Current conflict No common strategy for peace

Shailendra Kumar Upadhyay

A political conference to address the main issues before the nation has to be considered an

essential forum.

A western diplomat, a frequent visitor to Nepal in connection with his government’s interest to assist the government of Nepal in solving the Maoist problem, observed: “Everyone in Nepal wants the end of the conflict and restoration of peace but on their own terms.” The Maoist bottom line to establish peace is the acceptance by the government to hold elections for a constituent assembly. The Nepali Congress insists on the restoration of the dissolved House, the CPN (UML) is for an all-party government possibly under its leadership, the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA) is for weakening the Maoists in order to force them to agree to join the main political stream. Thus, there is no common strategy to achieve peace and no party is ready to accept the debacle and show readiness to think afresh.

In recent days the achievements of the RNA and the spontaneous resistance by the common people against the Maoist atrocities has not been able to impress the Maoists to give up their wanton activities of murder and arson. On the other hand they have been increasingly terrorising the people to force them to submit to their anarchical politics. The RNA, elated by their few achievements, plans to increase the pressure to force the Maoists to accept the government’s agenda. The parties have been defining democratic norms to suit their own purpose of capturing governmental institutions. In this background the announcement made by the King to hold elections to the civic bodies throughout the nation has received wide attention and mixed reaction. It has been received as a correct step to revive the representative institutions. The major parties have expressed reservations and threatened to boycott the polls.

Any election in order to be credible must have certain minimum requirement so that people could exercise their right freely. In a multiparty system the parties must have the freedom to meet the electorate with their manifestoes in order to seek popular support. So, the release of political leaders, withdrawal of emergency and restoration of full civil liberties is a pre-condition for a fair and free election. The recent release of leaders from different types of confinement and continuation of such policy by the government, interactions among the political leaders, freedom to call people to certain actions, etc. are ample proof that relaxation

has started and is bound to increase. In such circumstances the question of whether to participate in the ensuing election is not only illogical but also hazardous to political normalisation. However, their demand to create conditions, which are necessary to hold a fair election, should not and cannot be ignored.

The election to the civic bodies is a beginning, which will create a conducive atmosphere for elections to the village development committees, the district development committees and ultimately to the parliamentary polls. The King’s commitment to multiparty system and constitutional monarchy must be trusted by all those who advocate the need of constitutional monarchy in the interest of holding national integrity. We must uphold the traditional bond of trust between the King and the people. The political leaders have periodical elections in their mind but the King has the permanent national interests in his mind. The parties have to converge their opinion to face the election. Their concern for creating an atmosphere conducive to a free and fair election, however, cannot be ignored. Election of people’s representatives is vital for democracy but it is not a panacea. Other political aspects have to be given due attention. In the last few years, there has been a surge in people’s awakening. The aspiration of the ethnic communities, the Dalits and the women to participate in the policy-making and governance on an equitable basis has to be taken up with seriousness. A national consensus has to be evo-lved to satisfy the demand of various sections of the population. This has to be debated in a widely attended forum where all the parties and representatives of ethnics, Dalits, women and interested groups in enhancing the rights of children, handicapped and marginalised are represented. Those who think that holding elections only can solve the conflict situation are those who have lost touch with masses and ignore the awakening brought by communication revolution. People want to participate more directly in decision-making. So, a political conference to address the main issues has to be considered an essential forum.

The leaders have become prisoners of hackneyed ideas of democracy, sovereignty, nationalism and people’s rights. They think that once elected they are answerable to the people only during the next election. Such a belief is no more relevant in the present age of mass communication and enlargement of people’s know-ledge of the world. A real politician is the servant of the people and must hold the view that responding to the aspiration of those whom he or she represents in his or her sacred duty. So before holding the next general election there is the need of a widely participated political conference to identify the basic causes of conflict and to find an effective response to such causes. Nepalis are seeking for peace and development, which cannot be achieved by sticking to one’s own terms. There has to be a common stand and, to achieve it, convergence of various opinions is essential.

Upadhyay is a former foreign minister