Movement is good (ICM)
specially those one who are coming together on the basis of sound political
ideology. And wherever the PW is flourishing backed by matured ICM, womenís
issues have been given due importance. I think Nepal is one such best example.
Similarly experiences of women in countries who are waging PW are enriching the
ICM. So it has benefited both.
PM: Greetings to
Nepalese people and NCP(Maoist) on behalf of PM.