Talking Nepali War in a New York Restaurant

Talking Nepal in the US: Shambhu Thapa, Sushil Pyakurel and Gopal Krishna Siwakoti. Soft & Hard Maoists, Real & Less Communists, Problem & the Solution?

Alliance for Democracy & Human Rights in Nepal (ADHRN), USA and Nepalese Democratic Youth Council, USA (NDYC) had jointly organized a talk program on the current situation in Nepal in New York City on Saturday, July 16. It was also part of â Bichaar Bimarshaâ series (periodic socio-political discussions of Nepal) that the Alliance has launched.The panelists were Shambhu Thapa, lawyer and human rights activist, Sushil Pyakurel, former member of National Human Rights Commission and Dr. Gopal Krishna Siwakoti, human rights activist. Here is what they said:

Shambhu Thapa: Lawyer and human rights advocate

1. Thapa began the presentation by noting that in a war of IDEAS, neither the Maoists, nor the Royalists can win, simply because they are trying to fight the war of IDEAS with guns. He said that the ideas and intelligence of the human kind could not be suppressed even by greatest dictators of our times, so neither can the King of Nepal do that today.

2. This war of IDEAS is going to be lengthy one. The fact that both warring parties, i.e., the King and the Maoists lack people from the mainstream middle ground means that there can be no negotiated settlement to the crisis at this present stage.

3. Constituent Assembly, according to Thapa, is not going to work as a panacea to Nepalâ s political crisis either. He questioned if a Constituent Assembly was to be formed, and if the armed groups failed to elect â theirâ people in the assembly, would they easily give up arms and be content with the results? The answer from him was a resounding NO. The problem of political fractionalization has been exasperated by the fact that elements within each political groups have began to accuse each other of being soft, hence the notion of â real communistsâ or â less communistsâ . The thoughts of those consider themselves â real communistsâ are laden with radicalism and that they will at no cost give up their armed revolution unless thy get it all their way. The idea of â no pre-conditionsâ to a constituent assembly cannot be contemplated either â each other parties involved would obvious have their pre-conditions that conform to their own respective ideas.

4. Therefore, one solution can be to have an agreement among the middle ground people of the Maoists and the political parties in order to corner the King, provided that the that faction of â softâ Maoists would be willing to give up arms. If the King and the parties ally with each other to confront the Maoists, that would spell a major disaster IF they fail. The possibility of failure in this front is serious enough for a lot of people not to take this path.

5. Therefore, the best way forward would be to find ways to accommodate some of key legitimate demands of the Maoists on social justice into the governmentâ s policies and address those demands constitutionally and lawfully. If Sher Bahadur Deuba, the then Prime Minister, had given serious thought to identifying some of legitimate demands of the Maoistsâ 40-point demand, perhaps we would be n a totally different positive situation right now.

6. The King does not support the idea of multi-party democracy. He has proven his ill intent by imprisoning (in the name of containing terrorism) political leaders due to his personal loathe for them. Even the accusations of corruption are invalid, for he had imprisoned the likes of Amik Sherchan and Narayan Bijukche, who have never even held any public post. He imprisoned the likes of Lokendra Bahadur Chand too, who is supposedly his own man, because Lokendra Bahadur served as a PM during multi-party system. Therefore, Kingâ s intention seems clear that he is only looking into â selective punishmentâ of the system of democracy, rather than individuals who he claims to be corrupt.

7. Talking about corruption, the greatest corruption has been committed by the Kingâ s men themselves by indulging in the â corrupt practice on the constitutionâ .

8. Even in 2017 BS, the King snatched authority from democratically elected government. There was not terrorism at the time, therefore this time too terrorism is just an excuse to squash democratic values. This war is not between terrorists and the government â this war is between AUTOCRACY and DEMOCRACY.

9. 12 years of democracy has taught people some valuable lessons and has created enough awareness among them. We have been able to speak and express ourselves like we do today because democracy has empowered us to a great extent. The idea of â giving and taking awayâ fundamental rights of the people are non-sense and hold no truth to reality. The reality is that fundamental rights of the people are embedded in their existence from their birth. Any attempts to take away peopleâ s rights are unconstitutional and it kills the rule of law.

10. Vast majority of the lawyers in Nepal have been fighting neutrally for peopleâ s rights, regardless of the latterâ s ideology or political alliances. Only 21 lawyers out of over ten thousand registered are listed by the government to have supported the tyrannical regime.

11. Fear: Fear of being harmed personally is always there. Either one can desire to fight for public liberty and risk personal harm, or one can fear personal harm and refrain from fights to promote public liberty. Nepal bar Association has boldly chosen to fight for peopleâ s rights.

