HARI BANSH JHA
The people’s war initiated by the Maoists lasted in Nepal for a decade between 1996 and 2006. During that period, more than 18,000 people were killed. Rampant cases of atrocities were committed by the warring factions against the civilian population in the form of extra-judicial killings, disappearances and abductions. Also, quite common were the cases of beatings, threats, humiliation, forced unethical acts, rape and sexual harassment. Many people lost their property as it was confiscated by the rebellious force. Estimates are that 150,000 to 400,000 people were displaced due to conflict. Besides,government buildings, health posts, drinking water systems, police posts, airports, schools, roads and telecoms were damaged or destroyed in different parts of the country. The economic cost of conflict is estimated at 8 to 10 per cent of the GDP.
However, the Maoists signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement with the government of Nepal in 2006 to end the decade-long People’s War. That agreement reached even after the Maoists failed to capture any of the districts, though they had influence in each part of the country. The government was also tired because it failed to bring the Maoists to their size. So the agreement was a compulsion for both the warring factions. But then such activities took the country at least three decades back!
Soon after the historic agreement reached between the rebel forces and the government, the elections of 601-member Constituent Assembly (CA) were conducted in 2008. To the surprise of many political pundits, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) emerged as the single largest political party. Elections of President and Vice President were also successfully completed.
As per the Interim Constitution of Nepal, the CA was expected to draft and endorse the constitution within two years. In the process of sweeping change, the 239-year old monarchical institution was abolished. The country was declared a federal republic, though federal structure is yet to be evolved. Overnight, the country became secular, when it was known as the only Hindu country in the world. The 19,500 Maoist fighters were made to give up arms and live in seven cantonments and 21 satellite camps under the supervision of United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN).
People put their faith in the new leadership.The leaders gave a vision of making anew Nepal. It was expected that the new government headed by the Maoists would bring about significant transformation in socio-economic and political set up of the country.But soon people’s faith in the new political leadership crumbled. The leaders became interested in power game rather than doing anything for the welfare of the people.Virtually, the position of Prime Minister became a musical chair. In the power game, a Prime Minister hardly stays in office for more than one year. Since 2008, Nepal witnessed five Prime Ministers in five years! The sense of growing alienation and deprivation among certain ethnic communities in Nepal for their lopsided representation in politics, judiciary, security agencies, diplomatic and administrative structure is also a matter of concern. Towards this end, the Madhesis in Terai had launched a movement in 2008. The situation somewhat calmed after the government signed agreement with the agitating leaders and met their demands of separate federal state with right of self-determination. It is difficult even to travel freely from one part of the Terai to the other due to the existence of armed groups. Similarly, certain ethnic communities in eastern hill region of Nepal have been agitating in favor of federal state and law and order situation in that region is equally precarious.
The situation of Nepal is getting aggravated at a time the CA tenure ended without drafting the new constitution after its repeated extension, on 28th May 2012. Since then, what Nepal does have is merely a care-taker government which cannot take any crucial decision except doing day-to-day work.The Prime Minister’s commitment to conduct fresh elections of Nepalese parliament on November 22 also failed to materialize.Virtually, the government in Nepal does not have the people’s mandate to rule the country as a new constitution could not be made.
The revival of the CA is not the solution to the problem in the same way as conducting elections by the party in power is not going to bring any tangible peace and stability in the country. How can the CA that could not deliver any positive result during four years prove worthy now? There is equally a possibility of manipulation if the party in power is allowed to conduct fresh elections. Against this background, the President has to see that a new government is formed under the retired judge of the Supreme Court and elections of parliament along with the local level bodies, including the Village Development Committees, municipalities and District Development Committees, is conducted simultaneously in free and fair way so that power is genuinely transferred to the people’s representatives. The sooner the fresh elections are conducted at central and local levels and power is transferred to the new government, the better the chance to avert any impending crisis looming ahead.
Jha is Executive Director
of CETS Nepal