Loktantra and Ground Reality

In view of these unwarranted events, for average Nepalese, a change in political leadership and declaration of Loktantra is yet to bear any significant fruit.

By Chattra Bahadur

Officially Baisakh 11, 2064 was declared as Loktantra Diwas and the celebrations were spread over three days. The leaders of major political parties took an opportunity to self-congratulate on this occasion. There was usual rhetoric of achievements and what future holds. They didn’t forget to exorcise evil spirits of ‘regressive’ and ‘reactionary’ forces, and also made the Nepalese aware that they are doing their best to keep these demons away. Their voices grew bolder and shriller when they vowed that they won’t let these dead demons rise from the grave. Of course, they promised to uphold the dreams of martyrs by clinging on to the power no-matter-what-may-come and as-long-as-possible till they fulfill the martyrs’ dreams. The only issue that didn’t find any mention is the current situation and possible strategies to overcome it. Perhaps, strong commitment and over-emphasis on immediate declaration of republic state was thought as a panacea of all ills in the short-run and the long-run.

The civic society and human-rights activists, who had been associate and collaborator of the political parties during Loktantric movement in April previous year, did not find any significant reason to share the same enthusiasm as the political parties did. They had a rather long list of aggravations, allegations and complaints. They unequivocally expressed dismay at the political brinkmanship of the coalition partners, instead of moving united towards the agreed-upon goal of holding the Constituent Assembly elections at the earliest to create ‘new’ Nepal and equitable society. In the end, they issued stern warning to initiate and lead Janandolan III if the political parties continued to ignore the ‘people’s mandate’ of Janandolan II. Continue reading Loktantra and Ground Reality

A Year of Democracy (Loktantra) in Nepal

Leading the nation to the Constituent Assembly election by addressing demands raised by various interest groups and move the peace process forward are the two biggest challenges for this year.

We have come a long way in the past 12 months. The peace process, started immediately after the successful peoples’ movement (April Revolution), is also on the right track. The most important thing that people of Nepal have gained in the past 365 days is the HOPE for bright future. As the daily routine of killings and counter killings stopped and the former rebels started storing their guerillas and weapons in the UN monitored cantonments and containers, Nepali people started planning for future. Well the peace is being restored, they think, now is the time to think about future and talk about business. The situation is not as bright as many would have liked to have. Business performance and economic indicators are disappointing because the driving force that is politics is not in stable condition yet. Certainly there are hurdles and people are aware of that. The country is reeling from the decade long violence and no one can do magic tricks to bring it to total normalcy. Political parties aren’t getting full marks for their performance though the credit for brining the peace process this far definitely goes to them. There is no sign that parties have learned from their past mistakes but there is no alternative of political parties. Likewise there is no choice for the political parties other than learning from the past.

People across the nation are celebrating the first anniversary of the reinstatement of the democracy in the country beginning today. To mark the Democracy Day (Loktantra Diwas) tomorrow, three-day-long celebrations will have various programmes organized throughout the country by the organizing committees in the respective regions. Last year on this very day, the April uprising was at its height, which forced King Gynendra to bend knees to the people power. The following day – April 24, 2006- people succeeded in gaining back the sovereignty, freedom and democracy that were seized by King Gyanendra on Feb 1, 2005. (more)

April Revolution that forced the despot Gyanendra to surrender to people and restore democracy (loktantra) was the combined voice of progressive Nepali people but that wasn’t the end. Many commentators have already noted in this forum that the revolution was just a beginning of the new phenomenon- demanding rights. Who is not demanding rights today? From indigenous people to the people of Terai to people of inner mountains to dalits to, well, you name it. Leading the nation to the Constituent Assembly election by addressing these demands and move the peace process forward are the two biggest challenges for this year. Some of the demonstrations have turned into violent killing field and Maoists, the other half of the peace process, are still resorting to bullying tactics. Both of these issues are sensitive and fragile. Unity among the eight political parties will be the key in addressing both of these issues. If we are successful in facing these challenges, days ahead are, yahoo!, OURS!

