On a new plane

Though somewhat belatedly, the government has declared a ceasefire, lifted the terrorist tag on the Maoists, withdrawn Red Corner notices, and called upon them to come for talks. On their part, the Maoists, who had declared a unilateral ceasefire on April 26 to pave the way for the announcement of constituent assembly (CA) elections, have welcomed the government’s decision and expressed their readiness to sit for talks, stressing the need to enforce a code of conduct during the period of negotiations. The talks this time around are likely to bear fruit, as these are taking place against the background of the successful mass movement, which had demanded CA as its most important minimum demand, and both the rebels and the seven-party alliance meet on this common ground.

Unlike in the past, there is now no such thing as the parliamentary decision to stay the hand of the government from making a deal with the Maoists beyond the limits of the 1990 Constitution, nor are any domestic and foreign power centres in a position right now to advise the government against CA, over which the past peace negotiations had foundered. In fact, the 1990 Constitution will cease after the promulgation of an interim constitution to manage state affairs till new permanent arrangements are put in place through CA. Without doubt, the seven-party combination and the Maoists will have to find a solution on the basis of the 12-point understanding, which played a decisive role in making a success of the 19-day Jana Andolan. Happily, both sides have renewed their commitment to this document, which also provides for the management of weapons. The question of adapting the security forces to the new situation is likely to rank among the key issues at the forthcoming talks. To any unanswered questions, however, discussion could find a solution. If need be, even international assistance, such as that of the UN, may profitably be sought to ensure free and fair elections, to manage arms, as well as to bridge the trust deficit between the disputants.

All the political exercises have to be aimed at ending the armed conflict and political confrontation, establishing total democracy through a constitution written by the people, and ushering in an era of good governance and prosperity by making the people the owners of their own destiny and by creating in them a feeling of belongingness to the nation. Minor issues should not be allowed to overshadow these broader goals. It is incumbent, therefore, on the political actors to decide everything by keeping in mind how best their proposed decisions are going to affect these broader goals. The alliance’s initial objective of the restoration of the House has been achieved; the sensible thing now would be to make a transition to other goals — political conference, interim government, including the Maoists, and CA polls — for a permanent political settlement on which there has emerged a broad consensus in the country, including the consent of the Maoists.