Hot tin roof

In denouncing the recently announced 12-point agreement between the seven-party alliance and the Maoists, the government appears to be virtually alone. Wide welcome, at home and abroad, has greeted the accord which aims at a political solution of the present national crisis within a democratic framework, with the constituent assembly as the meeting point of all stakeholders. The European Union, which represents 25 European nations and several European countries associated with it, has now urged King Gyanendra to declare a ceasefire and get serious about finding a political solution. The recent accord could provide a basis for a peace process in Nepal, it says. But equally significant is the fact that EU support is conditional upon the rebels embracing a democratic political settlement, stopping violence and respecting human rights. Indeed, the agreement purports to address these issues.

India has already responded positively to the agreement. The US does not appear enitirely opposed to it, though a formal response is awaited. But at home, most pro-establishment figures are going berserk against the accord, with some even calling for action against the political parties for ‘collaboration with the terrorists’. Various speculations are making the rounds; one is that the government will take a harder line. If this turns out to be the case, it is likely to prove a recipe for disaster, even for those in power.

Hardliners are still insisting that the Maoists should first lay down arms for any peace talks and that the rebels would be forgiven if they became willing to join the ‘mainstream’. The hawks are arguing that no talks with ‘terrorists’ are possible unless they renounce violence. This is an absolutely ridiculous argument that excludes any solution except on the government’s own terms. This line of reasoning is sometimes employed by a group in conflict which is far more powerful than its rivals to gain maximum concessions, but the situation in Nepal is different. Besides, if talks with rebels had been rejected around the world on the ground that they were ‘terrrorists’, political solutions of insurgencies would not have been possible. To prove that this argument aims to serve a mere political expediency, one may just recall that the governments formed under Article 127 after the royal takeover of October 4, 2002 had held peace talks with the Maoists, also branded ‘terrorists.’ The sticking point was the constituent assembly. Any refusal to talk is therefore bound to further isolate the government at home and abroad.