-Com. Prachanda“There is a process in human understanding of the objective world, in a leap from the state of necessity to the state of freedom.” (Not original) -- Mao
It is necessary on the part of the people to use force to accomplish New Democratic revolution by destroying the existing semi-feudal and semi-colonial state system to liberate from acute problems of economic subjection, cultural perversion and political stagnation the Nepalese society is facing. In the present situation, our Party has firm belief that a new system can be established only by applying the method of protracted People’s War according to the objective situation of Nepal and that under the leadership Communist Party based on the strategy of encircling cities from the countryside. The purpose of this article is to show in brief how and what relation does this type of war have with the historical context of Nepal. Here, the political aspect of the history and evaluation of the role of individual are not emphasized, as efforts have been made to be centered particularly on the wars the Nepalese people have witnessed, faced and participated in the history.
1. Situation before Establishing the Centralized Feudal State
Inhabitation of simple tribal types of indigenous people, who were struggling against nature with very simple and primitive production methods in afar steep-hills, remote sloping lands and were maintaining livelihood with their own customs and tradition, seems to have taken place since quite long in Nepal. There is no dispute on the fact that the process of coming of the masses of different castes, religions and traditions from north and south, for different reasons and in different times, to this hilly region has taken place since thousands of years. In this context, a great number of Hindus of Arya lineage, who have been defeated in wars with Muslims in South, intruded in this hilly region for security and livelihood. Dominance of the in-migrants, who were in general developed in production technology, administration and knowledge and were equipped with art of war and advanced weapons in the given situation, had impact upon the ethnic groups here in the course of inner struggle and amalgamation. Different kinds of tiny states and dominions came into being in accordance with the backward condition of productive forces and division of labor. The Nepalese society has been undergoing through a long historical process of continuous violent struggles among those states, dominions, kings and chieftains. The objective necessity of life has compelled Nepalese society to be trained in constant violent struggles. Nepalese nation has developed as a valiant and militant one in the world in the process of conflict with severe natural hardships and those kinds of violent struggles. Not only in the last period of the Baise and Chaubise states this process is found to have advanced in the course of establishing the central feudal state and even later. The military situation of the initial and medieval Nepal can roughly be viewed as follows.
No development of permanent and regular army had taken place under any of the states and dominions during this whole period. According to the necessity of wars fighting teams (armies) used to be built up from among the general masses. Having finished the war obviously they used to return back to their farming and work for livelihood. This type of process in which people were used upon necessity in war was called “Jhara”. Not only up to Lichchhavi and Malla period but also this custom of “Jhara” remained dominant up to the course of establishing central feudal state by the Gorkhalese.
Towards the first half of medieval period all the fighters used to be masses but a process, on behalf of the state, of deploying certain persons with the responsibility of contemplating about war and for defending certain regions, started. Those kinds of people were called Kotnayak (Fort chief). There was no necessity and justification of standing army because of the state of development of the society and there was no reason for it too. During this time, there was wide practice of establishing forts that existed in general at the top of high hills in different regions to maintain defense. That was called a Gadhi. Such Gadhis still exist from east to west. During this entire period, one finds that there were more armed conflicts in the western hills than in the eastern. One person from each family within the entire state would have to participate compulsorily in each war. It is found that the age limit ranged from 12 to 80 years. From the organizational point of view, the king was automatically the chief. But, almost all of the then kings were not feudal looters addicted to luxury and merrymaking like the present ones. They used to fight in wars and were required to be stronger than others and expert in art war of . Otherwise, people would kick him off and other brave king used to be chosen. In this way, the then kings were almost like the tribal chiefs. Kings used to practice wrestling and playing with swords, scimitar and bows regularly. During this period all the warriors were infantries and they had no dresses. During the last stage, it is found that some horse-riding soldiers were developed.
Weapons and Training
Since long before, bow and arrow used to be very much in practice in the Kirant region. Kirants had remarkably developed in art of war and use of bows and arrows. Later on, the weapons, which were generally used in wars of all regions, were swords, shields, knives, javelins, bows and arrows, axes, sticks etc. The weapons that were developed in the medieval period are Jurali, poniard, Nimcha, lash, Bunzar, Ilaman, Sarohi, Junabi, Jamelin and so on. Gunpowder, one-shot gun, and ordinary cannon are seen to have been used to a certain extent only after arriving at the later part of Malla period.
In the beginning, there was no arrangement of providing any kind of training to the fighters. Whatever one learnt in the course of his livelihood and that was everything. But, the necessity of training went on increasing due to continuity of war and its expanse. Accordingly, almost all the states started to arrange training. Provision of Tundikhel was brought about for this purpose in all the regions. In fact, “Tundi” means bow and arrow and “Khel” means ground.
