Push for a new nepal : Peace process needs to be reviewed

Kathmandu, February 10:

Political analysts and donors met in Kathmandu last week to chart out a road to peace, saying they had been too preoccupied with the Maoists to foresee problems of inclusion and identity. Now they are focusing on certain other areas.

“It now appears that the problems of inclusion and identity were as significant as the Maoist problem, but we failed to see it on time,” human rights activist Mall K Sundar said.

The panelists and the analysts were of the view that the problem of unemployment should also be the focus in the post-conflict era.

So, what are the stumbling blocks for Nepal’s fragile peace process?

Are efforts to bring Maoists into the mainstream enough to ensure the sustainable peace? These are the major questions all the stakeholders, particularly the seven-party alliance, should contemplate and chart a new course to prepare the map for a ‘New Nepal.’

It is in this light that politicians, the government and intelligentsia need to focus on the flaws inherent in the peace process.

Though the government may boast of its achievement in the post Maoist conflict era citing a number of subsequent agreements, constitution of different political committees, ongoing reconstruction projects, the road for peace — especially sustainable peace — looks bumpy.

If the paper presented by Secretary to the Ministry of Peace and Construction, Madhav Prasad Ghimire, in a ‘Pre Consultative Meeting of Donor Communities’ held here last week was any indication, where the government has appealed to the donor communities for an assistance of $471.44 million, all for post Maoist conflict reconstruction works, it is evident that the government has failed to understand the dynamics of conflict in the country.

“Peace is not an emerging trend, only the dynamics of it has changed,” says MP Mall K Sundar.

Indeed, during the Maoist insurgency, the conflict was based on political ideology.

Given the major demands of Madhesi, Janajatis and Dalits communities, it would not be wrong to say that the dynamics of old conflict has changed from ideology to identity.

When the Maoists withdrew from the government and the peace process faltered for a while, particularly with Maoists issuing threats of new insurgency, national and international players left no stones unturned to bring them back on the peace track, but may be knowingly or unknowingly the government functionaries are not according the same priority to bringing other agitating factions Madhesi in particular and all the marginal groups in general into the mainstream even when new conflicts are posing grave threats to the April 10 CA polls.

To bring other agitating factions, be the Madhesis or any other factions into the mainstream, the same modalities that were adopted vis-à-vis Maoists should be adopted, says Brishesh Chandra Lal, central member of newly formed Tarai-Madhes Loktantrik party. And his argument holds water also because even all the Madhesi factions, intelligentsia, civil society and independent stakeholders are urging the SPA to solve the problem by engaging the agitating factions but not resorting to repressive measures.

Given the examples of other conflict-hit countries, it is evident that more repression breeds more violence.

One more fall-out in the eventuality of the state’s failure to bring the agitating factions into the mainstream soon, could be that the CA polls could be delayed further and in that case the gains of the people’s movement could be lost with Madhesis being the worst losers.

In case the agitating Madhesi factions are not brought into mainstream before it is too late, the probability of mainstream Madhesi factions like the TMDP and Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF) might, in the long run, align with the armed outfits and that will only worsen the situation in Tarai. Dr. Sundar Mani Dixit, one of the vanguards of civil causes is alarmed at this possibility.

“The state should take into confidence all the agitating factions and move ahead on the basis of consensus or else Madhes movement can lead to Kashmir like situation in the country,” Dr Dixit warns.

A clarion call by the democratic parties of Madhes would rally more support of the common Madhesi people than the government’s appeal.

Therefore, the government should, as human rights activists Krishna Pahadi puts it, constantly appeal to peaceful parties of Madhes to maintain the sanctity of democratic values while adopting pressure tactics.

In the post-Maoist insurgency era, all stakeholders were and are likely to exert pressure on the government seeking equal stakes in the New Nepal, as has been the case in many conflict hit countries, but since the government lacked clarity on how to include all the stake holders along with the Maoists, some disgruntled groups particularly the Madhesi groups seem to have succeeded to cash in on this situation.

The best way to deal with the problem of different disgruntled groups is to engage them in the very beginning which the government has missed.

One more reason why the peace process is faltering is that the government, on the one hand, announced different programmes of inclusion, poverty alleviation but, on the other hand, it failed to fulfil those promises on time.

A two day meeting with the donor communities where perhaps assistance pledge for the peace process would be made is slated for February 21 and February 22.

To achieve sustainable peace, the new dynamics of the conflicts should be thoroughly discussed and the government should accordingly chart a new course. Hence, an entire review of peace process is the need of the day.