Kapilvastu, the area which contains the birthplace of Lord Gautam Buddha after clashes mainly between Hindus and Muslims and between people from the Madhes and Hills has witnessed an appalling toll of human life. According to latest information, 33 people have died, about 60 buses have been scorched and dozens of houses of locals have been destroyed rendering the people homeless, hungry and without security. People have died even inside police cordons when they were taking out a rally calling for communal harmony.
This is only the latest in a series of rioting, bomb blasts, abduction and mayhem in the terai that started in the name of “federalism” with the initial demand of “additional seats to the terai districts.” But it has gone much beyond the issues of federalism, power sharing, seat reservations, citizenship and constituent assembly elections. The conflict has now transformed into a virtual civil-war like situation involving cross-border mafia gangs, direct support from the Indian police, mishandling by the state security and a total lack of concern by the government and the 8 main political parties.
Like before, the shameless government at the center has done nothing but to announce another probe commission to “investigate into the atrocities committed and evaluate the extent of damage to life and property.” Just on Sep. 2, a similar commission was formed to find the culprits of the triple blasts that rocked Kathmandu, the police arrested about 6 people and only God knows what happened after that. After the Gaur carnage too, the government had formed a high-level commission to “recommend ways to ensure that such incidents are not repeated”, but it fell on deaf ears as the ministers relish in the cocktail of power, privilege, revenge and absolutism. Surrounded by coterie of dwarfs, almost every minister is behaving as a giant.
While altogether 22 people died in the entire people’s movement of 2006, more than a hundred innocents have already been killed during the regime of this motley crowd of failed politicians. But history will take note of Koirala, Sitaula and Prachanda as they keep on making a mess of whatever little Loktantra has meant for the commonman on the street. It is evidently clear from the last 17 months of lawlessness that democracy has been hijacked to serve petty interests of a few.
But the scene of Kathmandu is not very different to that of Kapilvastu. The government is in political and Constitutional shatters after the Maoists resigned from the cabinet and vowed to disrupt the CA polls. Those that were the main reasons behind the merciless killing of 13 thousand blameless Nepalese from 1996-2006 are now advancing the same old Maoist modus operandi of setting up kangaroo courts an example of which will be seen on September 30 when they have promised to penalize culprits identified in the Rayamajhi Commission report.
It is therefore a foregone conclusion that the elections cannot be held on time for the same reasons why Deuba could not hold it in 2002 and 2004 and why there was a low-turn out in the municipal elections held during the royal government. But by pressuring to conduct a mock election by hook or by crook, the UN and much of the international community are essentially desiring more bloodbath and chaos inside Nepal.
Knowing fully well that the security situation is in total shambles, grave shortage of petroleum that has reached to the level of consumers pelting stones at the gas stations and the voters little understanding about what proportional and mixed form of election is; pressing for it in the hope of erecting an all new “inclusive” Nepal is actually pushing the country to the brink.
One thing the EC has successfully done however is to hire two famous comedians to advertise about the up-coming polls in the electronic media. Capable jokers that they are: they have reduced the CA elections into a hilarious prank that everyone finds entertaining.
While everyone has realized that the present government has lost the legitimacy and Koirala his relevance, one can only be alarmed at the prospects for the future if the course of national politics keeps on moving in the same direction as it is now. This government has effectively dismantled every institution capable of safeguarding national interest and legal, constitutional, administrative and security apparatus deliberately torn apart so as to suit a total Maoist takeover. Whether it is in the foreign policy, economic or in the social development front it has failed almost on every aspect coupled with a demoralized security force.
A Finance Minister that issued a white paper on the expenses made by the Foreign Minister of the royal government for embarking on “unimportant” visits to China, Russia, Qatar, the U.N. and Pakistan has recently opened the state coffers for the largest delegation in the country’s history to the UN General Assembly which includes quite astonishingly the chief secretary of the government. On the economic side, donors have done little but to issue series of statements supporting political developments since April 2006. But government’s own data indicate that “bilateral aid actually declined in the first eight months of fiscal year 2006/07.”
