For the last eight years, no prime minister has represented Nepal at two consecutive UN General Assembly sessions. But the content of their speeches has remained mostly the same — that Nepal is on track to peace, prosperity, political stability and constitution-making. A reciprocal gesture of appreciation and faith from the international community is also routine. Prime Minister Sushil Koirala’s claims were no different, when he addressed the UNGA on September 26.
But when he painted that rosy picture and claimed that a new constitution, institutionalising Nepal’s radical changes, was round the corner or well before the new deadline of January 22, he clearly underestimated or ignored the reality back home. Nanda Prasad Adhikary passed away at 56, on the 332nd day of his fast at a state hospital, as the government failed to convince him that the Maoists who killed his son a decade ago, at the peak of the insurgency, would be brought to justice. His widow Ganga Adhikary, who began fasting alongside him, awaits a similar fate. Adhikary not only created history but also exposed the government’s apathy. Meanwhile, former PM Baburam Bhattarai, who heads the Political Dialogue and Consensus Committee, announced that “a constitution by the promised deadline (January 22) is not possible.”
No major political party has expressed solidarity with the cause of justice, although the government and the Maoists had signed the Comprehensive Peace Accord in November 2006, pledging to form a “truth and reconciliation commission” by January 2007 that would investigate all human rights violation cases by both the state and the rebels. Adhikary’s last words were: “I feel sad that I was born in a country of murderers who just refuse to give justice.” Yet, Koirala’s government put the entire blame on Adhikary, saying his obstinacy and refusal to eat cost him his life.
The international community, including the UN, which missed no opportunity to decry the human rights situation before the 2006 political change, are silent now. Their dilemma is simple — such a comment would destroy the chances of the parties they have supported all along.
The Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M), the main opposition, has time and again warned that addressing individual cases of human rights would damage the peace process and reignite past hostilities.
Koirala cannot bypass the Maoists. Therefore, he has to continue appeasing them to maintain his “legitimacy” in heading the peace and constitution-making process. But the issue as a whole has raised a fundamental question: What will the process mean without justice for victims of the conflict? It would only amount to condoning the Maoists.
The Maoists and votaries of radical changes are now trying to deflect the undercurrent of public anger in an entirely different direction. With republicanism, secularism and federalism achieved already, “it is time now to move towards economic development”. Bhattarai now plans to prepare a national agenda for the same but it is a ploy to avoid taking responsibility for the failing constitution-making exercise and, at the same time, to enjoy immunity in all the human rights cases.
The Adhikary couple, who belong to Bhattarai’s district, had identified and accused Maoist activists closely associated with Bhattarai for the abduction, torture and murder of their 18-year-old son, Krishna Prasad Adhikary, in 2004. That the formation of the truth and reconciliation commission was deliberately blocked at the behest of the Maoists and with the consent of the Nepali Congress, is now becoming clear.
But it was not possible for Koirala to admit to all of that at the UNGA. Indian PM Narendra Modi also expressed the same “hope” as Koirala did, along with the claim that Nepal’s political process was moving in the right direction. Modi is not accountable to the citizens of Nepal but Koirala may be forced to face the reality at home soon. He has to be answerable for the death of a citizen seeking justice peacefully. After all, democracy and justice are meant to complement each other.