Demystifying the Myth

Prachanda, the Unknown


Author: Anirban Roy

Published by Mandala Book

Point, Page: PP 234


Anirban Roy, the Kathmandu-based correspondent of The Hindustan Times, has come out with a biography of one of the most enigmatic personalities in Nepali politics — Prachanda. As late as 2005, there were people who believed that Prachanda was just a myth, created to bolster the People’s War.

Roy’s biography is one of the first attempts outside the CPN-M to explain the Prachanda phenomenon. In the process, he unearths less known facts about Prachanda prior to his becoming a top Maoist leader.

For example, consider the early years of Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who was born in a paddy field, close to a buffalo grazing area on December 11, 1954, five years after Pushpa Lal founded the Communist Party of Nepal.

After they migrated to Chitwan, driving hordes of cows for 11 days, Pushpa Kamal saw his father fall on a moneylender’s feet. The moneylender kicked his father. “It lit a fire inside me,” Prachanda recalls to Roy. “It was a political lesson I would never forget. It changed the course of my life.”

Prachanda’s early socialisation in communism was a trickle down effect of the Indian communist movement. He read about Mao Zedong and Fidel Castro in Hindi.

Dahal bloomed as a communist leader in Rampur Agricultural campus, one of the projects funded by the Americans to stem growth of communism in Nepal. His underground life began in 1981 after the Panchayat leaders saw him as a threat. It was right from this time that Prachanda developed comraderie with another Maoist stalwart, Ram Bahadur Thapa Magar.

In November 1984, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, at that time known through his alias ‘Biswas’, was elected to the central committee of the CPN (Masal), thanks to Comrade Mohan Vaidya. However, the party split after differences emerged between Mohan Bikram Singh and Mohan Vaidya ‘Kiran’. Comrade Kiran launched a new armed offensive against the Panchayat regime.

The ‘Sector Kanda’, as the offensive was known, turned out to be a big setback for the party organisation. Unable to withstand criticism, Comrade Kiran stepped down, providing an opportunity for Pushpa Kamal Dahal to take control of the helm. After the ‘Sector Kanda’, the top leaders of the party changed their noms de guerre, and Prachanda was born.

Most of the later events, particularly those after 1996 is well known. However, Roy provides the Maoist part of

the narrative, together with insightful photographs. Although the author sometimes adopts the perspective of the left movement while describing events after the 1990 political movement, his style is largely desriptive and matter of fact, and does not pretend to analyse events.

By the end of the book, we learn as much about the Maoist People’s War as about Prachanda. The distinction between Prachanda as a person and the Maoist movement is blurred, and maybe rightly so.

The book despite its short length, manages to provide a detailed account of the Maoist movement in Nepal. Because it outlines major political events, the book is useful both to people who don’t know much about Nepal, as well as to those who do.