According to Binod Bhattarai writing for Nepali Times, “donors have forked out about Rs1.3 billion for the Nepal Peace Trust Fund (where the government put Rs.1 billion) but “they have spent several billion rupees on weapon stores, vehicles, tents, ballot boxes and computers, as well as funding peace seminars and organizing 'get to meet a real Maoist' visits to European capitals.”
But just how secure are these weapon stores? Just last week, the Maoists came out of the camps to demonstrate in full combat uniform yet the UNMIN could do little to stop them. It seems that the OHCHR can only issue press releases that records innumerable Maoist violations of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
On the part of governance, one just needs to look at the pitiful condition of the national flag carrier. It is operating by sacrificing goats to the airplanes purchased by the Panchayat government in 1987. No government since has been able to add fleet to this ailing airliner.
With the situation out of hand and pace of political development at an astounding speed, there are couple of likely scenarios that may take shape in the foreseeable future for all of us to take stock of:
- If the leftist parties unite and table a vote of no-confidence against the Prime Minister as mentioned by Maoist spokesman Mahara and knowing the endless hunger for power that PM Koirala has, he may even go to the extreme of declaring a state of emergency. But will the Nepal Army be constitutionally obliged to obey orders of a supreme commander in-chief who is himself facing a vote of no-confidence? If the leftists do succeed eventually in ousting Koirala, the longest serving Prime Minister in waiting Mr. Madhav Kumar Nepal will obviously be desiring to take the coveted seat himself. But will Comrade Prachanda allow him? Who will administer the oath to the new Prime Minister? The Chief Justice of the country has himself been denied consent by the special hearing committee of the parliament.
- If the NC through its Mahasamiti opts for a republic in order to lure the Maoists, decide on seat-reservations for top leaders of 8 major political parties will it not take the sheen out of the NC which is a centrist political party and make the voters choice-less in the CA elections whenever it is held? What kind of an election will it be where every seat has been pre-decided? More importantly, how will elections resolve the problems of the terai?
- Almost all anti-Indian demonstrations have taken place while there has been a “democratic” multi-party government in Kathmandu mostly in the post 1990 era. PM Koirala has himself felt that “the sovereignty of the country is in danger.” Going by the recent statements of Maoist leaders, there is a semblance of anti-Indianism yet again becoming the rallying point of nationalism in Nepal. Minister of Land Reforms and Management Jagat Bahadur Bogati at a program held on Sep. 20th has said that through the collective action of the people, we must now take back the “rightful territory which we lost in the past” while President of the Nepal Workers and Peasants Party says that “India is desperately searching for a Kazi Lendup Dorji to do something similar to what it did in Sikkim.” If the latest euphoria over the winning of the Indian Idol title by Prashant Tamang is any indication of the closest bond between ethnic Nepalese in Nepal and India, Delhi must be really worried of the concept of a Greater Nepal finally taking a concrete shape.
Before the nation jockeys from instability, illegitimacy, anarchy into a nationalist battle-cry what can be the workable solution of the current political impasse? Foremost, there must be an “all-inclusive”, democratic government comprising of the leftist, rightist and centrist sections of the Nepali polity. It is useless trying to resolve the unspeakable troubles before the Nepali people without having all sides of the conflict in a single platform. Only then perhaps can we stop this relentless blame game.
The Maoist demand of a round table conference can then be organized including also of His Majesty the King. Solutions to the problems before the state can be worked out in that meeting itself. Senior political leaders such as K.P. Bhattarai, G.P. Koirala, Madhav Nepal and Prachanda can visit the terai districts and call upon the people for restraint. The King can then visit the violence torn areas and calm an agitating populace angered by government lack of concern. With full backing of all national forces the Nepal Army then needs to be mobilized first to seal the open border and then clear and clean the terai of criminal elements so that the people can live in peace and harmony once again. Carrying the spirit of soldiering from its past and reliving it in the present, the Nepal Army should not detract from its glory of having maintained uninterrupted independence of Nepal.
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