Seminar Report on Conflict Management
Organised by CSDG/FES
December 17, 2002
A ONE-day seminar on Conflict Management in Nepal was
held in Kathmandu by the Centre for Studies on Development
and Governance on December 17, 2002. Luminaries of all
the major political parties attended the day long discussion
on the subject. There were four papers to be presented
making the seminar a marathon debate that went on well
into late evening until it had to be broken for dinner.
The participants had so much to say on the current topics
that it appeared that they could not hold themselves within
the allotted time.
Speaker of the House of Representative,
Taranath Ranabhat, the chief guest of the programme, inaugurated
the seminar by lighting a traditional lamp. In his address,
he said that the conflict among political forces had coincided
with bad governance of the country. According to him,
ethnic groups, oppressed and marginalised classes have
all found it opportune to raise their own demand for justice.
This had led to the youth being attracted to the Maoist
insurgency. He called on all the political forces to come
together to resolve the conflict.
The newly elected Rastriya Prajatantra
Party president Pashupati Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana,
who had chaired the inaugural session of the seminar also
agreed with the Speaker that the Constitutional forces
had not been able to unite to resolve the conflict in
the country. He reminded everybody of his party's three
year old call on all the political forces to unite to
initiate dialogue with the Maoists.
The Communist Party of Nepal (UML) general
secretary, Madhav Kumar Nepal said that the discussions
being held were topical and that there were various viewpoints
regarding the conflicts in the society today.
In his welcome address, Achyut Bahadur
Rajbhandari of CSDG said that the main reason for conflict
in society is the perceptions of injustice by individuals-
injustice regarding identity and distribution of state
resources. "If popular aspirations induced by change
are not met by the existing legal framework, new laws
may need to be drafted," he said.
THE FIRST working session saw the presentation
by Shanker Pokhrel. Taranath Ranabhat chaired the session
whole Homnath Dahal was the commentator of the paper.
The presentation was titled "The Historical Background
of Conflict Management in Nepali Politics". He gave
his account of the history of conflicts in Nepal right
from the days of unification. He concentrates his thesis
on the family feuds for control of state resources in
the pre-1951 era and the political struggle to restore
multiparty democracy after it was replaced by the Panchayat
system. He also lists the various issues of inequality
in the contemporary Nepali society- gender, unemployment,
regional imbalances etc. Finally, he lists the options
for resolving the Maoist conflict.
Commenting on the paper, Homnath Dahal
said that the paper had failed to take into account the
major incidents while focussing on the minor incidents
of history. He particularly pointed out the decisions
of the first elected government in 2015 BS and the 2042
Satyagraha protest programmes. He also said that the Maoist
problem was not new and that it was already in progress
well before 2046. But they were forced to resort to violence
because of ruling party atrocities perpetrated against
them particularly in Rukum. According to him, the King's
decision of Ashoj 18th has divided the political parties
which is being capitalized by the Maoists. If this situation
remains for long, the country's existence itself could
be at stake, especially when people do not care about
who rules them.
Then the floor was opened for discussion
on the presentation. The following points were raised
by various speakers.
- The military solution to the Maoist
problem is not going to be long-lasting and that dialogue
needs to be pursued. Track II diplomacy could be useful
to break deadlocks.
- Insecurity, religious, political,
social and economic reasons have been responsible for
the Maoist insurgency.
Who is to announce the elections for the Constituent
Assembly? If the King is not constitutional as you say
it, how can we ask him to announce those elections?
- Meritocracy needs to be promoted
and the meritorious should not be marginalised for the
benefit of political workers.
We need to find new methods of resolution if the old
ones do not work. We should also be ready to change
according to the needs if we are serious about resolution.
- Does the UML take any blame for the
mistakes? The UML had unity with the Janmorcha in the
The paper supposes that until the King takes back his
decision, the Maoist problem will not be resolved. If
your party does not like it, it is not constitutional.
Will such an approach be helpful?
- The paper mentions conflict brought
about by foreign aid, how do you resolve it?