YCL Intimidation and IDP Voices

A relative came from village yesterday and he was watching TV bulletin in the evening while giving us latest about the village. There came the news about YCL, Young Communist League, the new sister organization of the Maoist party. “Yeh…yo YCL le ta manchhe kutchha hai,” the visitor promptly commented. “Dyam ka dyam thokchha. Naya Maobadi ho you YCL bhanne. Gaun ma sabailai thatauchan yiniharu le.” [This YCL beats up people. They beat indiscriminately. This YCL is the new Maoist. These folks beat all people in the village.” Then the man detailed some of the incidents of harassment and intimidation by the YCL cadres in the village. He also said that though the new avatars of the Maoists haven’t displayed guns they openly carry grenade. “They sometime go on fishing in the river with grenade.”

This is just an example of how the newly reactivate YCL of the Maoists (incorporating mostly those who would otherwise be disqualified to be in the cantonment) is spreading the terror without gun in the villages. Police raided an YCL shelter in Kathmandu recently and found nothing. Nepali Congress folks say that the Home Minister gave clean cheat to YCL illegal activities by staging a fake raid where as Maoists criticize the government for the “illegal” raid. Yes, everyone can feel the intense power struggle going on between the major three parties in the government but the way the Maoist has used it’s YCL in the process is very disturbing. No wonder why Ram Chandra Poudel, the Peace and Reconstruction Minister and NC General Secretary, demanded the dismantling of YCL recently. Widespread intimidation is going on around the country, be that in the city or in villages. YCL cadres are on the forefront in creating obstruction in IDP’s return to villages.

Here we publish two interviews of two Internally Displaced People from Ramechhap and Achham. They are both living in Tinkune, an open space, in Kathmandu along with many other IDP.

Bina Adhikari, 36
Gelu Village, Ramechhap

Why were you were displaced?

We are displaced because of the Maoists. They should know the reasons.

Have they given any reason?

They say we spied [against them]. They displace people even in small arguments. Moreover, our house was looted. My house was the first to be looted in Ramechhap district.

Who is in the house now?

Until two years ago, there was no one. But since then, some have returned and other members of the family are here. They said some can return but others can’t. Three brothers of the family are still here. Continue reading YCL Intimidation and IDP Voices

The Maoists and Attitude Problem

Because of its confusing stand, the Maoist in the past few days is behaving like an unsure and stubborn kid that is throwing everything that handy and in front of him. It is sad that the election isn’t going to happen on June 20 but to try to play politics out of this inefficiency is even more frustrating. What Maoists want is portray themselves as extra revolutionary by quickly forwarding the blame garland to other parties and stressing that they are the only party that wants the CA to happen. And in this drama, their hypocrisy has been exposed. Prachanda says Nepal should be declared republic immediately and if that happens the holding CA election by the end of this year or next year wont matter. Yes, doing away with Monarchy is important but equally important is the election of CA. Electing CA means sending out votes to the Assembly that will not only get rid of monarchy but also work on state restructuring and many other important things. We must keep in mind possible threat from monarchy to our journey to CA but, at the same time, political leadership should move forward from this blame game. Maoists can’t overshadow the issue of CA.

Maoist is the one party that is to be blamed for the certain deferral of the CA election. They are still behaving like a parallel government even after joining the official government. Bullying must be stopped. All the properties and lands confiscated by the Maoists must be returned immediately. The voice of internally displaced people must be heard. There must be limit to the Maoist arrogance. They can’t just take away anyone’s vehicles and use for their purpose. They can’t disrupt the parliamentary proceedings whenever they feel like doing so. Attitude problem is clearly there with the Maoist. They enter parliament with pistol in pocket they don’t learn from their mistakes. That is why their minister behaves like a brat in the cabinet. If Maoist behaves like a responsible and trustworthy party, Nepali Congress and the Prime Minister will be forced to take them seriously. If Maoists are to be compared with the UML, they are already ahead in quite a few issues. Maoists must prove themselves further and win the confidence of skeptics.

Related links:
Cabinet meeting cancelled after Maoist ministers walk out
Maoist MPs continue to flex muscles, disrupt house proceedings
Maoist-affiliate transport workers halt traffic in Biratnagar
Police seize Prachanda’s vehicle

Deferral of the CA Elections: Pragmatic Decision or Political Crisis?

By Prakash Bom

What is the primary objective of the CA Elections? Are political leaders clear about it? If so, have they made it clear to their party cadres and their supporters in general public?

CA elections are the elections that all political parties of the nation and the general public must be aware of their urgency with clear objective for building a democratic nation– ‘a new democratic Nepal’. This is the mandate of the people’s movements and the aspiration of people that no political party can overrule it.