12. Defects in the constitution can be corrected constitutionally. Individuals can go astray, but the system cannot be blamed for individualâ s ineptitude and incompetence.

Thapa also highlighted some of the actions that Nepali Diaspora in the US can take vis-Ã -vis struggle for democracy in Nepal:

1. Keep feeding the local media here in the US with information on Nepalâ s condition and the status of fight for democracy.

2. Lobby to send fact-finding missions to Nepal consisting of US lawmakers. They should be encouraged to meet not only people of certain groups, but to engage in dialogues with individuals from EVERY aspect of Nepali crisis to accurately assess the situation.

3. Send reports of pro-democracy activities here in the US to Nepal. This will provide encouragement and strength to people struggling for democracy at home.

4. Raise funds to support pro-democracy institutions and activities in Nepal. Financial help is direly needed.

5. Organize a grand discussion forum on Nepal (on a convention level), and include speakers from ALL aspects of the conflict. Send reports/conclusions of such convention(s) to Nepal. This would also provide moral boost to pro-democracy activists in Nepal.

6. Thapa concluded his presentation by commenting that state of emergency rules only repress the strength of the civil society institutions, and do not provide for a good foundation for governance. The strength of the civil society (individual members and institutions) cannot be underestimated either. The present constitution of Nepal does not give ultimate authority to govern to the King, the power which is divinely vested upon the parliament only.

Sushil Pyakurel: human rights activist

1. Pyakurel started his presentation by addressing the question of why civil society organizations like human rights groups and journalist groups should be involved in politics of the country. His response was that the idea of democracy itself is highly politically charged issue. Social aspects like respecting human rights and freedom of the press can only exist in a democratic framework, and since their organizations fight for such rights, they inevitably get drenched in politics of the country.

2. Armed revolution is the result of grave socio-economic problems the country faced for decades. Now, in order to resolve this crisis, there are two schools of thought: a. those who propose further democratization and strengthening of the civil society, b. those who believe in armed revolution to bring about much-needed social changes. Precedence of various governments around the world listening to social grievances ONLY when the revolutionaries pick up arms has already been set and it is a very dangerous precedence. This gives rise to terrorism. Even in Nepal, the fact that democratic governments failed to address the legitimate concerns of certain section of the public contributed to rise of the movement to an armed struggle.

3. There is absolutely no sense of rule of law in the country. Not only the Maoists, but even the Kingâ s government, by trampling upon the constitution, and creating parallel government bodies, have blatantly ignored the rule of law.

4. The key question that needs to be pondered upon by every Nepali at this juncture is this: Where lies the sovereign power, to the King or the people? Ever since Nepal was freed from Rana rule, the royal institution has always been reluctant to restore sovereignty to the people. Even King Tribhuwan, after having proposing that the ultimate sovereignty must be vested upon the people, was reluctant (after returning to Nepal from India) to let go of that sovereignty. The idea that since the Kings are the true and dutiful masters of Nepal just because ancestors of the royal family helped form the Nepali nation-state has always prevailed in the royal circles. However, in this day in age, and especially throughout history, the royals have not â and cannot â survive if they do not attach themselves to the true aspirations of the people and bestow sovereignty to the latter.

5. King Gyanendra, who had publicly proclaimed that he wanted to become an â active monarchâ has now seized the sovereignty back from the people which was rightfully given to the latter by his brother King Birendra in 1990. He has made no secret of the fact that he loathes the multi-party political process, and blames the countryâ s crisis on the ineptitude of the political parties, rather than on unfavorable socio-political conditions. Therefore, the February firstâ s move was the climax of King Gyanendra deliberately trying to destroy the independence of democratic institutions of the country.

6. King Gyanendra also doesnâ t (still) believe that the current bureaucracy will support him â he doesnâ t have faith in the institutions created by the people through democratically elected governments, hence he has created parallel institutions to forego proper political processes in order to advance his own agenda.

7. So, what is the way forward? The political parties have put forth a minimum agenda: Restoration of the parliament. This would legitimize ANY moves towards peace and reconciliation and other developmental process of the country. Regardless of what kinds of constitutional processes is deemed fit for the country, only ratification of those processes by the people â through the elected parliament â will give ultimate and unquestionable legitimacy to them. Restoring the parliament doesnâ t amount to return to failed status quo, rather will only give credence to future actions to bring about much-needed changes.

8. The king needs to be kept at the right place.

9. Political parties have also realized that they need not be in power to push for changes and/or progress in the society. They have realized the importance of pushing for things like negotiations and peace even by being outside the power helm. And this is exactly what the parties are beginning to do now.

