Peace process : Need for an independent monitoring body

The peace process has been going on without any kind of monitoring. The constitutional assembly (CA) was accepted as the meeting point of the insurgents and the government. But the prospect of CA polls still hangs in the air. The last meeting of the eight-party alliance (May 31) has authorised the government to fix a date no later than December 15, 2007. Originally, the CA polls were to be held by mid-June. Later, it was changed to June 20. Who is to be blamed for such frequent changes?

The Maoists declared a three-month-long ceasefire on April 26, 2006 after the King’s midnight proclamation on April 24, 2006, ceding all his powers and reinstating the House following the 19-day people’s movement. The government reciprocated the Maoists’ move by declaring an indefinite ceasefire on May 3. The government and the Maoists formed their Negotiating Teams (NT), which signed the 25-point Ceasefire Code of Conduct on May 26. Subsequently, the NT formed the National Monitoring Committee for Ceasefire Code of Conduct (NMCC) on June 15, which was reconstituted on June 26 with the fixing of its Terms of Reference and Powers.

The main function of the NMCC was to monitor the activities of the warring sides — the government and the Maoists — and report them fortnightly. Significantly, the NMCC had to transcend the limits set by the 25 points as its very preamble directed the NMCC to act in a way that the ceasefire was to be transformed into lasting peace and problems were to be solved only through dialogue. It was quite specific about the commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, International Human Rights Laws and other fundamental human rights doctrines and values. The NMCC was asked to abide by the spirit of the 12-point understanding, 8-point agreement and any agreement to be signed in the future.

The NMCC had to go beyond human rights monitoring as it had to see to it that the ceasefire agreements were not breached and the two armies not allowed to resort to guns again and spoil the peace process. Moreover, there were rights organisations, both national and international, to monitor the human rights violations, hence reducing the responsibility of the NMCC. The NMCC could submit only three reports incorporating the weaknesses of the government and the Maoists to the NT.

As per the agreed upon provisions, the NT had to form a joint committee to study and act upon the reports of the NMCC. But unfortunately it was not formed even till the last date the NMCC was supposed to work up to despite its repeated verbal and written requests. The Maoists were insisting on the implementation of the 8-point agreement saying that they would dismantle the people’s courts and stop abduction and extortions when the political issues were settled. Ultimately, the NMCC resigned en masse finding no place for it in the proposed Peace Accord and subsequently the NT dissolved it.

The peace process took a concrete shape with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) on November 22, 2006, replacing the Ceasefire Code of Conduct signed by both sides on May 26, 2006. With the signing of the epoch-making CPA the peace process began to move forward. It took nearly six months to sign the CPA. As per the agreement reached by the eight parties on November 7, 2006, the CPA was to be signed by November 16, the Interim Government (IG) to be formed by December 1, the Interim Constitution (IC) to be finalised by November 21 and the Interim Legislature (IL) to be formed by November 25. Regretfully, all these could not happen as stipulated in the meeting, and the dates were rescheduled. Accordingly, the first stage of the peace process was to commence with the constitution of an IL, the second was the adoption of the IC and the last was the formation of the IG. The first two stages were completed on January 15, 2007, one after another about one and a half months behind schedule as the eight-party alliance signed the IC only on December 16, 2006. The leaders of the eight-party alliance formed the IG three months later on April 1, 2007, after signing of a Common Minimum Programme (CMP).

It is apparent that there has been unusual delay at every stage and there is no independent monitoring body to assess the delay and pinpoint the weaknesses of the alliance partners or the government or any other institutions. Interestingly, the CPA does not envisage any independent monitoring body. The NHRC has been assigned to monitor the violation of human rights with the help of international and national human rights organisations. It is urgently required to have an independent monitoring body, which should be beyond the influence of the government. Such a body will definitely be able to dispel the doubts or uncertainty over the CA polls and the forward movement of the peace process.

Prof. Mishra is ex-coordinator of the now dissolved NMCC