- We talk about high politics but never
the grassroots when seeking solutions to problems. When
you criticize the king, who is going to represent the
unity of the Kingdom? The parties only represent the
part and not the whole. In England when they beheaded
the king, they had to deal with Cromwell. Have we thought
- People are killed from both the state
side and the Maoist side. The Maoists have shown their
willingness to talk today and then the next day there
is a killing spree.
- Other South Asian conflicts, like
Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, need to be provided in the
historical background for comparison purposes. This
would avoid reinvention of the wheel again and again.
- We need to have the international
experience. A multifarious approach is needed for resolution.
Tools and techniques of counter-terrorism are necessary
and a single viewpoint is not enough.
- Demobilization strategies have not
been discussed while talking of resolution. Truth Commission
is another necessity for reconciliation.
Mal-governance needs to be dealt with as it is a major
reason for the Maoist insurgency.
- The starting point for mistakes was
Bhadra 12 initiated by Deuba. The Pajero culture needs
to be stopped for conflicts to be resolved and other
mistakes too should not be repeated.
- If we say that we are the only right
doers, it is not democracy.
- If we have conflict-coping capacity
we can resolve the problem well, if not, no.
- The 051 election and the corruption
afterwards made us forget our own constituencies. A
political vacuum was thus left for the Maoists to exploit.
The NC and UML are trying to isolate the King.
- Consensus is necessary to save the
- We need to mobilize our youth in
- We need to accept the Maoists as
a political force and start talking with them.
- We were not able to meet the aspiration
of the people that we raised post 046 which led to the
Maoist proliferation. Should the paper not accept it?
- We are talking of mediation. Should
we accept it or are we not there yet? Is the Maoist
proliferation due to the lack of political mobilization
- We talk of foreign hand and their
activities from time to time. The paper should have
- Is it not the failed development
models that led to the birth of the Maoists.
- Whose problem is the Maoist problem-
the King's the party's or the people's?
- In the past 12 years, there were
individual weaknesses, Those individuals were linked
with parties, but those linkages should not be taken
as the weaknesses of the system or the parties. It is
also unjust to say that the Constitution has been thrown
- Looking at the geopolitics, all the
political forces including the King need to come together
and take the country forward. Panchayat is not very
appropriate to be re-introduced and the present constitution
needs to be followed with changes if necessary.
- Those seeking a constituent assembly
should come forward and say what they want and see if
those changes can be accommodated in the present constitution.
- The King is necessary because of
the diversity of cultures, ethnicity and languages.
He symbolizes unity. Talking about an alternative to
the King is counterproductive in every way.
- The Maoists do not have a clue to
where the country will go to with so much violence and
bloodshed. The foreign intervention that can be the
result is not being contemplated by them.
- Violent means to suppress the Maoists
movement could rekindle it again, so peaceful means
are necessary. We do not have to search for foreignmediators,
we have Nepali mediators to do the job for us.
THE SECOND working session discussed Kamal Thapa's presentation
titled "Recognizing Conflicts in the Nepali Political
System and their Resolution". Keshav Badal had chaired
the session while Sri Bhadra Sharma was designated the
commentator of the presentation. In his presentation Thapa
outlined the theoretical trends in the democracy discourse
and compared them with the present day politics in various
countries throughout the world. Democracy, he said, remained
vulnerable in countries that were least developed while
prospects for democracy looked good in developed countries.
He said that countries with weak democracy needed to try
harder through good governance if they wanted to preserve
the political system. After discussing the inherent conflicts
among global ideologies and values, he went on to describe
the faultlines in the Nepalese society-- particularly
ethnic and economic. For a solution to the existing conflicts
in society, he listed some immediate steps to be taken
like, a common action plan to meet the basic needs of
the people, an interim government that included the Maoist
voice, and a democratic alternative to the means being
adopted by the Maoists. More longer term steps included
an agreement among the political forces to stop politicizing
the role of the King which could be achieved by clearly
defining it. This requires a proper mediation between
the traditional forces and the popular forces. Good governance,
electoral reforms, reforms in the role of political parties,
local autonomy and reservation or positive discrimination
are the other longer term steps for a resolution of the
Nepali conflicts, according to Thapa.
