Nepal’s ongoing conflict The dialogue should be result-oriented

Suresh C Chalise

We have just celebrated Buddha Jayanti, globally regarded as peace day. He proffered the message of peace throughout the world irrespective of race, religion and region. However, currently in his own society, in contemporary Nepal, peace seems to be far away. In this context, declaring Nepal as one of the major centres attractive to terrorists by the US is a pointer to this reality. Why the US chose this particular timing to place Maoists in the first category of terrorists while they are showing some gestures through ICRC? Why did they not do it immediately after Bhojpur, Beni or Pashupati Nagar incidents? These are questions that dance in the minds of common political elite. The recent decision by the US, which has been one of the key donors and is the superpower in contemporary world order, is likely to have far reaching consequences for Nepal’s political as well as military scenario. Immediately, two possible reasons for the decree could be drawn. The first possibility is that it may want to support the present government — in spite of the categorical allegation of its being unconstitutional by the political parties — in the pretext of ongoing terror. The second reason could be that the US does not wish that parties should come closer to the Maoists while squabbling with the King. Such a phenomenon would prevent creating two hostile political camps — rightists and leftists — with the extinction of the centrist political force that always works as a subtle balance in society. Whatever be the real motive, it should emerge shortly before us.

Besides, the reasons given by the US for playing Maoists in the first category of terrorists may not be absolutely convincing. But, it is also a fact that Nepal has been suffering immensely owing to nine long years of Maoist insurgency. In order to resolve the discord, three formal negotiations between the rebels and the government have already taken place, with no tangible results. Yet, unfortunately for the citizens of Nepal, mainly owing to the non-reconciliatory mood of parties involved and owing to their veiled interests, the intricacies of the political impasse have deepen further. On the one hand, political parties that have a principla status in the present Constitution and are supposed to form the will of the people have been in the streets demanding restoration of the derailed constitutional course while the King lay blame on the former for corruption and misrule for 12 years of democratic dispensation. On the other hand, the Maoists are waging People’s War against the 1990 Constitution and monarchy.

This situation has not only complicated the nature of conflict but also has sowed the seeds of crisis of confidence and created room for suspicion even among legitimate forces. In this complex yet multidimensional nature of conflict, enigmatically, people and their institutions are the major victims. The House of Representatives has been dissolved and the election has not been held for more than two years while as per current constitutional provision it should have been conducted within six months after the House was dissolved. Further, in the local bodies’ like the village development committees, municipalities and district development committees, instead of filling them by the peoples’ representatives, the King’s government has nominated individuals with authoritarian Panchayat backgrounds. The peoples’ wish to have a democratic and peaceful Nepal is uncertain and likely to be a hallucination. Moreover, the discord among constitutional forces, due to the royal move of October 4, 2002 is unfortunate

Whereas the insurgency has already reached its ninth year, the peaceful movement of the parties has now entered its second year. Particularly the parties, unhappy with their marginalised status owing to the actions of the Maoists and the King, have intensified their movement in recent weeks. The movement has been able to garner the support of various sections of society. The demands of the five agitating forces are supported by an overwhelming majority of the civil society, including the employees of the government who are prepared to risk their jobs for the sake of democracy. As a result, peoples’ participation, contrary to the expectations of the governing elite, has substantially increased. But the parties are yet to be heard by the King.

Perhaps, owing to a constant public pressure for the resolution of the problem as early as possible, of late, the monarchy has started political consultations with constitutional forces. It is a good initiative. However, every one thinks that the dialogue with the parliamentary parties should be result-oriented as the country can hardly afford more wrangling and mistrust at least among the legitimate forces. Forgetting their past differences, the accord among constitutional forces must include a package programme for bringing the derailed constitutional process back on track and also a permanent resolution of the Maoist conflict. In spite of several reservations with the means opted by the Maoists, one can hardly deny that the insurgency has been able to bring to the notice of the entire nation so many social issues that are the sources of utter discrimination and exploitation in society, which have not been given attention for centuries by the rulers of the kingdom. The Maoist conflict needs to be transformed socio-politically and they need to be changed into an egalitarian political force.

Dr Chalise is with Centre for Consolidation of Democracy