Nepal burst spectacularly out of media obscurity on 1 June 2001 when Prince Dipendra slaughtered his parents, siblings and six other members of the Royal Family with a semiautomatic rifle. The media focus that turned on Nepal revealed rather more than regicide within a corrupt feudal system. A guerrilla war had been raging in Nepal, almost unnoticed by the world, since 1996 with the army of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) winning striking victories and strong popular support.
In 1999 the radical American journalist Li Onesto travelled extensively in Nepal, interviewing CPN leaders, fighters and ordinary villagers. Much of the country is under effective Maoist control with villagers running ‘people power’ institutions at local level. The guerrillas claim that 10 million of Nepal’s 23 million people live in areas under CPN control.
What emerges from her account is the unbelievably harsh conditions of the peasants in Nepal and the summary brutality and murder meted out by the police and the Royal Nepalese Army. This book reveals the courage and commitment of the Nepalese people, suffering vicious oppression and fighting for a better life. Those who talked to Onesto constantly emphasized that they saw their fight as part of a global struggle and expressed their hope to be ‘the spark that lights the fire’.
The author is unashamedly partisan towards the uprising but this is an excellent primer on the attempt, in one of the most impoverished countries on the world, against all the odds and the supposed tides of history, to break the shackles of feudalism and build a new society.
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