Exclusive: Rebel leader on Nepal's 'last war'
(CNN) -- Krishna Bahadur Mahara is one of three top Maoist leaders in Nepal. The Maoists have been fighting since 1996 to overthrow the monarchy and make the country a communist state.
Labelled a terrorist by Kathmandu, Mahara has been rumored to have been killed twice in encounters with Nepalese armies. He carries a pricetag of $65,000 on his head, a significant sum in the region.
In a CNN exclusive, Mahara talks with CNN's Satinder Bindra -- the first time any Senior Maoist leader has spoken on camera since the insurgents went underground late last year when peace talks with the Nepal government broke off.
CNN: The Nepalese government has branded you as terrorists. How would you like to respond to that?
Mahara: Just like the Americans branded al Qaeda and the Taliban as terrorists to wage a war on them, similarly the Nepal government has categorized the Maoist movement as terrorism because they want to get rid us.
Our movement is based on an ideology. It has the support of the Nepalese people. I agree that in its initial phase, this movement, six to seven years ago, had little support.
We are a political force and do not support terrorism. We condemn all types of terrorism. Terrorism is what a few people do for their own selfish reasons but we are a political force. This is a people's movement, a people's war. It is a people's force.
We are not terrorists and that is clear. We want to tell the media that we are against terrorism. We are not a terrorist force. We have a proper political thought to serve the people, to liberate the people, to establish a society based on equality in the country and we are fighting for this based on a proper political idea and thought.
I want to tell this to you.
CNN: The Nepalese government points out that you are using what they call child soldiers, that civilians have been attacked and that civilians have regularly been scared off by bombing campaigns. You call for vast strikes for across Nepal and if people don't obey your call they are killed in cold blood. They say such acts can only be defined as terrorist acts.
Mahara: These are just baseless allegations made by the Nepalese government.
We have no children in our fighting force. We do not admit anyone below 18 in our army. We do not have anyone below that age in our army. This is a baseless allegation.
As far as our movement is concerned, we have the support of the children as well as the elderly. But they are not part of our army. We only have young rebellions fighting for our cause.
Secondly, the allegation of Maoist killing civilians is also false. In fact the government is responsible for all those killings. They kill those innocent people just because they support our cause. The Nepalese government claims to have killed four thousand Maoists. But the truth is that more than 80 percent of them were innocent civilians. We have only killed the criminal elements of our society and that too after issuing them several warnings and it was done in front of the people and according to the wishes of the people.
CNN: What do you mean when you say the Nepalese government is not killing fighters, your fighters, but killing Maoist sympathizers? What evidence can you show that this is indeed true?
Mahara: We have loads of evidence against the government. Just to give an example, seven people were killed in Kabri district some time ago which the government claimed as Maoists but they had no arms and ammunitions they were just innocent musicians.
In Salan, innocent people were killed in an air raid by the government. And this happened at a fair later on [where] they claimed to have killed Maoists. If the government claims to have killed 4,000 Maoists then where are their arms they recovered from them or the uniforms that our fighters wear. Why doesn't the government show those?
CNN: The U.S. government says you are like the Khmer Rouge, that you use the same tactics the Khmer Rouge used in the 1970's. How would you like to respond to that?
Mahara: We do adopt the strategies and tactics of all the past wars fought for the freedom of people all over the world. But we don't do that mechanically.
The allegations that we fight like the Khmer Rouge are absolutely wrong. We are fighting for our cause in our own style. According to the geography, the enemy and the situation of Nepal, we are fighting according to that.
CNN: Are you angry and upset that world does not truly understand the nature of your cause and that the Nepalese government has actually got some international attention in labeling you in the manner that they have, as terrorists?
Mahara: The rulers in today's world are all mad. They have no ideology. They have nothing to offer to the public and end up taking all the wrong decisions about any movement or any organization.
This does not surprise or anger us but, of course, disgusts us, and the disgust and the hate that we have for them gives us the power to fight.
Because if they said that we were right then there was no need for any war or revolution.
They are so selfish that they can never see the people's viewpoint. Their ignorance fuels our will to fight and rebel. If they could see our viewpoint, there will be no need for this rebellion.