Commentator Sri Bhadra Sharma said that
the the paper included everything that contemporary Nepali
society is facing today. But he said that the need was
to priorities which problems we want to resolve first.
One of the priority problems is the Maoist problem which
is neither easy to solve nor is anything going to move
ahead without solving it. "Deuba was encouraged by
other parties to recommend a postponement of elections
according to Article 127 and the King applied the 127
article according to his own interpretation, not Deuba's.
This has given rise to another conflict between political
parties and the King, he said. "If the country is
to have a democratic system, elections will have to be
held. If we wait for peace before elections, then I fear
that elections will be postponed for an indefinite period.
How do we hold elections without peace? Let us form a
government together and hold elections. Proportional representation
would help curb corruption. Today, we need to have market
economics, but for an economy like ours which is just
developing, we need to protect some of our productive
capabilities," he said
The following queries and points came
up during the ensuing floor discussions.
Will economic development be assured after getting the
Maoists in the mainstream?
- We brought in the Westminister style
of democracy, but it has not delivered in the past 12
years. We mismanaged it and the Maoists are the result.
- The Monarchy should come in the institutional
- Parliamentary reforms are necessary
for overall reform.
- The 046 movement was the culmination
of the protests that began in 2017 and was not spontaneous
like the paper seems to believe.
- Proportional representation is part
of a consensual model as against the majoritarian one.
Political scientists believe that the majoritarian model
does not meet the needs of a diverse and plural society
like ours as no one wants to remain a minority permanently.
Nobody wants to wait for their turn in having a share
in common resources.
- The government is not even willing
to decentralize, let alone provide the right to self
determination. Autonomy is a proven way to stop disintegration
throughout the world.
- Maoists were leftover forces and
there are also potential forces that need to participate.
- Democracy is dialogue. In the absence
of dialogue, people could resort to guns, not while
engagement is there.
- Politicisation is right, but party-isation
- We only focussed on systemic integration,
not social integration.
- The economic policy we adopted is
not liberal, but neo-liberal.
- Deuba dissolved the parliament and
had he held the elections, the latter problems would
not have arisen.
- Majoritarian rule was designed for
- Elections should not be a gamble
for the people.
- Is the induction of extra- party
characters in the King's task force going to reduce
- The paper tries to show that economic
decline has occurred in the multiparty system as the
data shows only for 1985- 95. The decline was due to
the World Bank doctrine in the initial years.
- Democracy means participation of
the people in the productive resources of the nation.
People who have been deprived of their citizenship papers.
THE THIRD and the fourth sessions that followed were lumped
together for presentation so that a single floor session
would cover both the papers. Separate discussions for
the two sessions would take time which was becoming a
rare commodity as the first two sessions had virtually
taken up the time alotted for the four sessions. In fact,
the last paper did not have time for a separate commentator
that nthe first three papers were assigned. Kashiraj Dahal's
presentation was titled "Conflict Management: Institutional
Problem and Legal Context" on which Subash Nemwang
commented and Sashtradutta Pant's paper was on "The
Role of Various Agencies in Conflict Management".
Nilamber Acharya chaired both the sessions.
Dahal said that conflict in itself was
value-neutral and the it is for the political society
to utilize it for the benefit of the people. It is for
this purpose that politicians take recourse to a code
which is followed in resolving all conflicts, and this
is called the rule of law. For a rule of law to be firmly
established the executive, the judiciary and the legislative
should function according to the prescribed functions.
Legal checks and balances are imposed so that abuse of
authority does not take place among the three branches
of government. When the conflict resolution mechanism
comes under duress because of it has to think in terms
of expanding the conflict resolution mechanism by initiating
alternative options. Apart from traditional mechanisms
like special tribunals, fact finding missions, negotion
bodies, arbitrators and the like, there could be NGOs
and other extra-judicial bodies specializating in dispute
resolution which need not unnecessarily burden the legal
system. He thought that such mechanisms had a huge scope
in Nepal if thye courts were to be made more effective.