10. Even the international community is beginning to realize and understand King Gyannendraâ s motives to destroy the democratic institutions in Nepal. Pyakurel noted how much change in attitude in favor of democracy has emerged in the international community, comparing his earlier visits to, and interactions with, the lawmakers in the US to his recent visits.

11. US citizens of Nepali origin must work towards pressuring their constituent representatives in the US government to push for democracy in Nepal. All other Nepalis in the US can do much by contributing to opinion building by organizing events such as discussion forums and other informative sessions.

Dr. Gopal Krishna Siwakoti, human rights activist

1. The Nepali vibrant human rights, media, civil society organizations and political activists have strongly maintained the efforts to restore democracy in Nepal, and those efforts have been bolstered by support form international community and the Nepali Diaspora.

2. In an explanation letter sent to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan by the post February 1st, 2005 Nepali government, they justified the imposition of the state of emergency in Nepal on the following four points:

• Survival of democracy
• National sovereignty
• Untold sufferings brought about by the Maoists terrorists to the Nepali public
• Past few governments were not serious enough to initiate dialogue with the Maoists.

However, Dr. Siwakoti argued that the aforementioned reasons do not corroborate with the Kingâ s February first proclamation and the subsequent actions taken by the government after that. Instead of cracking down on the Maoists, the government has largely exhausted its resources to crack down on political parties, human rights activists, journalists, lawyers, and other members of the democratic civil society. The Governmentâ s hard line action has been random, sometimes clandestine, and is laden with pre-conceived biases. This â dual characterâ of the new government is a â fraud on the constitution,â which was proclaimed by human rights organizations and the media from day 1 of Kingâ s takeover.

3. Instead of giving new hopes to the people, the new government then virtually banned the activities of political parties, suppressed free media, and obstructed the activities of human rights groups by restricting their movements and demanding that their reports be free of elements that may â demoralize the security forceâ . Harassment and imprisonment have become common.

4. Despite existence of various governmental bodies, parallel institutions were created, which again is unconstitutional. The Royal Commission for Corruption Control (RCCC) when there already existed Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA); High Level Human Rights Committee when there already was National Human Rights Commission are the ample evidences of the highhandedness of the Government. The government also gave rise to district-level investigative body with broad and unquestionable authority to search homes, and offices and detain people without the due process of the law.

5. Dr. Siwakoti also presented facts that contradict progress on the Maoists front:

• Almost 60% increase on the rate of daily killings since February 1st
• Nearly 1200 lives lost due to the conflict since February first, of which, (according to governmentâ s claim) 160 have been security personnel, 200 â on-the-faceâ civilians, and the rest are labeled as â Maoistsâ .
• About 40 major fatal attacks by the Maoists since February 1st, which is three folds more than before.
• By creating (by the government) vigilante groups in various districts in Nepal and providing them with arms, the civilian security is further jeopardized. No one is safe.
• 4-5 lakhs people internally displaced
• 8-9 lakhs have had to flee to foreign countries
• Youth seeking foreign employment from 2000 to 5000 in a month
• About 40% rise in child soldiers in the Maoist ranks
• Severe shortages of food and medical supplies

6. The international community has expressed its deep concern regarding human rights violations in Nepal. The new regime seems to be deeply frustrated with the steps taken by the international community. It is also very sad that the government is flatly ruling out the UNâ s involvement in possible mediation.

7. Conclusion: Governmentâ s efforts to justify their brutality in the name of â either you are with us or you are with the Maoist terroristsâ is simply misguiding. This is not about a choice between two anarchical (royalists camp and Maoists camp) forces for the people. Business is not as usual, and the arms supply resumption to the security force will not be justifiable as long as they are used at the wrong places â to suppress the vibrant civil society. Violence is not the answer under any circumstances, and the conflict MUST be resolved through democratic means, either through a referendum, or constitutional assembly, or all-party government, or a round table. One can clean shave the hair due to dandruff problems, but cannot slash the throat for it.

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About 45 Nepalis attended the talk program at the Himalayan Yak Restaurant from NYC area. The speakers entertained various questions from the audience after their presentations.

The program was moderated by Sanjay Parajuli, the current President of ADHRN, and a welcome note was delivered by Anand Bista, the current President of NDYC. Anand Bista delivered few words on democratic organizationsâ —particularly NDYCâ s—past activities and future aspirations, and he also expressed support for, and solidarity with, various organizations and individuals who are engaged in the struggle to promote democracy in Nepal, both at home and abroad. Sanjay Parajuli, also expressing similar sentiments about our support for pro-democracy organizations and individuals, introduced the panelists.

This text was provided to UWB by Somnath Ghimire.

