National Seminar on
Conflict Resolution in Nepal
Organised by Nepal Foundation for Advanced
17-18 May 2003
Nepal Foundation for Advanced Studies organized
a discussion among scholars and experts from various fields
on conflict resolution in Nepal to provide a scholarly perspective
to the prevailing conflict situation and the efforts aimed towards
alleviating it. About 60 participants indulged themselves in
the discussions which was organized into five sessions that
went on for two days. The first session introduced the theme
of the discussions to the participants while the remaining four
were working sessions where experts made their presentations
and opinions of the participants solicited. The seminar began
on May 17 and ended on 18. The programme was a product of NEFAS-Friedrich
Ebert Stiftung (FES) cooperation.
The first session was the inaugural where
Ananda Srestha, the NEFAS executive director, introduced the
theme of the discussions to the participants. He asked the participants
to seek the reasons that had kept the Nepali society a peaceful
one for a long time before the peace was broken. Searching for
a solution in the rich Nepali traditions may produce a solution
to the rising conflicts, he said.
Yadav Kant Silwal, who had taken the chair of the inaugural
session, said that conflict resolution could be a very tortuous
process in Nepal. He pointed to the Sri Lankan experience and
said that in spite of the efforts put in from both international
and domestic quarters, the insurgency there is still continuing.
Silwal, who is also a former South Asian Association for Regional
Cooperation (SAARC) secretary general, said a United Nations
mediation would have produced a better outcome in the Nepalese
crisis scene. The reasons he gave for such a belief were: a)
because the UN had offered it, it had a high credibility, its
vested interests were limited to the development of this country
and Nepal had participated in its peacekeeping operations since
the fifties, hence, a good candidate, and b) a UN role would
allay many apprehensions about Nepal going the Sikkim way.
On the ongoing peace talks between the government
and the CPN (Maoist), Silwal showed dissatisfaction over the
inability of the two sides to take up the economic and social
agenda, thus far, which have been touted as the root cause of
all conflicts in Nepal. "It is this that is going to make
the talks a long and tortuous process," he said. The working
sessions followed the inaugural.
Dev Raj Dahal presented his paper titled "Conflict
Resolution: A Note on Contending Issues" in the first working
session. In it he explored the theoretical aspects of conflict
in general with references of Nepal and other countries. The
session was chaired by Ananda Aditya. Excerpts from the floor
discussions are given below.
Prof. Gunanidhi Sharma: Whenever there
are conflicts of interests, contradictions arise. There are
many such contradictions in Nepal because the development process
has always been involved in aggravating conflicts rather than
resolving them. Income disparities, wealth gaps, poverty and
other basic issues have always remained unsolved. Unemployment
has already reached about 15% and poverty is rampant, measured
according to World Bank index of 5,000 rupees per annum puts
82% of the people under the poverty line. Similarly the Ginni
coefficient has increased.
All these show us that most conflicts have been externally induced.
The 1950 treaty ties major polices with India's policies-- the
price policy, investment and fiscal policies have always remained
tied. The smaller economy has had to be dragged along the way.
In addition, proven conflict prone policies espoused by the
World Bank have been used by Nepal pushing the country into
further crisis. Our policies are making governance publicly
Conflicts have also been the result of the failure of the state
to resolve national issues like the border, trade, refugees
etc. The paper would have done better by highlighting conflicts
that have been externally induced. Instability has been created
by others, not by us.
Ananda Aditya: Constants, hazards and
threats need to be probed for the resolution of conflicts. Capacity
needs to be built to cope with crisis. The UN should be more
assertive in its role as globalisation is promoting trans-state
forces like the UN. For a meaningful resolution to the Maoist
crisis, we need not be apprehensive of foreign forces.
Srish Rana: The paper could have dealt more with sources
of conflict. For example, what is the relation between organisation
and sources of conflict. Are organisations a source of conflict,
e.g. Al- Quaeda? To be more specific, what is the relation between
political organisation and conflict?
Lal Babu Yadav: Is 'peace through peaceful
means' meant only for weaker nations? Superpowers have been
vouching for peaceful resolution of conflicts everywhere, but
when it involves themselves they come in with arms, like happened
How do we settle conflicts arising from regional power hegemony?
How do we resolve those arising from international regimes?
Keshav Jha: At the moment only the
establishment and the Maoists are talking and the other actors
are completely sidelined. How do you anticipate a resolution
of the Nepalese crisis in such a situation?
Krishna Pd. Poudel: The Maoists say
that they have shifted their policy and have been centering
on the constituent assembly but it is little likely that the
regressive forces will bow to their demands. What is the acceptable
point of compromise here?
Khagendra Prasai: If indeed conflict
is inherent in human nature, how can we avoid it in the society?
