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“We Are Trying to Crush Feudal Autocracy”

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Maoist leader Prachanda declined to be interviewed in person but agreed to reply in writing to questions delivered by TIME’s South Asia bureau chief Alex Perry to a go-between in rebel territory. The reply—dated Feb. 25 and signed “With best regards, Your Prachanda”—came by e-mail. Although TIME could not independently verify that Prachanda wrote the e-mail, several senior Party leaders attested that he was the author.

TIME: Where does your revolution stand?
Prachanda: The great People’s War has entered its last stage, of strategic offensive. In 1996, we had not a single modern weapon nor any trained armed groups, only an ideological, political and military line and a plan [that] defined three stages: defensive, equilibrium and offensive. We have already pushed the R.N.A. [Royal Nepalese Army] into a defensive position and confined them to the capital, district headquarters and their barracks. We have confidence in ultimate victory.

TIME: What’s your vision for Nepal?
Prachanda: My vision is of a democratic new Nepal, free from the exploitation of feudalism, working for economic and cultural prosperity.

TIME: Human-rights groups accuse the Maoists and the R.N.A. of brutality and murder.
Prachanda: [The two] cannot be compared. We are fighting for the liberation of the masses, whereas the R.N.A. is fighting against the masses. Thousands of disappearances, houses burned and looted, thousands of rapes, torture and killing: these are the open secrets of the R.N.A. Because we are at war, I can’t rule out mistakes. But we try to correct them.

TIME: Do you truly believe your revolution will spread across the world?
Prachanda: The imperialist world order makes a handful of rich richer and the vast majority inhumanly poorer. Anybody can observe a growing global unrest and protest by the masses against this world order. We deeply believe that what we are starting in Nepal is only a part of a worldwide revolution. Our Party is not only fighting autocratic monarchy but also the evil of the imperialist world.

TIME: How did you become a revolutionary?
Prachanda: I am from a poor peasant family. From my childhood, I came to feel the meaning of poverty and inhuman exploitation. In high school, I came in contact with communist ideology, then I was involved in student politics, and by the time I graduated, I was already a communist. Thereafter I took part in all kinds of small and big struggles, and that led me to the situation where I am today.

TIME: Do you ever dream about how life might have been different for you?
Prachanda: No! I never have doubts about the job of dedicating myself to the noble cause of liberating the masses. I have no time and no interests outside the Party, the campaign and the masses. To sacrifice oneself to change the world for the betterment of humanity, [to fight] the evil system of exploitation of men by men—this is my first and last dream.

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