Art of War
Even though there were no distinct theories of strategy and tactics of war, the war policies that were applied are found as follows:
To let enemy enter in their area and attack extensively and intensively when arrived at an appropriate place blaze up enemy area and attack simultaneously; demoralize enemy by capturing their external communication; apply the tactics of hit and run by using jungle as a bulwark (In this context, the event in which the people from Kathmandu valley forced the enemy to flee away being shattered by guerrilla style and taking shelter in the nearby jungle when the Khasa Army captured Kathmandu in 1288, is very much notable); establish bastion; make surprise attack and so on. In these kinds of tactics, one can easily see the embryos of tactical theories of People’s War.
2. The Period of Establishment of Centralized Feudal State
These types of states came to be a hindrance for people’s commerce and economic activities, which were respectively developing under the tiny states and dominions including the Baise-Chaubise ones. Necessity to pay tax and land revenue to the kings in all regions, different kinds of laws, codes and restrictions and constant fights among them came to create contradiction with the daily economic activities of the people. On the other, increasing interference and hegemony of the The British in India also had in fact increased the necessity of a centralized ruling system in Nepal. In this historical background, the conflict and dispute with each other for their ambition of expanding their own states and becoming a dignified king intensified in different places. Exactly at this period, the required ambition, determination and dedication developed in the Gorkhalese and Prithvi Narayan Shah, the king of Gorkha, founded such a state system. Most of the specificity of the present Nepalese state system had developed during that period; so its significance is self-evident.
Gorkhali’s process of army building seems to have been influenced mainly by Hindu religious understanding, deceptive art of war of Kautilya and the armed activities of The British-India. In the initial period, Gorkhalese too did have no standing army. Apart from certain commanders (Nayaks), all of the armies used to be collected from the people. Having been defeated in the war against Nuwakot, Gorkha’s king seems to have firmly grasped the necessity and significance of the standing army from the British military organization when he visited Benaras to collect modern weapons. Only after this, Gorkhalese built up companies of regular army possibly for the first time in the history of Nepal. Thereafter, the process of building up standing army started in Kathmandu, too. But, the process of building up of the army from Jhara was principal in Gorkha, Kantipur and allover. The Gorkhalese divided army into three parts after they took up the process of building a regular army. They are, firstly, the groups with traditional weapons, like scimitars and knives; secondly, with bows and arrows; and the thirdly, with guns. The army with guns was organized in the form of a company of which the commander was the Subedar. The person, who worked as the Prime Minister and the Army Chief under the king’s tutelage was called Mulkaji and those who used to render direct military leadership in the field were called Chautariya Kaji, Kaji and Sardar.
In the protracted process of war, the Gorkhalese initial army organization from Jhara had developed five companies of regular army till 1763. Total number of soldiers in those five companies was 540 and the rests used to be collected from among the people in the form of Jhara.
There was no separate army headquarter to conduct military activities in that period. The specificity of that time was that there prevailed no difference between state and military administration. Active members of army used to be the officials of politics and the state. To the extent that, even the kings used to go to the war field with weapons. Therefore, there was no situation of any type of contradiction between the political and military commanders.
Weapon, Training and Other Arrangements
Gorkhalese in this course made wide use of Khukuris in war. It is evident that the main goal of using widely the weapons to which the people had been using since long in their domestic purpose was to bring in the broad masses into war. Other weapons of general use were traditional swords, javelin, shield, scimitar, Gadka, knife, bows and arrows and so on. With the development of war the guns and general types of cannons also were brought into use. One-shot gun and cannons were started to be built in Gorkha also.
Gorkhalese started paying special attention to military training after being defeated in Nuwakot. Some of the technicians were brought in from India to provide training in art of war and in using guns. It is found that such training and general drilling was done almost on a regular basis. The task of performing varieties of rehearsals before going to war is found to have increased. The main training that used to be provided with to the fighters was with swords and bows and arrows.
Besides this, Gorkhalese executed firmly the arrangement of providing land and other special assistance to the family of those who were killed in the war in order to keep morale of the army and the masses up and supply army uninterruptedly. They conducted special arrangement of punishment and award. There was a system of collecting ration, logistics including water necessary for the army directly from the general masses. Army’s ration generally used to consist of satu, rice and flour. A system of carrying out thorough study of geographical situation and of roads in the hills for the military activities had been initiated. Jhara soldiers, general people and animals were used as a means of transportation for a regular supply of weapons, edibles and other logistics to the battlefield. Regular communication used to be maintained through horseman and pedestrians. Gorkhalese, in order to know enemy situation, used to pay special attention to intelligence system. Special types of dresses were arranged for the combatants.
