By Chattra Bahadur
The role of intellectual class, which had played prominent role in providing impetus to the pro-democracy movement, has not been commendable after reinstatement of the Parliament. Rather than urging and allowing the government (and the reinstated Parliament) focus on the immediate task of initiating the stalled peace-process, they are pushing forward agendas which, at the best, may have weak link with the peace-process itself.
Some of the experts, while analyzing the present situation of widespread confusion with frequent noxious bouts of lawlessness in the capital city, asserted such instances being ‘normal’ during transitional phases. They are also quick to cite such instances during transition period in many countries all over the world. On the other hand, various leaders of different political hue, ministers in the government and other distinguished members of the civic society are often heard playing the blame-game or forewarning of some imaginary conspiracy by the disgraced members of the previous regime (without producing any evidence to support their hypotheses) and dire consequences of such actions. They would advise/request all to come forward to safeguard the ‘achievements’ of the Jana-Andolan 2062/63. At the same time, the Maoist leadership has maintained both high decibel and visibility. The Nepalese media, of course, is hyper-active in helping all the Nepalese realize their ‘right to know’ by reporting all these events.
In the midst of all of this, everyone has started to realize that the much-promised and much-awaited glorious path to peace is being increasingly difficult. The Maoists are proving to be insatiable with their ever-increasing set of demands each day. Much to their chagrin, the urban elite and the commoners discovered that their exposure to the level of threat has increased suddenly and substantially. What was largely a rural affair had reached their doorsteps.
Firstly, rampant extortion drive, with cadres of the CPN (Maoists) reaching most households and shops in Kathmandu and other metropolitan cities, forceful edict to the students of the government schools in Kathmandu for their compulsory presence at the Maoists’ rally, and the massive show of strength at the Maoists’ rally (Jestha 19) has unnerved everyone.
Secondly, spate of successive lootings and killings have shattered law-and-order situation within the capital city, whatever little was left.
Thirdly, the Maoist leadership has justified the extortion-drive in many forums stating that
(a) the SPA had accepted their theory of ‘two governments and two armies’ in principle: thus the parallel government is exercising its legitimate right to collect ‘taxes’ from people; and
(b) the party needs funds to maintain its army, militia, and cadres. They have also demanded half of either Nepal’s or the Nepal Army’s budgetary allocation (demand depends upon the individual Maoist leader) to them if the government was serious in ending the extortion-drive.
To make matters worse, the SPA looks increasingly in disarray without being able to present convincing workable ‘road-map’ to move forward though the peace-process and negotiations are said to be the top-most priority. Instead of presenting unified stand, each political leader, within the SPA constituents, puts forward contradictory viewpoints regarding the peace process, and the conditions that both the warring parties must fulfill before the negotiations. And surprisingly, the government has maintained stoic silence on the question of minimum conditions that the Maoists must fulfill before the second round of negotiations start. Within a short period of time, looking at the turn of events, many have become skeptical regarding the whole peace-process on account of the government’s indecisiveness and lack of assertiveness, and the growing aggressiveness of the Maoists with their ever-increasing set of demands.
The role of intellectual class, which had played prominent role in providing impetus to the pro-democracy movement, has not been commendable after reinstatement of the Parliament. Rather than urging and allowing the government (and the reinstated Parliament) focus on the immediate task of initiating the stalled peace-process, they are pushing forward agendas which, at the best, may have weak link with the peace-process itself. And the Parliament is seen issuing controversial decrees such as the Secular state, the Citizenship Bill, etc. Many analyses in the prominent national dailies and the prominent speakers at the national-level seminars have questioned the aptness and appropriateness of these actions.
The expressed contentions are:
(a) since the reinstated Parliament has mandate regarding the initiation of the peace-process and the election of the Constituent Assembly only, and the issuance of decrees [of these natures] are out-of-preview of the present Parliament;
(b) before any decree, there must be broad-based discussion to weigh pros-and-cons and the present decrees are issued without careful analysis or discussion; and
(c) these are the questions that the people should vote to decide rather than be declared by the reinstated Parliament that lacks the requisite mandate to do the same. And the Parliament has not justified how these decrees were inseparable proviso to initiate the peace-process or on what basis these decrees were issued.
There is also growing concern with the excessive emphasis of the SPA on the political freedom without adequate attention to ensure economic prosperity among the Nepalese. Though the international community has renewed its pledge to support development plans, the government or the Parliament has failed to unveil a single development initiative. It has become wishful thinking that the Parliamentarians would show the same vigor and zeal in kick-starting the economic development process as they had shown in curtailing the King’s powers and empowering the Parliament. The responsible leaders show behavior that contradicts their words and the actual action.
The Parliamentarians and the ministers talk about taking development initiatives to the rural areas to develop Nepal or taking the message of change to all parts of the country but do not step outside the Kathmandu valley on one pretext or another. Likewise, the finance minister revealed poor state of the economic situation [as evidenced by the precarious balance-of-payments situation, growing trade imbalance and deficit] but fell short to mention steps that he will initiate to correct these anomalies. At other instances, some Parliamentarians talk about empowering some sections of the society without revealing a master plan or actual programs to do the same.
Moreover, every Nepalese faces harassments in the form of corruption, antiquated and archaic bureaucratic procedures, and growing political orientation and unionism of the government bureaucracy on daily-basis. These are the key issues that the most Nepalese like to be addressed with urgency. Since the common man interacts with the bureaucracy, the impression of the government is formed on the basis of this. And s/he will believe the over-emphasized ‘change’ only when the bureaucracy is more responsive towards his/her needs. Unfortunately, the government bureaucracy has not changed either its outlook or the way of functioning. Sensing the state of flux in the political establishment, the bureaucracy has become more unresponsive and militant (such as issuance of threat to lock-out or strike at a drop of hat) in their approach. However, the mass does possess common-sense to understand that the change does not come just by proclaiming the change has come. To make them believe, the change must be evident in their daily lives, which is sorely missing.
The scenario prevailing in Nepal at present is quite worrisome. On the peace-process front, the sense of direction is lacking with the government preferring silence and the Maoists presenting divergent set of ever-increasing demands. And on the socio-economic front, the SPA has solely emphasized political freedom at the cost of neglecting the vital issue of the economic prosperity when it is amply clear that economic prosperity is necessary to enjoy political freedom.