Nepal is back to action after a four-month lull resulting from the unilateral ceasefire of the Maoists. Now that the ceasefire is over, everybody is active. The Maoists launched several token attacks on the hapless police forces recently. The political parties organised impressive gatherings against the establishment. The king is on a hectic tour of the country having a tÃªte-Ã -tÃªte with the village folks. The new ministers are resorting to more and more stringent actions like mass arrests and curfew imposition in suppressing the public agitation against the municipal polls scheduled for February 8. There is a fresh round of international uproar over Nepal. But the ground reality remains unchanged.
At first glance, all of them look pretty busy and serious, but are they doing what they could do for changing the reality? That is the moot question. The answer is that none of them is doing what they could.
Needless to say, it is peace the people want most urgently. It was loud and clear in the open appeals of the Nepalis from all age groups and all regions during the royal tours. So our attention naturally goes first to find out if the king is really doing what he could to deliver peace. The peace reigning over the last four months was the gift of the rebels, and not of the king. Instead of reciprocating the rebelsâ€™ gesture with a positive response, the king maintained his policy of derecognising their existence and finishing them off by military might. That is no way to peace.
The king is, at least, clear in what he wants, i.e. democracy under monarchy. The biggest hurdle to achieving it is none other than the Constitution itself. That is what the vice-chairman in the king-headed cabinet, Dr Tulsi Giri, pledged to throw out but has failed so far to do. That is why there is so much confusion about advocating democracy because it is getting mixed up with practicing autocracy. This explains inner contradictions in the royal roadmap of trying to hold the elections for the local bodies and, then, for national legislature and bringing the democratic process back on track in three years of his direct rule. That is why the government has to say something but do something completely different.
Even the army has failed to fulfil its public commitment to bring the rebels to the negotiating table by weakening them. Going by vice-chairman Dr Tulsi Giriâ€™s version, the Maoists have become weak, as the government has broken the Maoistsâ€™ backbone. What else, then, preventing the army from responding to the Maoist offer of ceasefire and talks? On the contrary, they were driven back to the jungle.
The political leaders are also to be blamed for not doing what they could do, at least, to strengthen their agitation that is their immediate goal. Girija Prasad Koirala, for example, can relinquish his presidentship of the Nepali Congress to play the role of a supreme commander of the movement like the role played by Ganesh Man Singh in 1990. By this action, he would be seen, as a real fighter not greedy for position and his party would be better off with a new younger leadership to cope with new challenges of peopleâ€™s mobilisation. Even Madhav Kumar Nepal can follow suit by handing over the CPN-UML command to one of his more aggressive colleagues like Bamdev Gautam or K P Sharma Oli. The agitation is calling for a greater organiser of people power than an established political leader.
It is a great opportunity for all political leaders to demonstrate their courage, imagination and acumen. Pashupati Shamsher Rana, the RPP president, no longer in the royal camp, can throw a political bombshell by supporting the demand of a constituent assembly, which his grandfather, Prime Minister Mohan Shamsher, had proposed for the first time in the history of Nepal. Instead, he is sticking to the outdated and meaningless principle of constitutional monarchy and multiparty system.
Surya Bahadur Thapa, on his part, can equally go a step ahead of the other leaders to revitalise his old liberal image by opting for republicanism since he is no longer a royal supporter. He should be reminded that the king is clear in what he wants, it is you, Thapa, who is not clear what you want. Sher B Deuba, on his part, might have a reason to be proud of getting unanimously elected the chief of his party. But that has come at a wrong time. He is, in fact, emasculating his party supposed to be engaged in vigorous democratic struggle. Does his party not have an able person to lead at this critical time? If it has, he/she should get the opportunity to invigorate the agitation. In that sense, none of them is doing what they could to promote their own cause.
Very ironically, it is only Prachanda, the Maoist leader, who did what he could for peace. He ceased fire for four months. He could prolong it, at least, for the sake of the peaceful agitation to go ahead peacefully. He said it would be suicidal for him to do so. It is no use blaming him for reopening fighting that is his raison dâ€™etre.
Shrestha is co-coordinator, Volunteers, Mediators Group for Peace