Strategy and Tactics of War
The main political strategy of Gorkalese rulers was their firm ambition of establishing a great feudal state. In order to achieve this strategy, they used excellently the tactics of Kautilya’s policy of negotiation, gift, punishment and penetration. In spite of several shameful defeats and severe losses Gorkhalese did not deviate from their strategy. Rather learning from defeats, they moved on more seriously in war.
Gorkhalese rulers used to inspire the entire people by developing a sentiment of “Brave Gorkhali” among them to make them participate in war-work in either form. Because of feeling of determinedness to their duty towards war from the advanced to the most backward sections of the people, Gorkhalese did not accept defeats despite there had been several severe loses due to silly mistakes of Prithvi Narayan Shah himself. The mystery of victory of Gorkhalese seems in fact to have hidden in their resoluteness towards strategy and the sentiment developed among the people. From the tactical point of view, no well-planned and theorized sequence is found in the given situation and that was not fully possible in the then stage of development of the society. But, a kind of tactics seems to have developed from the experiences of different past wars, the then objective and subjective situation of Gorkhalese and the defeats and victories that had happened in initial wars. In general those tactics can be presented as follows:
Tactics of Surprise Attacks
After their first defeat in Nuwakot, the Gorkhalese seem to have grasped firmly the method of surprise attack on the enemy at night or jungle or with no information to them, by cheating and without giving them chance to become alert.
Like for instance, to attack upon suddenly; in the course of triumphing over Nuwakot from all the three sides, in night when all were asleep after crossing Trishuli river through a boat without using the readymade bridge and disguising their army in the form of general working peasants that dig out a canal in the rainy season; to force army (which had come to rob off jewelry from Makwanpur and Kathmandu) flee away by destroying them, which was highly equipped with effective weapons under the leadership of Gurjikhan from Betia of India by attacking surprisingly in the night with a tiny force; to capture arm and drive away the British army (which was several times powerful in quantity and quality than the Gorkhalese) that had come to assist the king of Kathmandu by attacking surprisingly at a notch in between Sindhuligarhi and Pouwagarhi and so on. In general, Gorkhalese tried to apply this method everywhere to the extent it was possible.
To Attack Weak Enemy at First and Stronger the Later
Gorkha itself was a small and economically and militarily also a weak state. Compared to this, several states including that of Kathmandu were from this point of view in a very strong position. But, the Gorkhalese, capturing first the weaker and smaller states and dominions and consolidating own strength, adopted the method of confronting at last with the stronger. In fact it is the expression of the tactics to capture its entire surrounding land at first before capturing Kathmandu (erstwhile Kantipur). This fact is true not only in the context of Kantipur it is equally true in case of other states also.
To Take Advantage of Contradictions Among the Enemies
Gorkhalese have paid sufficient attention to extracting advantage out of contradictions among different states in order to attack upon other states and defend theirs. Whether it be in relation to Palpa, Makwanpur or Kantipur; whether it be in the context of Patan, Bhadgaon or Lamjung, be it in relation to Tanahun or others they have paid full attention to using contradictions. It is not only in relation to different states, it is found that they had a policy of utilizing to their capacity every dispute between King and the people under one state, dispute within the royal family, dispute among different officials and so on.
To Adopt a Policy of Intrigue, Conspiracy and Deception
The entire policy and morality of Gorkhalese was to achieve victory in war. They did not hesitate in the then situation to use any method of war. Its examples are: Prithvi Narayan Shah’s changed of his genealogical history, ousting of the tutor from kingdom after beating him, as he was invited to make compromise with the King of Tanahun, and imprisoning of the king himself, etc. Gorkhalese have adopted these kinds of innumerable methods of deception and conspiracy.
To Apply the Method of Embargo Against Enemy
When no chance existed to defeat enemies by way of direct fight, then they used to harass them by adopting the method of encirclement and embargo. In fact, the reason behind the success of Gorkhalese to capture Kirtipur is the method of encirclement they adopted at last. They were successful to capture Kantipur by creating turmoil all over the state through the method of economic embargo from all the directions.
To Adopt the Technique of Protracted War
They fought the war of protracted nature by using Gorkha as a base area for they were small and weak and the enemies to be triumphed were more in numbers and strong, too. To develop regular army from Jhara soldiers, to go up to modern weapons starting from general domestic ones, to go to big wars initiating from small ones, to attack upon strong by liquidating the weaker ones, to expand state one after another, to carry on war untiringly for decades etc; no doubt that all of these were the methods of protracted war.