The ‘Constitution’ that will be drafted for the new democratic Nepal must guarantee the ‘Civil Liberty’, ‘Civil Rights’ and ‘Human Rights’ of people, and the ‘National Integrity’ of Nepal. The general voters must be acquainted about the objectives of the CA elections. Campaigns for CA elections should not only be the campaigns of political parties but also of all Nepali people who trust in electoral (competitive) process of democracy.

The other question has come up for the Republic setup with the failure of the institution of the monarchy. The majority of the political party leaderships and cadres are aware of this choice. This change has come about with the aspiration of the majority of people for the republic. Should the CA elections make this decision for the nation or the Interim Parliament? The nation now needs immediate attention.

SPA leaderships in the government have failed with the lack of vision and the justice over the national crises. People were worried, especially those who were marginalized by the current governance structure and practice. Therefore with the questions of the restructuring the nation people have come up with the demand of federal structures that will give people the opportunity for the direct participations in nation building process with the electoral rights for ‘self-governance’. If the political leaderships had the vision for the nation; if the elites were honest with their knowledge and experience; the federalism could have been the need of the time for the nation building mechanism. Continue reading Deferral of the CA Elections: Pragmatic Decision or Political Crisis?

CA Election Uncertainty: Maoist Reaction

In protest of the Chief Election Commissioner’s announcement that Constituent Assembly (CA) polls on June 20 was not possible, Maoist combatants in Chitwan and Nawalparasi came out of their cantonments yesterday. In Chitwan, Maoist combatants of third division main cantonment in Shaktikhor, came out of their camps to protest the postponing of CA polls. According to ‘Abiral’, Maoists’ spokesperson of the camp, some 4,000 combatants participated in protest programs. However, 2,000 combatants stayed back to guard the camp, he said. Likewise, combatants of neighboring satellite camps of Dinesh-Ramji and Kalyan-Anish Memorial brigade also took out similar protest rallies. The joint rallies passed through the market places of Jutpani, Chainpur, Birendranagar and Pithuwa VDCs before converging in a corner meet. “We came without our party’s prior consent,” said commander Bibidh, adding, “We will be forced to leave the camps if the problems worsen.” (more here)Pic by Binod Tripathi

In blatant breach of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement to which they are a party, Maoists have started opening offices under their United Revolutionary People’s Council (URPC), a body parallel to local state institutions, in Lekhnath Municipality of Kaski. Despite their party’s decision to scrap all units of their parallel government, Maoist cadres have reactivated opening such offices in different wards of the municipality. According to local cadres, their party (including Maoist Ministers) has directed them to launch a nationwide campaign for opening such council offices. They also said the party’s central committee has directed them to open “parallel offices” at par with government offices at district, municipality and village levels. In the photo above, Biswo Prakash Baral, member of the city committee of the Maoist in Lekhnath Municipality of Kaski district, puts a signboard in their office on Ward number 4 of the municipality. Maoist area No-4 in-charge of the municipality “Darshan” said, “We will be opening ward, municipality and district level offices much the same as the government. We plan to open our offices adjoining government offices.” Pic by Ishwori Neupane Continue reading CA Election Uncertainty: Maoist Reaction

First Day of the Year 2064. But Jumla Shines!

The uncertainty over the CA elections and reactions to that decision of the Election Commission dominated the first day of the year in Nepal. Reaction from political parties are coming one after another regarding the Election Commissions expression of inability to hold election on stipulated time (June 20). Sher Bahadur ‘Royalist’ Deuba is one of the first to welcome it publicly though many others must have done so privately. Maoists are suspicious about the whole affair and but it has been understood that they knew it was coming. They see that the Eight Party Alliance is now useless. They want it to be formed again with republicanism as central theme. Anyway, Maoists are not shocked at the statement of EC. It seems CPN Maoist and CPN UML are competing with each other to blame Nepali Congress for pushing the election towards uncertainty. In terms of being harsh to NC, UML has won the game. Meanwhile Prime Minister and NC boss GP Koirala is like, well folks I am responsible yes but you folks also can’t escape. He is right; all of these folks can’t escape.

By the way, Gyanendra Shah, who issued a New Year statement today fulfilling his desire to issue such statement every now and then, has shown his phony appreciation of the peace process. I think its better not to give attention to his man.

