Toronto’s ‘Lal Salaam’ Interviews Maoist Student Leader Gopal Neupane
Interview by Nicolas Lopez – a member of Toronto organizations Lal Salaam, Barrio Nuevo, the Frente Norman Bethune – who traveled to Nepal in November 2009.
Young students participating in the 17th National Convention of the All Nepal National Independent Students’ Union-Revolutionary
Lal Salaam: Tell us about your student organization.
Neupane: Our student organization [All Nepal National Independent Students’ Union – Revolutionary - ed.] has people from all over Nepal… We are the largest student organization here in Nepal…
We are fighting for free education, scientific education and education for all. Twenty percent of children have never gone to school… never! They never even entered the school area or school compound. The remaining students enter high school and from class 1 to class 12, only 6% of students pass… only 6% regularly graduate. This is a very dangerous situation here in Nepal. This is why… because the education is privatized. People cannot send the children to the schools because they cannot afford to pay the fees…
What we say is that our students organize strongly; high school education is a fundamental right for children. In the interim Constitution, they wrote that school education is a fundamental right, but they only wrote it; this is not the practice. We condemn, we argue and we are pressuring the state and the government to provide education for all people, for all children. This is a fundamental right.
Neupane: Here in Nepal there are 5 major Universities. Tribhuvan U is the largest University in Nepal. It’s the cheapest one and is funded by the Government. The other four are expensive and private. Kathmandu University is not exactly a private university, but it is functioning like one. Then there is Purbanchal U, which is in the eastern part of Nepal, and Pokara University, which is in the western part of Nepal. Culture University is another one. These are the main Universities in Nepal. These four cover 10% of students, and they are very expensive. The only cheap one is Tribhuvan U, so our organizations strongly argue that the university which schools 90% of students must be cheapest, because it’s for the poor people.
We strongly condemn the executive members of the university. We don’t agree with the hike of fees, so we are regularly in protest at the university. This is the reality here in Nepal. The executive members want to dissolve the university, because they want to privatize it. The executive members, like the vice-chancellor, the comptroller, they are coming from the Nepali Congress and UML [the two main imperialist-backed parties blocking the Maoists’ constitutional right to govern] and they want education only for the bourgeoisie, not for the poor people.
So we protest this and our demand is EDUCATION FOR ALL. Before the drafting of the interim constitution, we protested and it was written, only written, not in practice, the fundamental right of education. But it is not applied…we are now pressuring the government, the state, to provide the fundamental right of education for all. Education for all means education for all. It means free, scientific education. Without scientific education, the education is not applicable, so we are regularly pressuring the government.
LS: What is the relationship between the student movement and the mass popular movement?
Neupane: In Nepal every movement is led by students because students are the youth. In the people’s war and the mass movement, in every movement the student leaders are in the lead. If you see in our party, most of our leaders have come from a student background, every movement is directly lead by the students here in Nepal.
The student movement here in Nepal is different from other countries – from what I’ve seen in Europe, in East Asia, and other countries. What I found there is no strong student movement because they are in capitalism. The trade union movement is very strong but in Nepal we have a semi-feudal state so there is not so strong a trade union movement. Students are coming from the rural area and they see the people. What we have to do to change the nation, to change society, and everywhere students lead the movement, students are leaders of the nation of Nepal.
The bourgeoisie parties, they always deprived the student movement, because students are young blooded, they always want change. The bourgeoisie parties do not give rights to the young people because they do not want change; they want the existing system. Students want change. This means all of the youth and all of the students are in our organizations right now and openly say if changes happen in Nepal, they will be made by the Maoists. In the student movement, change is happening with the All Nepal National Independent Students – Revolutionary. From the very beginning up to now we lead the mass movement and we now lead the student movement.
LS: One last question: what message can you give from your position as a leader in the student movement, a leader in the people’s movement to the people in Canada?
Neupane: This is the era of imperialism. Everywhere, U.S. imperialism has hegemony.
First of all we have to fight against U.S. imperialism, overthrow U.S. imperialism and establish a liberated society.
From Nepal to Latin America, we have to strengthen our hand to fight imperialism and raise our voice for humanity, for education, for health and for our right to our own nations.
Red salute to all young people in Canada, and solidarity from Nepal to Canada, and at last we must be liberated and we must defeat imperialism. Thank you, Red Salute!
LS: Lal Saalam!