Isabel Hilton: "The greatest threat to peace in Nepal is military impunity"
Isabel Hilton's twisted and misleading critique of the Nepalese Army is anything but professional journalism. Her writing in The Guardian is a piece of intentionally misinformed, left-wing trash. It is distasteful propaganda that amalgamates fact with fiction, pointedly undermines reforms undertaken by the Nepalese Army, uplifts Nepal's Maoist agenda, and strains an already fragile peace process.
Examples of the half-truths in Isabel Hilton's reporting are as follows:
- There is no mention of any explicit number of Maoist combatants to be integrated into the Nepalese Army - how could there possibly be such a number when the peace agreement was signed before the verification of combatants was complete?
- A political agreement has not been reached on how/if "certified" Maoist combatants are to be integrated into the Nepalese Army - integration is certainly on the Maoist "wish-list" but is not the foregone conclusion that Isable Hilton presents it to be.
- The only thing "savage" about "Gyanendra's" war against the Maoists was the Maoists prancing around the countryside using villagers as human shields, assassinating political opponents, slitting throats of teachers and reporters, and decapitating their fallen comrades - the war was neither Gyanendra's, nor was it any more "savage" than war in general.
- The MoD may be the centre of focus for Isabel's criticism but it's the DFID sponsored version of the DDR model that Nepal's Maoists are categorically rejecting - Isabel would do well to investigate this further, so her writing doesn't come off completely in line with Maoist propaganda.
It is "thanks" to reporting like Isabel's that a discredited monarch continues to receive far more attention than he deserves. Instead of undermining the monarchy's value to a future Nepal, occasional reminders like Isabel's suggest a magnitude of control that Gyanendra simply does not have.
The fact is, neither Gyanendra, nor General Katual (individually or in tandem) have sufficient popular support to challenge the Maoists or the alliance of semi-feudal (Bahnun dominated) political parties in Nepal. Claims to the contrary are wishful thinking of the variety that preoccupy two groups - the hardcore, avowed Royalists and the ever-conspiracy conscious Maoists. Any takers on where Isabel's loyalties lie?
If Isabel had true cause for concern over Nepal's peace process, she may have criticized the United Nations for bargaining over the number of disqualified combatants (with the Maoists), or perhaps she could have mentioned the injustice that hundreds of thousands of Maoist victims continue to face - a fact of Nepal's 12-year long civil war that the international media refuses to report on.
But what is Isabel's focus? She hones in on the tragedy of Maina Sunwar, a case that has been internationalized and one that Hilton knows will resonate with every feeling and breathing human being (irrespective of his/her political inclination). Isabel Hilton brazenly abuses Maina's tragedy to fuel hatred against an institution she has little, if any first hand knowledge (or understanding) of.
For Isabel, the only issue is the impunity she parrots the Nepalese Army enjoys. For those familiar with the details of Nepal's 12 year insurgency, the issue is implication by association of each and every solider and officer who was ordered into combat, every politician (many of whom are currently represented in Nepal's interim parliament) who endorsed military action, and every single Maoist cadre who either committed first degree murder (or was party to such crimes against humanity).
Just because Isabel Hilton had no clue what went on in Nepal from 1990 till she decided to take up the Maoists' cause in 2005, doesn't excuse the Maoists for their heinous crimes against the Nepali people. Just because Isabel's telling is exclusively focused on the atrocities committed by 0.001% of a 90,000 strong national army, it doesn't erase the crimes to which 100% of Nepal's political leadership is party.
Isabel makes no mention of the current Prime Minister's (Girija Prasad Koirala) previous resignation from office on the grounds that the Nepali Army refused to engage the Maoists in combat. Had Isabel been aware of this fact, what would her criticism be then? Would it be that the Nepalese Army refused to kill its own people under orders from a democratically elected Prime Minster and thus, the Nepalese Army continues to be undemocratic? Probably. Because this is how twisted, ideologically brainwashed logic works.
What about operations Romeo or Sierra-II Kilo - the root causes of the armed Maoist rebellion? It is peculiar that Isabel makes no mention of such landmark "events" when criticizing Nepal's security forces. Could it be that that the massacre of thousands of villagers in Rukkum and Rolpa are best ignored because such operations were launched under the auspices of a "democratic" government and a "democratic" police force?
These are the larger issues that papers like "The Guardian" systematically overlook. Questions are forwarded but are posed in accusatory fashion with selective background and substance that guides readers to premature conclusions.
If Isabel Hilton's objective was to raise a stink about the Nepalese Army's human rights record, she has certainly made her mark. But at the same time, Isabel should know that the Nepalese Army is not the same old punching bag that will sit by idly and watch as its name and reputation are tarnished yet again.
The Nepalese Army is no longer operationally incapacitated by conflicting direction from the Palace Secretariat and Army HQ. The face of the Nepalese Army is a public relations Officer on whom a failed Maoist assassination attempt was launched. There are women serving in the ranks of the Nepalese Army (many of them, widowed by Maoist insurgents). The Nepalese Army's attitude and commitment to democratic rule is unconditional; as a demonstration of professional solidarity, not a single serving Officer attended King Gyanendra's birthday celebration. There have been more acts of visible discipline against the Officer Corps. over the past year and half than the last 7 years combined. Comparatively, the Officer Corps. of the Nepalese Army is a glowing display of ethnic representation – it is unclear which decade of data Hilton bases her racially divisive allegation on. But of course, these statistics are meaningless to Isabel Hilton because they don't support either her's or her Maoist buddies' cause.
Hilton ridicules General Katuwal's up-brining as an orphan. She shamelessly leverages the pain and mental torture of Maina Sunwar's family. She uses both arguments in pursuit of her own radical ultra-left wing ideology. Hilton portrays herself as a defender of human rights but doesn't skip a beat when equating a living human being to a "souvenir." If this isn't hypocrisy what is? And all this drama, in the name of peace for Nepal?
Here's a revelation for Hilton: If Nepal's peace process is derailed, it won't be because of General Katuwal, it won't be because of the Nepalese Army and it certainly won't be because of a spent King. It will be because of misguided media mavericks like Isabel Hilton who revel in expounding baseless theories in the international press, flaunting their non-existent expertise, and endangering a delicate process of political reconciliation that ideologues like Hilton love to hate.
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