10 Responses to “Talking Nepali War in a New York Restaurant”

1. Reema Says:
July 21st, 2005 at 11:47 am
It is useless to hold these silly mock discussions in New York and talk about Nepal. Things are fine in Nepal. Security situaiton has totally improved. No bombs in Kathmandu. No traffic jams created by nonsense rallies. People are at peace. If this can go on for 3 years, the situaiton will be much better. Of course, so-called party ‘leaders’ are not happy. Because they lost their opportunity to foll the people and rig elections. In New York, why don’t Nepalese see what political culture is exercised by the leaders of America!! Look at the amount of goodwill among various political factions and groups in America and bi-partisan success on such pressing issues. Why don’t cronies like Shambu Thapa and Pyakurel talk about that?

2. Ghanendra Says:
July 21st, 2005 at 6:08 pm
Reema,
it is a shame that you support absolute monarchy/family rule in 21st century. some of the leaders may be bad, but democracy is the self correcting system. You seem like a frog in the well.
I pity on you,
Ghanendra

3. dol Says:
July 22nd, 2005 at 8:55 am
i didn’t read it . whom do wagle expects such a long stuff to be read?

4. haude Says:
July 22nd, 2005 at 11:43 am
Ghanendra,
You shame should be on you for being judgemental. I find it appalling that anytime someone supports Feb 1st move or is critical of the parties, he/she is automatically branded a royalist, who supports monarchy instead of democracy etc and etc…and unfortunately I have seen this time and time again. There is no law of physics that says democracy is always correct and monarchy is always wrong. And most of all I am amazed by the way most of you seem to revere democarcy without understanding the subtleties of it. Tell me something, what does democracy really mean to you? And NO, being in 21st century has nothing to do with what Reema should be supporting. And if you are really “democratic” about it, she can support whoever the hell she thinks is the right person at any given moment. And just to let you know, a lot goes into the self correcting mechanism of democracy, it is not as automatic as you like to think it is, and given the present circumstances, I wonder if there is even time for that.

5. theoritician Says:
July 22nd, 2005 at 11:56 am
I totally support Rima. Its useless holding discussions on Nepal in the U.S. It means nothing to us living here in Kathmandu. Primarily, because the security situation has drastically imrpoved. If not for these parties organizing demonstrations of 500 people, Kathmandu would be much more peaceful. But what we Nepalese have to understand that there is a big conspiracy to make Nepal another Afghanistan. Why don’t U.S. India, Britain who are all fighting terrorism in their respective countries support us in our fight against terror? That’s because they don’t want peace in Nepal. They want chaose so that they can permanently stay here and abuse the freedom that we provide. We Nepalese know it all. The Norwegians, the Danish, the Swiss, all these are insects trying to make Nepal another Sudan. We should be careful. We should be alert. Let’s be united. Nobody can disturb the harmony that we have enjoyed in the last 300 years.

6. rajesh Says:
July 24th, 2005 at 8:31 am
Well done Rima!

I fully agree with your comments.
These so called democratic thugs are so biased that they always see dark side on king’s rule. I was in Nepal recently in Kathamndu and quite impressed by scurity situation. Even my colleague told me that situation is gradually improving in Eastern Nepal.

I am disappointed to see long sppech of so called human right activists Thapa, Pyakuryal and shiwakoti. I do not know about Thapa but Pyakuryal and Shiwakoti main business is criticising Nepal and earning money from donors in the human rights. Since we know Pykuryal is the informal spokesperson of UML , how can one expect impartial views. The human rights jargon is money making business for these people and I am really disappoited to see how blog provide them space. Let me tell you if you keep on giving space these kind of people, your credibiilty will be eroded.
Nepali

7. naresh pradhan Says:
July 26th, 2005 at 11:25 pm
hi namaste

8. Impartial Says:
August 7th, 2005 at 8:11 pm
haude, teoretician and rajesh
cannot you differentiate between democracy and autocracy/family rule(esp of Gyanendra and Paras in Nepal’s case)?

9. navaraj Says:
September 16th, 2005 at 8:18 am
it is foolish to accept that gyanedra rule the country like his property.
its really a shame for every nepalese.
No other word needed for this, Just shame shame……….

10. janakpuri Says:
September 16th, 2005 at 12:36 pm

Well next time lets get a perspective about nepal from neplese on MOON.

I am not saying that people in america can not understand situation of nepal… they can but they make a lot of theoretical assumptions…(coz they have to)

Question is not whether democracy is good or monarchy… either can be better than other depending on circumstances…. but gyane has played with faith of people by apppointing corrupt people as guardians of country… he is not respecting the sentiment of people… he wants to ride on unpopularity of political parties.. but throwing mud on some one also makes u dirty…… any way alll i can say is these things are silly and will cost gyane dearly…

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