Promises to keep
Regrettably, even in the drastically changed congenial political context, the Maoists haven’t mended their old ways, which, no doubt, go against the spirit of the 12-point agreement reached between the Maoists and the seven-party alliance (SPA). Consequently, insecurity has grown and those running industries, businesses, and schools continue to bear the brunt of their excesses such as extortion, intimidation, collection of taxes and militia recruitment. More worrisome is the fact that the repeated requests have fallen on deaf ears. Of late, leaders like K P Oli, Madhav Nepal, Bamdev Gautam and even Prime Minister Koirala have appealed to the Maoists to halt their negative activities. For one, it is hoped that the dialogue scheduled between the Maoist-aligned All Nepal Trade Union Federation (ANTUF) and the Birgunj Chambers of Commerce and Industries (BCCI) would amicably resolve the stalemate and lead to the resumption of operations in the local industries as well as joint ventures like Dabur Nepal in Bara and Parsa districts, which were allegedly forced to down the shutters owing to the ANTUF’s threats. The ANTUF, which claims to be fighting for the workers’ rights, would however do well to take into consideration the plight of the employees if they are to be out of jobs. At a time when the plan of Maoist militia being incorporated in the state mechanism is being mulled over, the least the Maoists could do is to heed the DPM K P Oli’s appeal to them to refrain from recruiting fighters because it violates the ceasefire code of conduct. Another UML leader Bamdev Gautam has also urged the Maoists not to use talks as a bargaining chip but as a tool to break the deadlock. When confidence-building measures are the need of the hour, the Maoist supremo Prachanda too should desist from making explosive statements like the one made to PTI on Saturday warning that his men would not hesitate to take up arms again if the government repressed his cadres. Nobody is saying the Maoist cadres will be penalised just for the heck of it.
The Maoists need to resist the temptation of dictating terms for talks or something else that are likely to vitiate climate for constituent assembly elections. On its part, the government prior to bringing the Maoists to the talks table, should finalise the code of conduct so that the ceasefire could be extended indefinitely.
Whatever decisions are taken should be based on understanding and mutually accepted principles.
By keeping aside bickerings, both the political leaders and Maoists will have to prove their trustworthiness. There is no option for the SPA and the Maoists other than to evolve a common vision through a productive dialogue. Only by recognising each other’s contribution can the popular aspirations be realised. From now onwards, all political exercises should be directed towards fulfilling the goals of the Jana Andolan — to create a sound, solid, cohesive and all-inclusive nation.