Movement for democracy: Using it to serve national interest

In November 2005, the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) reached an agreement with the Maoists with a view to end the King’s authoritarian rule and to work for the establishment of a fully democratic regime based on a new Constitution to be formulated by an elected constituent assembly. The Maoists declared that they would abandon violence and terror and embrace multiparty democracy. This agreement, signed recently, has been welcomed by most political and professional bodies at home and a large section of the International Community (IC) as a positive step to pull out the nation from the present quagmire.

However, the present regime has taken a strong exception to this understanding declaring that since the Maoists are terrorists, anyone collaborating with them is deemed as terrorists and is threatening the SPA with the possibility of labelling them as terrorists. Clearly, this regime does not seem interested in a swift resolution of the conflict through dialogue and seems to be more inclined to defeat the Maoists militarily while sidelining the parties. Even the US is equally disenchanted by the intransigence of the King to hold dialogue with the constitutional forces and has urged him to do so without delay.

The past week witnessed a dramatic rise in the intensity of the peaceful movement. The government’s response to these developments has been highly negative and repressive. In order to quell the protests, it has declared various places of Kathmandu and Lalitpur as restricted areas, used discriminatory force such as lathicharge, tear gas and shooting at the crowds with rubber and lethal bullets in addition to its well-established practice of rounding up large numbers of leaders and political activists and detaining them in contravention of national and international practices. More than half a dozen people have lost their lives and hundreds injured.

In spite of such repressive measures, the movement has gathered momentum simultaneously on a nationwide basis and is receiving full support of people from all walks of life. Visibly shaken by such a show of solidarity for the end of autocratic rule and restoration of democracy, the regime has begun to claim that the movement is not under the control of the SPA, but in the hands of the Maoists, and that the government will therefore go all out to quell it. The Maoists have declared that they support the agitation and would not use violent means to bolster it. It must be admitted that the co-operation of the Maoists has helped in intensifying the stir on a nationwide basis.

Nepal is going through the most excruciating times in its history. It can only be salvaged through concerted and timely action taken with the help of the international community. It is important that we emerge as a new nation that has forever removed the possibility of the resurgence of authoritarian rule and the establishment of a fully democratic and functional dispensation working in the interest of the people. The SPA has allied with the Maoists in good faith. Nonetheless, it would be prudent for the SPA to remember that the Maoists harbour the belief that “the power flows from the barrel of the gun”. Thus, the SPA must ensure that through the co-operation of the international community, the Maoists are completely disarmed should there be elections for the constituent assembly. Although the government propaganda about the Maoists having taken control of the movement seems somewhat far-fetched, it would be judicious to monitor developments to ensure that the agitation is actually under control. It would be ironical and a letdown for the nation if we were to land up with Communist dictatorship in place of a ‘constructive monarchy’.

Given the nature of the triangular conflict, there is a need for international mediation to reach national consensus on the way ahead. In view of the fact that the 12-point agreement between the SPA and Maoists were made in Delhi without the objection of the Indian authorities, there is no reason why we cannot ask the members of the international community, with India taking the lead, to mediate in the conflict. It is gratifying to note that such offers for assistance have been received repeatedly from foreign countries and the UN. Until now, the international community has mainly stressed the need for a dialogue between the King and the constitutional forces. However, it is equally important to include the Maoists in such negotiations if we are to arrive at a permanent settlement of the conflict.

The major responsibility for bringing peace lies with the King. Some observers feel that a viable strategy of conflict resolution would lie in: the King volunteering to be ceremonial; the parties genuinely contrite about their past blunders and committed to good governance and internal democracy; and the Maoists renouncing violence and embracing multiparty democracy. At this critical juncture, the King should take the lead and call the parties for dialogue and hand over power to the people’s representatives.

Thapa is Mahasamiti member, NC (D)