There have been unique political developments in Nepal in the last three months. Particularly after the adoption of the eight-point pact between the Seven-Party Alliance (SPA) and the Maoists and the adoption of several resolutions in the House of Representatives, politics is being rejuvenated with new ideas that will usher in fundamental changes in the theoretical basis of the state, where the sovereign people have decided to overhaul the feudal structure and replace it with a dynamic democratic set-up.
The peaceful revolution of 2006 has heralded a new era in Nepal, where all sections of the society will enjoy equal rights and opportunities. Any type of discrimination among Nepali people will not be tolerated. Thus, the achievement of the peaceful revolution, though not encompassed by any particular political theory, has opened a vista for a metamorphosis of the Nepali society and polity.
The elections to a Constituent Assembly (CA) have been unanimously approved by the SPA, the Maoists as well as the civil society as the main instrument of institutionalising the wishes of the Nepalis. So, the CA polls remain the main issue before the political parties and the civil society.
Since the CA has been identified as the only instrument to fulfil the popular will, it naturally follows that the elections should be free and fair. No kind of intimidation should be permitted and the people should be able to exercise their right without fear. In order to create such an atmosphere, the issue of arms management assumes top priority.
The traumas inflicted during the civil war can be condoned but not forgotten. The issue of arms management has to be given due attention. The UN team, to assess the question of arms management, is in town and they have been trying to assess the situation before they embark upon the next step of arms management. However, the talks seem to be focused only on the management of the Maoistsâ€™ army and attempts are afoot to discriminate between the arms of the Nepal Army and the Maoists.
We should focus our attention on abating the threat that may come from the arms of both the sides in order to create an atmosphere free from threat and intimidation. If not, the task of so-called â€œarms managementâ€ will head towards a failure. The reason the arms belonging to either side must be brought under the control and supervision of the UN is obvious: The use of force against the unarmed civilians cannot be overlooked. The Nepal Army is a disciplined force with a long history. But there have also been sporadic incidents of gross violations of human rights and uncivilised behaviour by the cadets and officers of the Nepal Army. Hence, unless the arms of the Nepal Army are also brought under scrutiny, isolated instances of use of force against the unarmed civilians cannot be ruled out.
In several cases, the Nepal Army has admitted to the incidents of wrongdoing by its cadets, some of whom have been punished and court-martialled. One of the most ghastly incidents of such misconduct was the killing of 16 unarmed Maoists in Doramba of Ramechhap, which helped torpedo the peace negotiations three years ago.
The proposed changes in Nepalâ€™s state structure and polity, though overwhelmingly approved by the masses, have opponents, too â€” particularly those who are against secularism, emancipation of the Dalits and their right to worship in temples, untouchability and equal rights for the â€œlower castesâ€, women empowerment and ethnic upliftment. The Nepal Army may also harbour some adherents of this belief. Can we say with certainty that the individuals of this political and social outlook cannot perpetrate a Nagarkot-like carnage during the polls?
For all these reasons, the issue of arms management has to be taken up seriously and without any kind of discrimination. The armies of both the sides should be confined to their respective stations and arms should be brought under UN supervision. Then and only then can the threat from armed personnel be nullified.
At a time when the country is on the road to achieving peace and harmony, we have to guard against the peace process falling apart due to lingering doubts and mistrust.
We are ever thankful to the international community for their support for the Nepali people in helping them chart their own destiny. Now, let them keep their views to themselves and let the SPA, the Maoists and the civil society forge ahead to build a new Nepal. The international community should realise that their views are not infallible. On April 21, diplomats were putting pressure on G P Koirala to accept the Kingâ€™s offer. But Koiralaâ€™s strong commitment to adhere to the 12-point pact and protect unity among the alliance paved the path for the glorious result. Let our leaders carve out the future of Nepal and humbly brush aside the irrelevant views of some diplomats who do not understand the present dynamic of Nepali politics.
Upadhyay is a former foreign minister