From the military point of view, one can see that aforementioned types of strategies and tactics have played decisive role behind the success of Gorkhalese to develop a centralized feudal state in the then world situation and objective condition of the development of the Nepalese society. Today, when we comprehend the necessity of building a qualitatively new society by destroying feudalism and imperialism, then, how much important is the experience of war the Nepalese society acquired in the course of establishing a centralized feudal state by destroying tiny states is self-evident. It proves that embryos of modern proletarian military theories of protracted People’s War for the New Democratic revolution existed in this whole process.
3. Situation Followed by Centralized State System
Having set up a strong foundation of the great feudal state the process of its expansion went towards west from the east. In spite of some minor losses and defeats, the Nepalese border stretched out to Kangada in the west. In this way a great Nepal was been built up. To develop a centralized and strong, to a certain extent, anti-British feudal state in Nepal and to go on expanding could not have become a matter of pleasure for the British-India. It could not have been advantageous for many reasons and did not become so for the British, which were directly colonizing India by swallowing hundreds of tiny feudal kings and chieftains one after another.
Development of that kind of state in Nepal would create obstruction to trade for the British up to Tibet. It would be easy for the British to take advantage from Nepal, or capture if necessary, when there were tiny states and dominions and there was dispute among them. Now a danger had emerged that did not let it happen so easily. Apart from that, it would in no way be tolerable for the English looters to see an anti-British inclination in the Nepalese people. Therefore, the British were determined to fight a war with Nepal in different pretexts. The remarkable war of this period was mainly the war of Nepalese people with the British India.
There had been much more reforms in the military organization in Nepal since the establishment of feudal state to anti-British war and particularly during the tenure of Bhimsen Thapa. Organizational structure of modern regular army had been set up almost completely. Number of soldiers and quality of weapons were increased extensively. Provision for regular training took place. Even then the Jahara system did not end. The strategy and tactics that were adopted in the period of establishing centralized state were found to have almost been maintained in the period of anti-British war too.
Nepalese people showed an example of unprecedented devotion, sacrifice and bravery in those wars against the British. In course of this war the foundation of patriotic sentiment took its shape in the Nepalese people. The example of ability and bravery, which the Nepalese people exhibited in the war with the British, established the Nepalese people as a brave nation of the world. Even though the Nepalese people were weak and small they succeeded to defeat the powerful the British army in many places and inflict considerable losses on them. The entire Nepalese people including the children, aged and women and youths that fought risking life before the British cannon barrels with a stone in hand had added a new dimension of heroism in the history of human being. Incomparable examples of patriotism established in this course. It is especially notable here that Karl Marx, the great leader of the world proletariat and theoretician, had shown high regard to the devotion, sacrifice and valor the Nepalese people exhibited in the course of war against the British.
Because of a big gap in power balance, the then world situation and mainly due to the feudal character of the Nepalese ruling class the war could not have sustained for long and it did not too. Ultimately, Sugauli Treaty took place with the British, in which a large area of land controlled by Nepal was lost. Following this treaty Nepal came to be a semi-feudal and semi-colonial country. After this the Nepalese society is passing through a process of joint exploitation, oppression and pressure and interference of feudal and foreign monopoly capitalism in all the political and cultural fields. It is found that the patriots including Bhimsen Thapa had tried to build up a strategy to drive away the British robbers from Asia after the Sugauli Treaty. But, the British, the King and the other palatial courtiers carried out act of dreadful repression and murder unitedly against the representatives of anti-British trends. At last, hegemony of British agents was established in the Nepalese ruling order. Emergence of Janga Bahadur as a potent representative of British agents is an outcome of that process.
Why did it happen so? As a matter of fact, conditions of the kings after the establishment of the Greater Nepal with centralized feudal system did not remain like those of previous tiny kings. Now the necessary material environment was prepared for the Kings to develop themselves in the form of feudal kings in the modern sense. To entertain luxurious and rapturous life over the blood and sweat of the people, amass a huge property for their future generations, impose Hindu religion from all the wings of the state so as to make others say him as an incarnation of Vishnu, create caste discrimination based on religion, etc. came to be the tasks and characteristics of the King. With the establishment of such a powerful state system, dreadful events among different groups and individuals of the feudal ruling class for appropriation of the property, prestige and luxury with the force of the power reached its peak in the palace. The palace itself was the focal point of murder, terror, exploitation, immorality, infidelity, hypocrisy, intrigue and conspiracy.
It is a reactionary repetition of the world history for these kind of feudal elements to kneel down before the foreign imperialist robbers in order to protect their “heaven”. Nepal could not have remained an exception and it did not.
