Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) leader Baburam Bhattarai is a man of several parts—a savant and a bush leader, a lover of books and guns, an obedient son and a fierce republican, a deft fighter and an erudite ideologue; he has indeed been the defining force of the underground Maoist guerrilla movement in Nepal, enervating the ruling establishment of the country to sue for peace. Frail and bearded, and taciturn by disposition, Bhattarai is every inch the romantic hero popular imagination has thrived on, a veritable superman who could change the status quo and provide the impoverished masses a reason to hope—and live.
And Dr Baburam Bhattarai hasn't let them down. Fiercely wielding the gun and writing prolifically in the papers and periodicals to justify violence as an instrument of social change, Bhattarai, a politburo member—together with party chairman Prachanda—has fashioned, within six years, a powerful underground movement which has been locked in a bloody conflict with the Nepal government. The toll: 1,800. The result: a weakened government in Kathmandu and its new prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba offering parleys (on July 16).
It's peace time in Nepal, temporary and tentative. Prachanda has asked the Maoists to hold fire. Yet, with their avowed goal of establishing a communist republic in Nepal and abolishing the constitutional monarchy, the Maoists could return to the bush sooner than expected. And Bhattarai would then be back to doing what he does best—writing articles espousing the Maoist ideology and winning votaries to the 'cause'.
Some 32 years ago, his life had been on a quite another trajectory. As a village boy, he surprised the country by topping the school examination, repeating the feat again at the intermediate level, from a science college in Kathmandu. Says Bhattarai's father Bhoj Prasad: "Astrologers had...