Twenty-two people —18 armed policemen and 22 civilians — were killed when a landmine laid by the Maoists exploded and an exchange of fire ensued in Dang district on Saturday. In the past several weeks this has been the largest single toll of security personnel, though daily killings on a smaller scale of both security personnel and civilians have continued. Similarly, those, especially the rebels, are being killed by the security forces routinely. The last time when Sher Bahadur Deuba became the Prime Minister, a ceasefire between the rebels and the State was announced even before Deuba took an oath of office. Now, Deuba will be completing three weeks in office on Wednesday, but the atmosphere seems to be getting worse instead of better for the talks. This time Deuba may find it a harder task dealing with the Maoists as they have described him as a symbol of the continuation of ‘regression’ and as being an unlikely one to break any new ground in peacemaking.
On the other hand, Deuba has announced that his government will demonstrate ‘maximum flexibility’ in resolving the insurgency through negotiations. It is unfortunate for peace that violence still continues unabated at a time when both sides should have been taking confidence-building measures. The Maoists have called for a dialogue with the government by involving the United Nations. But their undiminised attacks on security and civilian targets, abductions, extortions, killings and threats hardly contribute to creating a conducive atmospher for the peace process to start. These acts are having an all-round negative impact on almost all aspects of life in Nepal, including a body blow to business and industry.
Now, at least, the country appears to be taking steps, however tentative, towards forming an all-party government with the objective of resuming a dialogue with the rebels, bringing them into the political mainstream and putting the country back on the democratic rails. Both sides should prove their bonafides by desisting from acts which tend to destroy any confidence left between them. The rebels’ continued acts of violence are casting serious doubts on their intentions despite the apparently acceptable nature of their minimum demands and the call for a UN role in the peace process. Therefore, they need to provide a verifiable proof of their intentions. As for the foreign powers who exert tremendous influence in Nepal, the Nepali people would expect them to rise above their narrow interests to nudge both warring sides towards finding a universally acceptable democratic solution. The parties, especially the ones still on the streets, could do better for peace and democracy by forsaking protests of no consequence to the country at this point in time.