Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Whatever happened to YCL?

KATHMANDU, Aug 11: On the banks of dirty Bishnumati river, just across the residence of Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal at Nayabaazar, is a dilapidated hut where Saroj Lama, 24, and his wife Karina, 24, are busy doing household chores.

Married to Saroj in 2007, Karina is now a mother of an eight month-old child who struggles for space within the stiflingly crammed hut time and again as the mother holds the child back and lets her crawl on the bare cold floor.

Members of the Maoist Young Communist League (YCL), Saroj and Karina met in Kathmandu in 2006, fell in love at first sight, got married the following year and decided to devote their lives for the cause of “revolution.” Four years on, they find their zeal and enthusiasm flagging and their commitment to revolution faltering.

“We have received directives from the party to not get involved in politics. We are no longer doing what we as YCL members once did,” says Saroj who joined the Maoist party when he was an eighth grader in his home district Makwanpur.

The couple works in the field around the hut that was once a riverbed, produces vegetables and grains, and send the surpluses to the party. This was, however, a far cry from what they were taught back in 2007, and what they dreamt up. “Back in those days, we were euphoric and everyday was purposeful,” says Saroj.

With the number of YCL full-timers dwindling fast, Saroj and Karina along with four others are the last of their kind to stay back on the riverbank that was once the shelter of over four dozen members. Some of their colleagues were transferred to other party wings and organizations, while others left for home or abroad.

The UCPN (Maoist) has long stopped issuing political instructions to the YCL as the party has been thrown into intra-party conflict and ideological confusion, and the couple, like other YCL members, has been rendered jobless.

What went wrong 

Till a year ago, the YCL hogged the headlines for all the bad reasons: beating up rival party cadres, taking law into its own hands, operating “dubious businesses” and launching extortion drive, among other things. But four years after its formation, the YCL is conspicuously absent from the popular media. What went wrong?

“We have officially decided to keep it low profile for now as per the party´s official decision,” says YCL coordinator Ganeshman Pun. He concedes that there is something wrong with the operation of the YCL that earned disrepute over the years, but adds that the party had to decide to inactivate the youth body for now only to adjust with the current political reality.

Party leaders accept in private that there were at least three reasons that compelled the party to deactivate the YCL: First, demands by other political parties to disband its paramilitary structure; secondly, the serious factionalism in the party; and thirdly, the growing disillusionment of the youths especially after the party launched unification drive in 2008.

“They did not see any prospect of making progress in the party career as the new entrants occupied many top positions. Nor were they sure about the party´s commitment to revolution,” says a senior party leader from the hard-line faction led by senior Vice-chairman Mohan Baidya.

On top of that, the party, he argues, did not find the YCL as necessary at this juncture.

Maoists formed the militant YCL immediately after joining the peace process. “The YCL were expected to be in the frontline of the people´s revolt. So it is quite natural to make the body inactive as we don´t have that line now,” says Shyam Kumar Budha Magar, member of YCL central secretariat.

YCL was the part of the Maoist party even before launching the insurgency in 1996. After the insurgency gained momentum, the members of the YCL were recruited into the People´s Liberation Army (PLA) and the body was made inactive. After the party joined the peace process, and the PLA was required to stay in the cantonment, the youth force was revived once again as the party as per its organizational philosophy always needs to have a militant body at its disposal in case the political reality requires a final push for “revolution.”

“Most of the PLA members who were politically aware and had leadership qualities were recruited into the YCL to make the body strong,” said a senior YCL leader who did not want to be named. But the party neither saw any immediate possibility of a revolt, nor made preparations for it.

After the Palungtar Plenum in November, the party decided to form People's Volunteers, a mega organization incorporating YCL and youths from all sections of the society, to launch a people´s revolt.

But the majority of the YCL members who were loyal to the Dahal faction declined to join the People's Volunteers as it was led by Netra Bikram Chand from the rival hard-line faction.

Then neither the YCL nor the People's Volunteers became active leaving the party without any well-organized militant force.

Despair and depletion 

After the Maoists joined the peace process, the YCL was the most conspicuous wing of the party, which was regarded a vital organization for launching an urban insurrection for state capture, having seized vast swaths of rural Nepal. Back then, the party had deployed some 5,000 full-timers YCL members in the Kathmandu Valley alone. They had set up camps in all the electoral constituencies of the Kathmandu Valley, with 300 to 400 members each.

But the number is fast depleting. According to party leaders, some were transferred to party´s other departments and wings, some returned home, some initiated their own business, some are involved in “dubious financial dealings”, while others flew abroad for employment. The YCL have quit the camp, but still stay in groups at rented houses in all the electoral constituencies of the valley.

Now the number of YCL members in each group has plummeted to 30-40. Some leaders argue that the party would soon reactivate the organization at an appropriate time.

“YCL has only receded into a dormant state, and the party may revive it when the need arises,” argues Dharma Pun at YCL headquarter in Kathmandu. But most of the YCL revolutionaries are not yet sure how long they should stay jobless and what fate has in store for them.
Published on 2011-08-11 00:00:01

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