The old system is destroyed. The new Nepal is still to be born
About three weeks ago, Prime Minister Sushil Koirala led a contingent of several former PMs, including Prachanda and Baburam Bhattarai of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M), to Bir Hospital’s ICU to make a collective request to a couple to end their “fast unto death”. Ganga Adhikari and her husband Noor Prasad Adhikari have been on fast for nearly six months now, demanding that the Maoists who killed their 18- year-old son, Krishna Prasad Adhikari, nine years ago be brought to justice. The fragile couple refused to entertain the request on the basis of assurance alone. The government issued a red-corner notice against one of the suspects, now living in the UK, and arrested and chargesheeted two more, who were released on bail by the lower court after the Maoists threatened to stop all cooperation with the government on constitution-making and the peace process, boycotting a series of meetings called by the PM.
The Maoists insist that only a yet to be formed Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), under an obligation to grant general amnesty to its cadres, should exclusively look into the conflict-era cases — something the victims and their families, human rights groups and the UN high commissioner on human rights, Navi Pillay, have voiced their opposition to. But the Maoists know it is all about politics and power, and that Koirala can be arm-twisted into submission. The Maoists, meanwhile, put the blame on the “Dollarists” — a coinage to suggest their opponents are being funded by international donors — for derailing the peace process.
The Maoists are trying to drive home the point that they are victims of a nexus between foreign donors and “reactionaries” at home, but what they have tried to conceal is that the biggest amount of foreign money, mainly from the West, has come for the consolidation of radical changes of all hues, including support for the Maoist agenda. Civil society leaders and their organisations are perceived to be the largest beneficiaries — be it for the cause of democracy, ethnic federalism, right to religion, promotion of secularism and languages “denied” space and recognition by the state. The absence of transparency on donor-recipient relations and the lack of a state regulatory mechanism have made outside influence on Nepal’s politics and the constitution-making process more brazen.
In fact, the Maoists, as a “revolutionary force”, were expected to come in with new values and create a political system that, in due course, would be endorsed by the people. But they just became the key agent for the destruction of the old system, while happy to be in power, cohabiting with the old forces minus the monarchy — the same forces they had fought for 10 years. They are being blamed for the resultant chaos, uncertainty, prolonged transition and the likelihood of the constitution not being written in the near future. The big question is: what will the status of the peace process be in the absence of a proper constitution?
In his long argument in the parliament, Maoist leader Bhattarai said that except the “integration” and rehabilitation of Maoist combatants, nothing pledged in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed seven and a half years ago has been fulfilled. He also accused the PM and human rights groups of trying to derail the twin process by raising individual human rights violation cases like the Adhikaris’ case and threatened retaliation. Bhattarai’s concern is understandable. He was the head of the “people’s government” that adopted the policy of “annihilation of class enemies” during the Maoist insurgency that saw torture and killings by both the rebels and the state. The fasting couple’s son was just one of them.
The Maoists also feel betrayed by the international community that had played an important role in bringing them into the peace process. Their understanding was that Maoist leaders would not be penalised for the war-time lapses. Currently, India and China are silent on the TRC, whereas the EU and US have stood against the Maoist wish for a “general amnesty”.
Despite the threat, there is little chance of the Maoists raising arms against the state again. But their
cooperation on constitution-making will come only if they get their pound of flesh. Democracy and justice don’t have to be essential conditions for their support, something that proves the sweeping conclusion — by stakeholders — that the 2006 change was not for the consolidation of democracy.