The Maoists have adopted a simple strategy and are exploiting the current situation to the hilt.
By Chattra Bahadur
UWB received this article in email
The great ‘peace-ball’ has finally started rolling with the declaration of the 8-point understanding between the SPA and the Maoist leadership before the Prime Minister flew to Bangkok for medical check-up and treatment. The immediate outcome of this declaration was a formation of a committee to draft the Interim Constitution with a time-limit of 15 days. The Interim Constitution is to pave way for the Maoists to join the Interim government to hold elections to the Constituent Assembly. Secondly, the 8-point agreement also accommodated the long-standing Maoists’ demand to dissolve the reinstated Parliament after promulgation of the Interim Constitution and formation of the Interim government; in return, the Maoists agreed to dissolve the People’s government (Jana Sarkar). Though the media had reported that the government will be requesting the UN for its assistance in decommissioning arms, the 8-point agreement has not thrown much light in the issue of arms management.
The consequent press conference conveyed the exuding confidence of the Maoist leader, Prachanda. He was seen propagating the Maoists’ commitment to peace, his vision of ‘new’ Nepal and other usual ‘revolutionary’ rhetoric. Other leaders, representing the SPA, sat there devoid of any emotion or expression in their faces. Most of them were listless and simply disinterested. The very next day, the regular columnists and political analysts in the national media wrote hagiography of Prachanda; perhaps they were awed by his presence. The write-ups clearly showed that they were impressed with the ‘clarity of his thoughts’, ‘profound knowledge of the Nepalese politico-social condition’, and his ‘serious intent to end centuries-old inequalities and perforce social justice’.
With the end of self-congratulatory jamboree and jubilation, the dissenting voices slowly came into the fore expressing dissatisfaction. The dissenting voices, within the various SPA constituents, showed severe dissatisfaction and raised variety of questions.
The strong dissatisfactions were related to:
(1) inability to recommend and install party-loyal lawyers and members of the special-interest groups in the Interim Constitution Drafting Committee, resulting in the absence of party and special-interest group representation; and
(2) the declaration of dissolution of the reinstated Parliament without creating alternate mechanism and inadequate deliberations within the constituent parties.
The serious questions were raised relating to:
(I) the legality and legitimacy of the Interim Constitution Drafting Committee (the Speaker had apprehension since such an important committee was formed without approval of ‘self-declared’ supreme Parliament); and
(II) who would be the final approver of the Interim Constitution (the Speaker held the view that the reinstated Parliament represents the people, not the government, thus the final approval must be granted by the reinstated supreme Parliament).
Before the sudden negotiations at the Prime Minister’s residence in Kathmandu and the resulting declaration of 8-point understanding, the Prime Minister (in his home town) put forth the idea of Ceremonial King and the reasons for which he had advocated for the same. His trusted lieutenant also defended the party president’s viewpoints. However, others within the Prime Minister’s party were not amiable to his view regarding the Ceremonial King and strongly favored democratic republic. They cited the party’s official policy, which had adopted neutrality (rather than positivity) on the issue of the King’s role in the future Nepal. Likewise, other constituents also expressed displeasure at the Prime Minister’s idea of the Ceremonial King stating that this decision is for the people to make during the Constituent Assembly election. Hyper-active and politically-oriented students’ unions immediately protested. Some civic society leaders and human-rights defenders (namely Krishna Pahadi and Mathura Shrestha) went overdrive to criticize the Prime Minister and warned of new ‘people’s movement’ if the King was given the ceremonial role. As of date, no comments regarding the criticisms of his view have been issued from the Prime Minister’s side as he is away for medical treatment.
The constituents of the SPA, the civic-society leaders, the intellectuals, and the human rights defenders are now busy proving their intellect capabilities and mouthing brave words in the press conferences, seminars, and talk shows within the confines of the Kathmandu Valley. The themes invariably remain the same– historic achievement of the peoples’ movement and respecting the spirit of the peoples’ movement; defeat of the repressive regime and emergence of ‘new’ Nepal; necessity for democratic republic to end century-old inequalities; federalism to correct all anomalies prevalent in Nepal; reservation to uplift marginalized sections of the society, etc. New jargons – participatory democracy, federalism on basis of tribes and community, reservation, secularism – are quickly adopted and abused whether they convey any meaning or not. At the same time, the SPA has not been able to show much strength in controlling the Maoists’ aggression and ambition. Contradictory statements from the leaders of the SPA and the continuous bickering within the constituent parties of the SPA have not enhanced already-fractured credibility of the alliance.
With each passing day, the skepticism on the ability of the SPA to deliver among people is rising. At the end of the day, most Nepalese realize that these people talk in a language that they do not even understand, let alone appeal them. For the most, ground realities had not changed at all even when the FM radios, national media and stream of politicians are screaming day-in and day-out that change has come. The first immediate change, of course, that most of them experienced is manifold multiplication of the Maoists activities with new found legitimacy – what was done by the Maoists discreetly earlier had come over the ground. The second change, which is positive, is the drastic reduction in the Army excesses and abuses. However, there is a growing opinion that the 25-point, the 12-point and the 8-point agreements have given the Maoists official sanction to spread ‘red terror’. The Maoists are busy in establishing their kangaroo courts to issue edicts in the name of social justice, extorting indiscriminately in the name of levying tax by the People’s government, ferrying hapless villagers to mass rallies and indoctrinating them forcefully in the name of political activity, display weaponry publicly in the name of providing security, interfering in the development works such as road building etc. And these actions are in direct violation with the various ‘historic’ declarations between the Maoists and the SPA.
The Maoists have adopted a simple strategy and are exploiting the current situation to the hilt. Sensing state of confusion, they are continuing their activities unabated with a single purpose – to fill political vacuum either by coercion or by indoctrination. Whatever may have be agreed by the Maoists’ leadership in numerical-point declarations with the SPA from time to time, the local level Maoists’ leaderships are running their own shows, contradicting finer points of the various declarations. It is unclear whether these activities have prior and tactical approval of the top Maoists leadership. Unfortunately, there is no one to question or check their activities – neither the Maoist leadership nor the local-level SPA leadership. If such activities had prior and tactical approval of the top Maoists leadership, it may provide them short-term gains but also has grave long-term consequences for the top Maoists’ leadership themselves. Secondly, the legitimacy and political credibility that they are desperately seeking now may elude them forever.
In current situation, the Maoists are widely perceived to be in the driving seat and the SPA relegated to the background because of lack of sound homework. At the same time, it may be too early to analyze, either positively or negatively, the peace process.