The Nepal Civil War
What the reader needs to know. Quick summary of basic points.
There is a long Wikipedia article on the Nepal Civil War. It is as good a place to start, as any.
Note: not everyone will agree with everything written below. An exhaustive history of this civil war has yet to be written.
The book, “The Sacrament of the Goddess,” makes use of point of view. It is written in third person, but there is no disembodied all-knowing narrator to provide an exhaustive store of immutable facts. As such, the book does not devote much time to the backstory of the Nepal Civil War. In order to keep the story moving, the book shares only the level of information known by the main characters at the time of events. The ins and outs of Nepal politics have been so Byzantine as to be incomprehensible to a casual observer.
Nonetheless, early readers asked for a simple explanation of the civil war, which lasted from 1992 to 2006 and took the lives of 16,000 people in Nepal. This conflict was characterized by widespread hit-and-run terrorist actions and an escalation of counter-terrorist strategies by the central government. Later in the war the tactics evolved in to pitched battles between more conventional armed forces. The battle of Beni was among the largest such battles in the war.
Please note: some details of the battle of Beni are from contemporaneous accounts; others have been added to heighten the narrative of this work of fiction.
The civil war ended with the signing of the eleven-point agreement in 2006. Some speculate that the Maoists only came to the table because they ran out of money to fund their army. The King abdicated in 2007. The political chaos continues since the signing of the eleven-point agreement. Events after 2007 will serve as the backdrop for a future book.
The basic problem – wealth in Nepal is concentrated in the Kathmandu Valley. There is tremendous disparity between the Valley and the rural areas. In western Nepal there was an ongoing famine. The country is overpopulated and is a net importer of food. Health statistics are dismal, there is a land-based economy, and the role of women leaves much to be desired. In every respect, conditions were ripe for revolution.
The Government – during the period in the book, Nepal was “the last Hindu Kingdom on earth” ruled by King Birendra and then King Gyanendra. Since the 1950s, Nepal was allied with the American CIA in a covert war in Tibet against the communist Chinese. Western Nepal served as a training base for Tibetan Freedom Fighters (guerillas) sent across the Himalaya to Tibet. Not one ever returned alive.
The Gurkhas – please note that the most famous fighting force associated with Nepal is the Gurkhas, but they have no role here. They are mercenaries, employed by foreign governments such as Singapore, India and the UK. Western Nepal is the prime recruiting territory for this group.
The Military – The military is composed of the Royal Nepal Army and the Armed Police Force. The Armed Police Force was given better weapons and training as the Civil War progressed. The RNA used more conventional weapons as well as helicopters. There are also local police.
The People’s Liberation Army – was headquartered in western Nepal, a vast area with no paved roads. In the book, the name is interchangeable with the idea of “Uniformed Maoists.” Paradoxically, many leaders of this group came from Kathmandu.
Maoists – the clandestine civilian revolutionaries ( terrorists, depending on your point of view). Not associated with or supported by the Chinese. The name comes from the strategy of enlisting peasants in a revolt, as opposed to waiting for an industrialized middle class to emerge from the proletariat (which would have been “Leninist”). The Maoist program included better health and education, redistribution and decentralization of wealth, and equal rights for women. It also included recruitment of child soldiers, use of women soldiers, extortion of money, and seizing land from owners.
The terrain – Nepal is landlocked, and consists of three major zones. The first is the Himalaya, highest mountain range on earth. The second is the hill country. The steepness of river valleys and difficulty of travel here can not be overstated. In western Nepal there is a vast area with no paved roads. Fine territory for the headquarters of an insurgent group. The third area is the Terai, a large flat valley that runs along the southern border with India.
The weather – 80% of the annual rainfall occurs in the summer monsoon, one of the truly epic weather events of this planet. Rainfall plays a factor is making roads impassable.