Jumla Linked: But the best news comes from Jumla, one of the remotest districts in Nepal, where vehicle has reached. With the vehicle, hope of bright future has also touched in Jumla. People welcomed the car by garlanding the owner and worshipping the machine. They also sacrificed an animal on the occasion. People are happy that with the arrival of road, they don’t have to suffer from the scarcity of food in the region. Their Apple will get access to market and they will also be free from taking the expensive flights.

Finally Constituent Assembly Election is Uncertain. Damn…

EC asks the government to push it by at least 120 days.

We have just received a report from the Election Commission that the EC has expressed its inability to hold election of Constituent Assembly on the stipulated time of June 20. The Commission had written a letter to the government yesterday and the cabinet is now discussion on the content, reports Durga Khanal, a journalist associated with Kantipur daily from the EC office in Kathmandu. The commission argued that all laws should be formulated (there are three laws yet to be brought) and the date of election must be declared at least 110 days prior to the voting day.

This means that the date of the election of Constituent Assembly will have to be differed by at least 110 days. As per the interim constitution of Nepal 2063 the election must be held within mid June. Recently, a meeting of eight ruling parties had decided to hold the CA election on June 20. Many people were skeptical about the possibility of election by that time. The skepticism was fueled by occasional remarks from some western diplomats including UN General Secretary’s personal representative to Nepal Ian Martin. The EC was also complaining about the limited time for the preparation.

Mark These Numbers: 205 + 35 + 240 + 17= 497 in Constituent Assembly

497=Total number of seats in Constituent Assembly

Here is how it works:
205= Existing constituencies (for the Parliament)
35= To be added (recommended by the Election Constituency Delimitation Commission.) Of the 35, the commission has added 28 constituencies in the terai and 7 in the hill regions. But it hasn’t changed the number of constituencies in the 16 himalayan districts.
240 = seats for the proportional system of election
17 = seats to be nominated by the Prime Minister on the recommendation of the Cabinet

Region wise split of the CA seats: 116 in terai and 124 in hilly and himalayan districts. [In the last parliamentary polls, 88 in terai, 95 in the hilly region and 22 in himalayan regions.]

96,000 Nepali= 1 constituency.

ECDC submitted its report to Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala yesterday.

>>According to the last census, 48.43 percent of the population reside in the 20 terai districts and 51.57 percent live in the 55 hilly and himalayan districts.

>>With 28 constituencies added to the terai region, each district in the region will get at least one more constituency in the CA polls.

>>But 8 terai districts- Morang, Dhanusha, Rautahat, Bara, Nawalparasi, Rupandehi, Kailali and Mahottari- will have two more constituencies in the CA polls compared to the last polls.

>>Among the hilly districts, Kathmandu will get 2 more constituencies, taking the total number to 9, whereas Udayapur, Makwanpur, Kavre and Kaski will get one more constituency each for the CA polls.

ECDC was coordinated by Arjun Prasad Singh. He said: “The report has included the suggestions given by political parties and civil society and other groups.” He would implemented it. The PM also said he would implement the recommendations of the commission.

Deciphering Nepal’s Recent Turmoil

By Biswo Poudel in Berkeley, CA

“The passion of men for equality is ardent, insatiable, eternal, and invincible” (De Tocqueville, 1860)

For a brief moment last winter, it seemed as if Nepal was on the brink of being disintegrated. The demands made by Janajati, Madhesi and other groups made the political environment muddled. There were demands of all kinds. The demands ranged from the demand for quota, and jobs to the demand for reservation on the parliament. Occasionally, it was laced by Brahmin-bashing.

It seems like an eon ago, but around five years ago, this author was shocked by the prevalent attitude in Nepal, especially among the elites of Kathmandu. Remember this was before the Madhesis or other groups were in the street. The parliament was in the thrall of NGOs. I met several friends who used to recount the tales of parliamentarians coming to them and asking them to take small projects to their districts. In return, the NGOs, often run by the western educated people, had such an access to the parties and parliament that they seemed to be running the government and writing the bills. NGOs were parallel government, they were different from the existing government in that the government was theoretically subject to popularity test every five years, while NGOs were like a permanent government, never subject to any test by the people. Continue reading Deciphering Nepal’s Recent Turmoil