Aditya Man Shrestha

There is a joke about a person of very slow understanding that could give a better idea of what Nepal’s problem is like. After attending the story-telling of the whole epic Ramayana, one listener asked, “Who is the husband of Sita?”

The same confusion seems to have overwhelmed us regarding the intricate situation of Nepal. Lately it has been very difficult to understand what really the problem of Nepal is. We assumed that the Maoists were the main problem, who disrupted a smoothly functioning democracy in Nepal. But I had second thoughts when I heard no less than a distinguished figure, the British ambassador to Nepal, Keith Bloomfield, stating that the Maoist demands are not a problem but their method of violence is.

Earlier, the US ambassador, James F Moriarty, in an interview with a local paper, said that the international community is in a fix to identify the real problem of Nepal, the Maoists or the monarchy. However he said he has regarded, for the time being, the Maoists as the principal problem of Nepal. There was none-theless a subtle message that he might change his diagnosis and consider the monarchy as the cardinal problem instead of the Maoists in time to come if there is no reconciliation between the political parties and the monarchy.

There is yet another group of people in Nepal who blame the political parties for messing up democracy leading to its disappearance. Even the King has said,”Much of the problem we have suffered is not because of the democratic political system, it’s because of the actors in the system.” There are yet other radical thinkers who believe that it is the western political system that is held unsuitable for a feudal and backward society like Nepal. That is why, they say, the imported democracy has been derailed from time to time over the last 50 years.

Who is the real problem, then? There is obviously no unanimous answer. Everyone tries to reply according to his individual interest and bias. In fact, the question itself is wrong. The right question is, “What is the real problem of Nepal?” In its answer, we will find commonality, consensus and even unanimity among all of us, including the international community.

In this sense, Bloomfield has a strong case for not dismissing the Maoists’ demands. They call for social justice, economic equality, cultural freedom, educational opportunities and political participation. All the political parties also approve these agendas and their manifestos do not look different. King Gyanendra too has voiced similar views many times. He said to Time magazine, “All of Nepal should have the opportunity to progress irrespective of colour, caste and creed. With discipline, dedication and determination, we should achieve prosperity.” Who can disagree?

To explain the issue further, the problem is poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, exploitation of women, suppression of marginalised classes, ethnic deprivation, etc. So the logical question is, “What is the solution? There, too, all of us have a unanimous answer. In simple terms, the poor should get an opportunity to get a decent living, the ignorant should get a proper education, the women should get equal rights and the marginalised classes should get deliberate and definitive incentives to come up in their status in every respect. Has anybody an objection to it? None, in all fairness.

It means we know the real problems of Nepal and their real solutions. This far, there is no hassle. The hassle arises when we ask the question, “Who is going to implement it?” It is in the process of sorting out this issue that we are bogged down in conflicts of all kinds, violent, non-violent, constitutional, and legal, human rights, and press freedom and so on. A fair way out of this quagmire is to ask yet another pertinent question as to who can contribute how much to addressing the genuine problems of the people. Given the merits and strengths of different actors, we can evaluate the amount of help they can extend in conflict resolution and nation building.

In this context, I would like to quote a diehard royalist, Nishya Sumshere Rana who said in a TV interview that what Nepal needs are the communist reforms for social and economic transformation. That is yet another reaffirmation of the justification of the Maoist demands. He too emphasised the indispensability of democratic process and the role of the political parties, besides holding the dignity of the monarchy high. Theoretically, it sounds fair and, in fact, amazing coming from a person like him.

It is, therefore, necessary to start a process of assimilating the merits of all the political actors and assign due roles and importance to them. A democratic process guaranteeing the people’s sovereignty and monarchical dignity is the fair solution for which the state needs to be restructured. When we have identified the right problems with right solutions, can we not agree on how to do it? The question as to who will do it will be immaterial.

Shrestha is coordinator, Volunteer Mediators Group for Peace