Continuous and intentional violations of peace deal and meekness of the government to take any corrective measure created a vicious cycle of state-of-flux and lawlessness. …Because of frequent indefinite strikes, distribution of citizenship cards across Terai and collection names for voters’ list has been severely affected.
By Chattra Bahadur
A leading daily newspaper recently published the results of the survey stating that almost 70% of the respondents pointed out that the foremost challenge before the government is to maintain law and order situation. And the response is not entirely surprising. We are witnessing frequent and increasingly violent indefinite strikes, shortages and unavailability of essential food items, rocketing price rise with shrinking job opportunities, growing insecurity, etc. At the time of height of the Maoist insurgency, it was often reported that the presence of the government was restricted to the capital and the district headquarters only. However, at present, it appears that the government is not even present in the capital or in the district headquarters.
After the fall of the royal regime and the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) coming into power, the Maoists returned to the negotiating table; and finally, the peace deal was brokered. The longstanding demand of the Constituent Assembly was agreed upon and, in return, the Maoists renounced their armed struggle. For the most Nepalese, it was huge relief and offered a ray of hope of elusive political stability and prosperity.
However, hopes of people were dashed soon to considerable extent when the Maoists could not forego their love for brute force, intimidating tactics, kidnapping, open extortion (often phrased as willful donation), forced indoctrination, swift rebuttal and brutal repression of any opposition, and the top leadership continuously being in state of denial of all the wrongdoings of cadres instead of taking disciplinary action. At the same time, the SPA government stood as a silent spectator even when the Maoists violated every single article of peace accord citing lame excuse of ‘fragile peace process’ and ‘still looming threat of reactionary and regressive forces’. And inability to enforce the peace deal in the letter and spirit, and inability to enforce strict measures for each violation on the part of the government have significant share wherein any sane Nepalese sees a remote chance of normalcy coming back.
Passive posture of the government to take any concrete stand on any issue has cost the nation dear. Continuous and intentional violations of peace deal and meekness of the government to take any corrective measure created a vicious cycle of state-of-flux and lawlessness. It is becoming evident that brutality and devastation of any nature could be justified as a political compulsion and crucial means to achieve the end without accepting any moral responsibility of such actions. All these actions have gained new ‘respectability’ and ‘acceptability’. The organizers of indefinite strikes dominate media space upholding such actions as ‘venting frustration’ in response to the government apathy and police brutality. In the end, they hold the government and reactionary elements responsible for all the damages because, in any case, their demands are genuine and their protests were peaceful. The civic society and human rights activists find the government and ‘unseen forces’ (regressive and reactionary forces) accountable for loss of lives and damage of property. The government surprisingly does not respond either positively or negatively.
After massive Terai uprising, at economic cost of about Rs. 96 billions and loss of human lives, the government and all political parties in the Interim Parliament, including the Maoists, acceded to the concept of federalism; however, model, modality, relationship (between the central and federal governments) and administrative structure are still unknown. Lone dissident voice is raised by the veteran Communist leader Mohan Bikram Singh citing small size, diversity and administratively expensiveness; however, his political party has negligible electoral influence. The Maoists were the first major political force that had brought the issue of federal structure in Nepal to the forefront though the concept did exist in the Nepalese academia. As of now, only the Maoists (as a political party) have forwarded reorganization of geographical area in nine autonomous republic states. Other political parties are said to be ‘working’ on the model of federalism. At an individual level, Dr. Pitamber Sharma forwarded concept of six federal states and 19 districts (on the basis of geographical region); Shankar Pokhrel (CPN-UML) envisaged 15 federal states (on basis of geographical region); Rajendra Shrestha (CPN-UML) has proposed 14 federal states; Pari Thapa (United People’s Front) has proposed 9 federal states; Mahendra Lawoti has proposed 13 federal states; and Late Dr. Harka Gurung had proposed 25 development districts (on basis of economic resources and viability). Other intellectuals have also proposed their concepts of federal states. It is worthwhile to note that most of the federal structure is based on ethnicity and the number of states range between 9 and 15.
The proposed date of the Constituent Assembly is approaching near. However, it appears that the government may not be in position to hold the Constituent Assembly elections because federal structure appears to be multifaceted and complex political demand which will take time to be solved. Because of frequent indefinite strikes, distribution of citizenship cards across Terai and collection names for voters’ list has been severely affected. At the same time, many groups within a single community pursuing same interest have made things more difficult. For instance, madhesh interests are pursued by the Maoist-affiliated Madheshi Mukti Morcha, Sadhbhavana (Anand Devi), Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF), Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha (Jwala and Goit), and Sadhbhavana (Bardi Mandal) with Janatantrik Madeshi Morcha. Their major demands are same (regional autonomy with right of self-determination and proportionate representation according to population) and different groups have strength in different parts of Terai. It is also possible that other fronts would emerge soon.
As of now, MJF has rejected talks-proposal putting forward precondition of the resignation of the Home Minister whereas JTMM (Goit) has stated that the environment is not conducive. JTMM (Jwala) has also forwarded list of preconditions before talks. Eventually, if talks would take place with MJF and JTMM (because they were invited by the government) will other groups accept the outcome of the negotiations? Will top leadership of other groups rise above their respective party interests to agree to the solution reached henceforth or initiate another round of massive protests paralyzing lives across the nation stating that some other demands remain unfulfilled and they were not included in the negotiations? And in such situation, what will rest of the nation do?