Along with the development of this process, Nepalese armies were then trained as mercenary soldiers, a weapon of suppressing people’s just struggles as a shield of feudalism and imperialism in and outside of the country. In this course, a process of recruiting Nepalese youths in foreign mercenary armies of bourgeoisie was started. From this onward, Nepal entered into a process of economic dependency and cultural degeneration.
4. After 1949
With the constant flow of motion and change, a new wave of worldwide mass awakening unfolded. The proletarian class, holding high the inevitable future golden flag of the mankind, and with the scientific knowledge and consciousness of the overall development of human being in the international political arena, emerged as a glowing sun of the east. Earth-shaking cyclones of class struggles started to rise up under the leadership of the proletariat. The modern working class made forays over the “heaven” of the feudal and bourgeoisie. New blood circulation of hope of emancipation from their depressed condition started following among the working masses the world over. Proletarian revolution attained victory in Russia. Triumph of revolution including in China and other countries continued. People’s anti-British fury unfurled in India. Finally, a situation developed in which the British could not sustain in the old fashion in India. In this world situation, anti-feudal and anti-imperialist awareness started developing in the Nepalese people also. Different political and social institutions started taking shape in favor of the people’s interest. In this course, establishment of the Communist Party of Nepal took place and that became a historical event in favor of anti-feudal and anti-imperialist Nepalese people’s struggle. Different kinds of movements on the part of the Nepalese people started to advance.
Along with this, reactionaries the world over went on raising new records of deception, conspiracy and repression against the people to defend their heaven of loot. Nepalese society has arrived up to today through the course of increasing struggle of the Nepalese people and deception, conspiracy and repression of the reactionaries. Nepalese people have waged innumerable sacrificing struggles of different kinds after 1949 also. The Nepalese society has passed through local and nationwide struggles including rural class conflict for nationalism, democracy and livelihood. In between this time, thousands of brave sons and daughters of the Nepalese people have lost their lives in these struggles.
Whatever ordinary reforms the people have acquired under the prevailing political structure; the people’s violent struggle is in reality working from behind. People have not obtained even the least of gains without waging violent struggles. Today, the Nepalese society has arrived at such a point of crisis under the existing political system that there is no alternative on the part of the people other than to smash it. Those who talk of reform from peaceful and parliamentary method under this system have become enemy of the people. Only those opportunist elements, that have no confidence in the historical role of the masses and believe in reactionary rule, can act to deceive people by showing inclination towards peaceful struggles and parliamentary activities.
It is clear from the aforesaid brief review of history that the Nepalese people have been waging armed and violent struggles since long historical period for their necessity of life. They have become brave warrior people of the world. Today the reactionaries propaganda that Nepalese people are peace-loving and non-violent is against the historical fact and is only a conspiracy to by disarm the people mentally and to protect their rule that sustains in their reactionary violence.
The Nepalese society has been developing its own kinds of tactics in guerrilla war traditionally, during the period of establishment of the centralized feudal system and up to anti-British war. In order to fight a strong and huge enemy, the Nepalese society has acquired experience of its own kind of protracted war and victory in such wars.
Nepalese people are advancing ahead through the course of innumerable violent struggles for nationalism, democracy and livelihood from around 1949 till today. In between, whatever reforms have been achieved, the force of violent struggles waged by people disobeying the existing law and order is working from behind. But the reactionaries and the opportunists have sought arrest the consequence of that great devotion and sacrifice of the people in their favor till now by force of conspiracy and deception. People have been trapped in the vicious circle of crisis. People are also advancing ahead in the course of struggles one after another. The development of this process has now demanded a new qualitative leap in Nepal.
With the above historical background, today we have Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, the invincible ideological weapon that the international proletarian class has developed as a highest synthesis of the knowledge of the human being. We have a universal proletarian military theory of People’s War, which being developed amidst intense storms of class struggles has been proved the best. Our Marxist-Leninist-Maoist Party is the one, which has developed amidst long and intense ideological struggle against different forms of opportunism and mainly the right revisionism seen in the Nepalese communist movement.
Apart from this, what can we say from the experience of the history is that the tactics of encircling the cities from the countryside goes well not only with the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist theory of protracted People’s War but also with the historical development process of Nepal. There can be no talk of a new type of Party and a new society in the countries like ours without the protracted process of People’s War. The experience of the class struggle has elucidated the fact that the People’s War does not have any alternative in today’s world. Shattering the opportunist illusions that deceive people by saying that the mass movement and the parliamentary struggle is principal, now it has become a historical necessity to enter into the course of People’s War. People are the creators of the history. To provide leadership to the Nepalese people that have a glorious history of heroism is the duty of the communists today.