National crisis How to break the stalemate

There is a strong opinion in the country that the solution of the continued armed conflict is possible only when the political cause of the conflict is addressed honestly with a determination to modernise the state structure according to the needs of the present time. There is also a large body of opinion that dialogue with the insurgents is the only way to break the impasse. Last week a workshop organised by the Nepal Citizens’ Forum unanimously recommended that a widely participated political conference was needed to bring all the political forces together to arrive at a consensus to resolve all the political, economic and social issues that create differences and conflicts among the people.

However, there are a few who plead for enlarging the number of security personnel in order to liquidate the armed forces of the insurgents.

One cannot deny the role of the security forces in protecting the lives and property of the people and to that extent their role has to be admitted as essential but relying solely on use of arms to solve a problem, which also has a political base, is totally unrealistic. Only those who are ignorant of history of insurgency throughout the world or those who have a vested interest in protracted armed conflict can rely solely on armed strength. Looking at the origin of the Maoist insurgency this is clear that they started the conflict because they were disillusioned by the parliamentary democratic set-up which not only suppressed their genuine demands by armed might, but was also not ready to consider their proposals for a better system in favour of the downtrodden masses.

Attempts in the past to enter into dialogue with the Maoists could not succeed for several reasons, but the most important cause of all was the unwillingness of the political parties (represented in the dissolved House of Representatives) to participate in such effort. Right or wrong, they had their reason not to participate in any exercise in which the government was involved. The four facilitators during the past rounds of talks between the government and the Maoists had met leaders of all the political parties in order to persuade them to talk with the Maoists. Although the political parties at that time did not show any enthusiasm to accept the facilitators’ proposal they have now decided to hold talks with the Maoists. This is a welcome development. The political parties have urged the Maoists to stop their terror techniques and hold use of arms and confer on national issues.

The proposal made by the Nepal Citizens’ Forum is a very sound and realistic one. The alternative solution lies only through a widely participated political conference. However, separate meetings with the Maoists by the political leaders or the leaders of the civil society will create an atmosphere of trust and understanding which may ultimately pave the way for a political conference. Today there seems to be a consensus in the nation that even the 1990 Constitution was lacking to address the problems of the marginalised people—the women, the ethnic minorities and the Dalits. There seems to be a consensus that the structure of the state has to be changed for this. Equitable participation in governance and policy-making should be ensured. However, these remain lofty ideals, which could be interpreted by each person or group according to their own understanding or convenience. These ideas have to

be translated into action.

In order to do so, convening of a political conference is the only way. Nationalism can be strengthened when a feeling among the people is generated that each of them has a stake in the nation. As long as sections of the population feel deprived, fissiparous tendencies are bound to crop up. The founder of modern Nepal King Prithvi Narayan Shah described Nepal as the garden of all sections of the population. He was also the person who gave directives to build a nation and strengthen nationalism, which is known as his “Grand Sermon” or Dibya Upadesh. Unfortunately, the rulers ignored it after the Sugauli Treaty and, with the ascendance of Ranas, the country was considered personal property of the rulers. With the advent of democracy, the concepts of liberty, equality and fraternity got prominence but within a small circle of political professionals. In the last 50 years, because of education and communication revolution, people’s awakening has taken great strides. This fact has to be taken seriously and honestly. Establishment of peace and security, election to the various organs of the state, and constitutional reform to transform the Nepali society remain the main agendas before the nation. These agendas cannot be addressed by any power alone. A political conference, therefore, is the only right way to solve the problems facing the nation.

Upadhyay is a former foreign minister