CNN: Thousands have been killed in the ongoing conflict between the Maoists and the army and security forces in Nepal. How long can you sustain such a campaign? How many more deaths are you willing to put up with?
Mahara: This fight is not our wish. The rulers of this nation have compelled us to raise a rebellion against them. If they listen to us then this fight can stop in a minute. We want this to end as soon as possible without a single casualty.
But our wish means nothing, it is up to the ruling class.
It is the ruling class that is committing injustice on people all we are doing is resisting. Now its up to them when they want this to finish. They have forced this on us.
CNN: You say you want peace but why is there no peace? What can be done to bring about peace from both sides?
Mahara: We also want peace. As and when ruling class empowers the people, peace will prevail.
We want them to decentralize all their powers to the people of this nation.
The ruling class has kept the power away from the people. We have demanded an interim government and constituent assembly. Whatever the people decide we are willing to accept and this is how peace will prevail.
CNN: You are asking for a constituent assembly. Why does the ruling establishment or the king in particular not want a constituent assembly? Why are they saying no to that repeatedly?
Mahara: This is a very important question.
The government is not agreeing to our proposal for a constituent assembly because they know that they'll lose. They just have the support of the army and certain pimps in position of power. The common man is against them.
Our party's chairman comrade Prasayna has appealed for talks again and again. The slogan for constituent assembly is not ours, it is that of the capitalist.
Our slogan has always been people's democracy and new democracy. They know they'll lose that's why they are not even agreeing to our flexible demand.
CNN: The situation is deadlocked. The government does not agree to your demands and the fighting goes on. Why do you think the government has not reached your forces? How are you managing to continue this conflict?
Mahara: The reason why the government is opposing talks is that they are preparing for a fully-fledged war. If the government agrees to a political solution, we are even ready for a ceasefire. We are ready to redefine our army and make it into a national army because the army that exists right now is just serving the king. We have gone so far to say that,
But it seems that the government is not ready for talks or a political solution so we are being forced to a standoff. And this war will be a historical and decisive one.
CNN: Why do you call this a historical war? Is this going to be a fight until the finish? Because both sides have been trying to weaken each other for the last four five years, it's been a stalemate. Both sides are not strong enough to do it. So do you think this last round, as you put it, will be the decisive round?
Mahara: This will be the last war because there is no other solution. The king's army is preparing to bring in reinforcements from outside. And if they come then we will obviously get the people of Nepal and the world to fight for us.
History has shown that the people always win because the people create history. The rulers just know how to commit atrocities on the people and they create an atmosphere of fear. They can only think of making their army stronger.
Their rule is illegal, our war is legal. This war will stretch for long if the foreign army is called in. But we will definitely win. That's why we call it the last war.
CNN: How do you see the political landscape in the next few weeks, perhaps next few months? Will there be elections in Nepal as promised by the king? Can democracy flourish and prosper there?
Mahara: The king does not want actual democracy. It is a ploy by the king so that the people are on his side.
If the king was on the side of democracy then he would not have dissolved the parliament.
After dissolving the parliament, there should have been a midterm polls. He had announced midterm polls ... that should have taken place. All these events, and for the last one year, King Gyanendra's emergency, the murder of King Birendra -- all these events are linked together.
What we see is the king, he does not want democracy, all he wants is the power for himself.
The slogan like fair elections and clean government, these are all like green grass.
It is a green grass for both the people and the political parties. This is a conspiracy by the king to suppress the people and to create a big war on the people. We do not believe that he is going to have elections in the near future. He is not going to have elections. His strategy is to buy time, keep the power for himself and keep the people of Nepal suppressed.
CNN: So you don't see any hope? You seem to paint a very drab, very dreary picture for your country?
Mahara: The king's inner desire is not for democracy but the situation around him is forcing him to talk peace.
All political parities are in favor of the Maoist movement and the whole world is putting pressure for peace talks and then an interim government.
In such a situation, the king does not have any other possibility but to take these talks forward. What I can say sitting now is that the king's army will not fight for very long.
They will fight for a while but then they will want peace. Right now the situation as it is is probably leading towards some sort of dialogue and interim government, the situation is hopeful.
Apart from this there is no other solution for the king.