Prof. Mohan Lohani: Parties to conflict
must leave behind their mistrust and since they share the same
destiny they must come to an understanding sooner or later.
A peace dialogue has begun in our country. The focus of negotiations
should be on convergence in the beginning, not divergence. If
this happens failure of talks is less likely.
Bharat Pokhrel: Galtung's book, Conflict
Management by Peaceful Means, has not been quoted by the author
here. Generally, facilitators appear to be too interested in
their own interests and aggravating the conflict rather than
in resolving them.
I would have liked the author to conclude on his own rather
than depending on foreign experts to do so. The paper also has
not done the References section of the paper properly.
Durga Poudel: The Maoists generally
point at the resource distribution inequalities, injustices
and corruption. Most of the demands also appear to be along
the same lines. Are these voices within the purview of the term
Padma Nidhi Tiwari: Conflict in Nepal
is basically about unequal resource distribution. The Constitution
says that people are sovereign. So is the demand for a Constituent
Assembly genuine? Will the present negotiation lead us towards
a resolution? The 1990 negotiation does not appear to have paid
Som Bahadur Thapa: The paper should
have been more centered on the Nepalese case. For example, confusion
is being created at the moment. Two ministers have been making
conflicting remarks. Will this not obstruct a resolution? Transparency
and accountability should also be applied to the negotiators.
Ashok Kumar Pathak: What is the type
of state necessary for 'peace by peaceful means'? Our history
has shown that that has not always been possible. There was
no internal democracy in Nepal after 1990. We have been forgetting
our traditions and have not been able to adopt new ones properly,
leaving a vacuum there. We have only been pointing at problems
but have not produced any solution.
Karna Bdr. Thapa: There has not been
enough background study of the handling of the conflict before
sitting down for negotiation. The Maoists had closed all doors
before the Dang attack which is a rare case in any conflict.
Usually a door is open as an exit strategy. But in our case,
both the political and military doors were closed. Why?
The parties should be making their stance clear, if we are looking
for a proper solution. We need a political force that can cleanse
the system of the problematic people who have been in power.
Without such a political force there is no hope for conflict
to be resolved well.
Prof. Maheswar Man Shrestha: The paper
should have been more specific on the ongoing efforts towards
solving the crisis, not just a theoretical exhortation, as this
is the need of the day.
Dev Raj Dahal's reply: There are a
lot of conflicts being induced from outside throughout the world,
not just here. When conflicts are not solved internally, they
get outside attention. When some elites form state policies,
they heirarchize or sectorize power which is not a democratic
way of doing things. The gaps thus arising lead to conflicts.
How can we take care of the internal issues when we are getting
increasingly dependent on outside?
The post modernist society is destroying the
old and the traditional. We cannot resist it but can at least
adopt it by harmonizing the two.
Small states have greater survivability than larger states.
Therefore, 'peace by peaceful means' should be a necessity for
states of every size.
All outside ideas are not bad. We should accommodate
good ideas. I have dealt with the theoretical aspect as there
appears to be confusion in the society about the term 'conflict'.
And, there are layered conflicts afflicting the society. The
current attempts are aimed towards conflict management, not
resolution. I raised the Nepalese context only where I felt
necessary for explanation. This is basically theoretical paper.
Chairman's remarks (Anand Aditya):
The east is more communitarian, the west more individualistic.
We have also borrowed a lot of nonesense from the west, like
the system of majoritarian rule. It is not going to solve their
problem, let alone ours. May be, in Han China where 95 per cent
are Han, it could be useful, but not in Nepal where 65 ethnic
groups live. We have to think about the traditional political
system that we have borrowed intact from India, which itself
borrowed from the British.
The second session presenter was Dr. Meena
Acharya and the chairperson was Dwarika Dhungel. The title of
the paper presented was "Towards Conflict Transformation
in Nepal- Recent Trends in Government-Maoist Dialogue".
Dr. Acharya tried to bring together the conflicting stances
of the political forces for examination in her presentation.
She also pointed at the prevailing inequities in the Nepalese
scene to paint a clearer picture of the underlying reasons of
conflicts in Nepal. Excerpts from the floor discussion:
Gunanidhi Sharma: The issue of property
rights is an important one. I think that it is the property
rights system that is the root cause of all conflicts in Nepal
as a few have been able to rule the many for long by circulating
the wealth among themselves. If you work to solidify and ensure
parental property rights, wouldn't you be entrenching the problem
further? We should not be seeking equal treatment among unequals.
It would be unfair for the less equal. Unequal treatment among
unequals needs be devised to bring about equality.
