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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2042

The Nepal Truce ….

By Tushar Charan - Syndicate Features

Despite all the scenes of jubilation on the streets of Kathmandu and elsewhere in Nepal after the government and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) signed the comprehensive peace agreement (CPA) a lot of people in and out of Nepal are keeping their fingers crossed. The CPA brings to an end the decade old guerrilla war by the Maoists that had taken thousands of lives and converted the once idyllic Himalayan kingdom into an almost failed state. It looks too good to be true that everything is going to be alright from now onwards.

Here in India too while there has been a general welcome of the peace accord, it will not be wise to expect a swift end to traditional hostility towards among certain sections in Nepal. Some of the words spoken by the Maoists leader, Prachanda, when he was in New Delhi, did indicate that he wants continued good relations with India. New Delhi must have also noted his efforts to distance himself from Indian Maoists. But it will be too early to predict the future course of Indo-Nepal relations. It has to be seen how right Prachanda has been in describing the CPA as ‘the biggest miracle of the 21st century’ that would help Nepal being showcased as ‘the abode of peace and development.’

Significantly, amidst the celebrations in Nepal, came reports that some Nepalese were demonstrating against the Maoists who were demanding forced hospitality as they started to arrive in the capital for a rally. The Americans, not surprisingly, are more circumspect about the Maoists’ inclusion in mainstream politics than others. But Washington would be ill advised if it seeks to get too tough with the Maoists or adopts a rigid line against them.

There were also accusations that the Maoists cadres have not given up the practice of extortion and abduction and were still recruiting child soldiers. If these reports did not really dampen the joyous spirits or elicited a strong reaction from officials the reason could be that such transgressions could not be attributed to any diktats from the Maoists commanders.

Reaction against the erring Maoists does, however, show that a great deal of mistrust about them remains. It is also possible that the Maoists on their part still harbour a lot of misgivings about the ‘mainstream’ political parties and their leaders who in the past six years of parliamentary democracy brought credit to neither themselves nor democracy and took their poor country further downhill. Perhaps, the misrule by politicians was a more important reason for pushing Nepal towards anarchy and on the path of a failed state.

The Maoists’ contribution to the travails of the people was continued violence, use of strong-arm tactics and an undisguised disdain for democracy which precluded their joining the mainstream of politics. The significance of the CPA is that it has bound the Maoists to mainstream politics and they stand committed to renounce violence as a means to their end of establishing an egalitarian society in impoverished Nepal.

One of the stumbling blocks in concluding a peace deal between the government and the Maoists in the past had been the refusal of the Maoists to give up their arms. The CPA has apparently removed that obstacle and the Maoists, as also the government’s Army, would deposit their arms in cantonments which would be monitored by the United Nations.

On the face of it no better disarmament arrangement could have been made and there is little to doubt that the Maoists must have gone through many agonising moments before agreeing to that arrangement. But disarmament would not have been possible if the government too had not agreed to allow its Army’s arsenal to be kept in safe custody of the UN while the country prepares for electing a new national assembly.

The Maoists in Nepal, who had long believed in the now dated slogan that power comes out of the barrel of gun, must have come to realise that senseless killings serve no purpose. Ostracised for their penchant for violence the Maoists had long worn the tag of being a ‘terrorist’ organisation. Now they have been bestowed the status of respectability and recognition. That is some gain for them and should encourage them to respect a multiparty political system in Nepal.

Maoists should know that despite the euphoria in the country and generous praise that they have received from many quarters, there are people who genuinely disagree with whatever the Maoists stand for. The Maoists may hate the monarch from the bottom of their hearts but a sizeable section in Nepal seems to think that the 238-year old Shah dynasty that ruled them should not be abolished. But even many among those who favour continuation of the monarchy want to see the king’s powers considerably clipped. An even larger number of people would seem to dislike the present king’s son because of his rash ways.

Though belatedly, King Gyanendra has welcomed the peace accord, which he said, would herald ‘a new era of peace’ and holds ‘a lot of promise’. The peace deal was possible, he said, because of ‘sincerity and dedication’ of everyone. The King’s reaction, which came in the form of a written statement, followed the report of a government –appointed panel that had held him responsible for excesses committed on demonstrators who were protesting against his ‘misrule’ in summer.

The King’s gesture might not be enough to save him or the institution of monarchy. It would have given strength to the now suppressed ‘royalists’ who were conspicuously kept out of the talks between the government and the Maoists. The ‘royalists’ have not been happy to see the legitimacy and respectability accorded to the Maoists, who they say, have blood on their hands. Prime Minister G. P. Koirala thinks that the institution of monarchy should not be abolished altogether and could be retained as a ceremonial head of state. Suffice to say any decision on the future of the monarchy has the potential of dividing Nepal.

There are perhaps two more serious but immediate problems facing the country. One is to ensure that the ever-squabbling politicians do not squander the opportunity created by the peace accord and work with some understanding and trust to rebuild their country. Then there is the lurking fear of violence resurfacing from among the rogue Maoists.

The quarrelling mainstream politicians had utterly failed to govern the country, thus allowing the king to take control of the country by dismissing them. On his part, the king too had failed to ‘deliver’ on his promise after acquiring full powers to run the country.

While a verdict on King’s future has to wait till after the June parliamentary election, one thing that many will be waiting to see is how well or quickly does the Maoist leadership learns to live with others who differ with them and the fact that dissent is an essential content of democracy. The onus of honouring the CPA will be as much on the Maoists as the mainstream politicians. Undoubtedly.

- Syndicate Features -

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