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Haggling over the price of peace


Bipin Adhikari
(November 23, 2006) 

It is not clear who said it, but the claim that every ambitious man is a captive and every covetous one a pauper, has a heavy dose of truth. Whether this claim applies to Prachanda, the most successful among the practicing Maoists around the world, is the issue of concern here.

This issue has at once become very important after the government of Nepal and Maoists signed the peace deal declaring a formal end to the 10-year rebel ‘industry’ - thereby accepting the limits of the armed movement. After signing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the government and rebels have paved the way for the guerrillas to join the country’s interim government.

Prachanda’s counterpart in Peru , Abimael Guzmán or the founder of the Shining Path, a failed Maoist insurgency between 1980 and 2000 which was responsible for many of the 69,000 deaths in that period has been recently sentenced to life in prison by a  civilian court. It was the third trial the group’s leader faced. Under ex-President Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000), Guzmán was sentenced to life in prison by a secret military tribunal in 1992, but that sentence was discarded in 2003 for violation of due process. Prachanda survived these challenges in Nepal, and before it was too late came down to a political path that is being cleared for him.

If democracy is the future of the nation and people are to decide the course of events through their elected representatives, then the leaders especially the ‘fiercest ones’ like Prachanda, must give up their personal ambitions, without pride and prejudice and be loud and clear in relinquishing their relationship with arms which are still floating around.

Maoists know what they are being expected of in the given situation. Unfortunately, while the government side has done everything within its reach, they are still short of determination to prove their credentials reasonably. Their ongoing moves to recruit into their armed rank as many children as possible before the actual cantonment process kicks off and is self explanatory. They have also continued their violence, intimidation and extortion. There is no effort on their part to make sure that impunity comes to an end, and the rule of law takes its course. 

Additionally, the 40-point demands with which the Maoists started their “people’s war” has never been the issue in recent days. The talk about socio-economic and political empowerment of the deprived people, and abrogation of the 1950 treaty with India, scrapping of the Mahakali treaty, regulation of the international border (opened since 1950 under Indian pressure); introduction of work permit system in Nepal, and end of imperialist hegemony of India has disappeared from the agenda.

What has so far been achieved is the decision to defunct the Constitution which posed difficulties in offering Nepalese citizenship to all interested Indians en masse; eliminate constitutional safeguards in the international treaties or agreements in the exploitation of Nepal’s natural resources; and knock out the King from the nation building process. These are the issues already ignored by the draft interim constitution which will impact the quality of peace in Nepal for many years.

Moral losses that we see in our parties are like radiation – colorless, odorless and terrifying. In particular, the Nepali Congress, has become a amusing case in point. This oldest democratic party of Nepal has gone to the extent of giving a deadly blow to its long established policy of national reconciliation. It has ignored that the challenge before the democrats is not only to take the responsibility of restoring democracy but also safeguarding the nation, which is being pushed to a bargaining table to negotiate things that are not negotiable.

It needs to be pointed out that the King of Nepal might have lost a part of his credibility but he has not lost his appeal. There are people who stand by the system of constitutional monarchy for various reasons; it is basically because of the force in their pledges that some countries are out here to dismantle monarchy through their instruments.

Once again the Comprehensive Peace Agreement has brought a period of enthusiasm and euphoria, of resurrection of democratic commitment and of options for the common people in the streets. However, even now, the independent critical mass of this country has not forgotten how the Maoists declared war against parliamentary democracy when it had already started delivering its promises.

The atmosphere of secrecy and disinformation, which are consistently dished out by Maoists for strategic purposes explain for themselves without any hitch. It is here that Maoists need change, it is here that they need to keep their ambitions under some limit.

[1]This Article was supposed to be published on November 23, 2006 by the Kathmandu Post as the author’s column on “Conflict and Rights.” The article was politely rejected being too early for the comments that were made. However, it was never published thereafter.

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