Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Nepal: Maoists' second innings in governance

New Delhi, 2 January 2008

On 30 December 2007, the Maoists of Nepal rejoined the government after inking an agreement with Prime Minister GP Koirala that Nepal would become a federal democratic republic after the elections.

I don’t see anything new in the demand for “federal democratic republic” which the Maoists were so eager to have from the government. After all, Nepal will be declared as “federal democratic republic” only after the Constituent Assembly if so decides. That the monarchy would be abolished was long before agreed upon when the Maoists had signed the Comprehensive Peace Accord with the Seven Party Alliance in November 2006. After the Maoists joined the interim government, the Draft Constitution of Nepal was amended to declare Nepal as Secular and Federal. It is already a fragile democracy.

Truly, Nepal’s Maoists, after fighting a decade-long war against the King, have been left without any distinct agenda/ manifesto to go to the voters after some other political parties such as the Nepali Congress, the biggest political party, also decided to back abolition of the monarchy. Hence, they have been seeking a fully proportionate system of elections. When the government refused to budge, the Maoists withdrew from the government to resort to blackmailing the Grand Old Man of Nepal, Prime Minister GP Koirala. The elections had to be postponed.

Even after formally coming over ground and storing their arms and ammunition under the care of the United Nations and joining the government, the Maoists failed to learn the first lesions of democracy: non-violence and respect for human rights. In fact, Mr Prachanda must have realized that it is more difficult to run a democratic country in democratic ways than creating a bloody revolution, where the rebels are not accountable to the people. While the Peoples’ Liberation Army (PLA) cadres are in the UN supervised- camps, the Maoists’ youth wing Young Communist League (YCL) cadres have been engaged in gross human rights violations including killings, abductions, torture, and extortion. Can one imagine a constituent of the government breaking all rules and laws of the country and yet was not accountable for anything they do? Prime Minister GP Koirala called the Young Communist League “the Young Criminal League” for their human rights violations. The police have been helpless in dealing with the unruly Maoist cadres. They have beaten up the police personnel for arresting Maoist cadres involved in crimes. There is no accountability so much so that it seems that Prachanda has lost his control with his cadres or that the cadres at the local level enjoy his consent while committing crimes. Although the Maoist leadership has admitted that journalist Birendra Shah was killed in the custody of the Maoist cadres, the perpetrators were not punished.

The Maoists must also win the confidence of the indigenous peoples, the Dalits and the Madhesis of Terai. But it is clear that they have lost their control in the Terai region.

As the Maoists are ready for their second innings in governance, the world can only hope that they behave themselves. It will be the greatest blunder of Mr Prachanda if he still thinks that the Nepalese voters can be swayed by the point of the gun or that a nation can be built with strikes and similar nonsense stuff.

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