Subash Nemwang in his comments said
that conflicts that arise in a society need to be resolved
in time and that all conflict resolution efforts need
not be constitutional. "I still believe that in the
constitutional history of Nepal, the present one is a
good document. Unfortunately, the constitution is getting
weakened. I am not going overboard when I say that we
have started moving backwards from the day when the constitution
was formed. The constitution does have weaknesses especially
regarding ethnicity and languages, but still the Constitution
is a good constitution.
After Nemwang's comments Shastradutta
Pant made the last presentation of the day titled "The
Role of Various Agencies in Conflict Management."
His paper is the outcome of a survey of opinions among
leading politicians. The findings, although the methodology
was debated during floor discussions, show that the rise
of the Maoists in Nepal is because of various factors
among which corruption, politics taking precedence over
public service, lack of change in the personalities controlling
state resources in spite of political changes, etc. The
main theme of the reasons Pant provides for the Nepali
crisis appears to be mal-governance and the grave socio-economic
imbalances which are hard to solve even with very good
governance. He calls for reforms in the political system,
the political economy and most of all introspection by
leaders so that mistakes are not committed in public acts.
The following were the points raised
during the floor discussions held for both the presentations
of Dahal and Pant:
- Electoral reform needed to reduce
corruption. That reduces politicization. An inclusive
election could help consolidate democracy.
- Political leaders provide us with
a lot of rhetoric about how to live a principled life,
but they do not practise it themselves.
- Several towns had initiated official
use of local language and the Supreme Court trashed
their efforts. The Maoists have succeeded also because
- What will happen if everybody supports
- The Maoists had not agreed with the
Communist Front during 1990. They had shown their intention
to follow the Shining Path of Peru.
There is no set-up to manage conflicts in Nepal. People
are concerned only when things start going out of hand.
- We have only focussed on political
conflict- one is the Maoist conflict and the other brought
about by the recent moves of His Majesty. His Majesty
has tried to save the nation and the monarchy. It is
necessary that the parties should come together with
the King to solve all problems.
The constitution is itself a problem as it was intended
to bring about agreement to quell the political forces
of that time. Complete constitutional monarchy is the
only workable option available today.
- The sample of the study appears to
be extremely biased, if we look at the questions provided.
The instruments appear to be defective. The questions
are close-ended and only negatively taken up. It is
not clear which community the questions represented.
The same questions could bring a totally opposite outcome.
You should not misuse scholarly research tools.
- The government development budget
is totally dependent on foreign aid out of which only
several million rupees go to the Prajas and other janjatis.
But, it is the janjatis that are blamed for being inspired
by foreigners. The research is a fraudulent work.
- The sample of the study appears to
total only 9 and the translation into percentage for
such a small number could be misleading. Absolute numbers
would have been better.
- Alternative dispute resolution mechanisms
- Regarding corruption, the PAC did
do its job in unearthing the cases before the CIAA began.
Should we not have mentioned that?
The security agencies have already said that elections
cannot be held, including the election commission.
For management of conflicts in time, a structure is
needed and a process is required. Then an agreement
sought. For lack of a structure and an effective process,
the Maoist problem has come up so forcefully today.
- When there are huge conflicts, where
the state is on one side, tribunals or judicial systems
do not work. In such instances a regular system appears
to be the need. In Norway, peace councils exist at all
levels to resolve all kinds of conflicts. They study
even latent conflicts.
Parties could ignore particular
conflicts that do not suit their needs and there should
be a process to avoid that. This shows that a conflict
management system should be there. It may require legal
changes. A free channel that can move ahead without interference
is therefore needed.
We need to give the Maoists a space to air their demands
and views and discussions. The Parliament is such a space
but we have banned some things from being discussed there.
We need to be able to form a Parliament that is vested
with sovereignty. Today, we only have shared sovereignty.
As the discussion was going on till late in the evening,
it had to be broken for dinner and it was done with the
vote of thanks by Achyut Bahadur Rajbhandari.