Bharat Bdr. Karki: The actual developments
on the issues in the ongoing dialogue process should have been
included in the concluding part of the paper. Such inclusion
could also be helpful to the ongoing peace process.
Dr. Durga Poudel: You have listed the
to-do-list of policy and programmes needed to resolve conflict.
But we have also discussed the difficulty of making independent
policy without outside intervention. How do we reconcile these
two? Again, much of the resources lie outside the country. How
do we bring them in for redistribution?
Pancha Maharjan: The peace efforts
so far, from Prime Minister Deuba's time to today, instead of
conflict transformation, we have been trying to create diversion
from the main issues. Dialogue failed during Deuba's time because
the mediators' role was not defined. During Prime Minister Bhattarai's
time, the dialogue committee was only empowered to give advice
to the government. During the second government of Deuba, the
government had straitjacketed the dialogue team with narrow
room for maneouvre in the negotiation. This led the Maoists
to run away from the talks table. Although today talks appear
to be going positively, the main diversion is being brought
about by the political parties. This pushes us to seek the root
cause of the conflict.
Bharat Pokhrel: Although Dr. Acharya
portrays the 21st century as a century of equality, the eighteenth
century was more equal than today. Just look at the wealth distribution.
This leads us to conclude that the present century is the most
unequal in terms of distribution of wealth.
In India, there is evidence that public schools have done better
than private schools.
You have missed out on the main Yadav, Tharus and languages
like Abadhi in your table depicting the different ethnic groups.
Dr. Samira Luitel: The Maoist movement
appears to be a replica of the Naxalite movement. And, if conflict
transformation does not take place properly, some other movement
will be the outcome.
You talk of rising popular awareness levels bringing in the
revolution, but we should take into account that the movement
started from the remotest of villages of Rolpa.
Do you think that the Maoists will be able to implement their
own demands after they come to power? How can we believe that
theirs is not just a political sloganeering? Also, the Maoists
do not appear to have specific enemies. Sometimes they attack
VDC offices, sometimes people, sometimes the army. The real
victims of the Maoist movement have been the poor people.
Dr. Krishna Bhattachan: The tables
do not show the stance of the King. The column regarding the
government does not show which government, the one before Oct
4 or the one after that.
How can we expect a government that fails in everything to succeed
in the peace talks?
Karna Bdr. Thapa: The media should
play a vital role in a democracy. Looking at the past seven
years of insurgency we could not see any war correspondent reporting
from the scene. In spite of the untold miseries faced by the
people, nobody reported the real story of the people. There
is rather constant barraging from reputed dailies that appear
to have specialized on provoking people, not providing the truth.
The BBC or the CNN have not passed the test either. In that
sense, the Maoists have found their movement to be propped up
by the media. Even the media should be attacked when they are
against the people. They should not be given a blank check as
Maheshwar Man Shrestha: Ever since
the 2007 movement, there has been the presence of the external
hand. The recent American utterings could prove to be perceived
as making the government's hand stronger in the ongoing conflict.
Also, the Indian defence chief has just visited Nepal. Do all
these not put fear in us about the peace process being derailed.
Padma Nath Tiwari: The paper could
be a food for thought to the dialogue teams. The root of our
conflict ever since 2007 is that movements were never allowed
to take their full course. This has produced half baked ideas
and no strong commitment from political forces to implement
their own decisions.
Constitutional provisions that cannot be changed means that
it is a legal blunder of those who framed it. It lacks a solution
when a crisis comes about. There needs to be a way out somehow.
Those drafting the constitution somehow saw themselves as immortals
to believe that they could keep such unchangeable provisions.
Dr. Acharya's reply
I have not been able to analyse the tables
that I created. Also I could not get the information from the
political parties that I required. So, I had to rely on their
party manifestos to glean their respective stances on the major
issues of the nation. To have my opinion in the paper, I have
to have the party positions. On property rights, there was no
opposition as long as property rights was a male issue, but
now that the females have come in, the questioner seems to talk
unfavourably for the women.
I am clear on the root cause of the conflict. Decentralization,
reservation and other protective provisions to the janjatis
will reduce the level of conflicts. In Nepal, the women's plight
has been the result of the lack of their property rights. This
is their root problem. The legal structure shows the direction
a society is taking. On the army, I do not understand what 'army
under the parliament' means. I agree with suggestions of democratizing
the army from its feudal culture. The parliament should focus
on that. In terms of their mobilization, even in India the army
is under the command of the president.
I also agree that the peace process may be
diverted away from the main issues. The political parties have
been showing a dubious character. Had they not, they could have
come with a joint stand vis a vis the Maoists. Instead, they
have been lambasting the government for being not legitimate
and at the same time not taking part in the peace process themselves.
From the eighteenth to the 20th century it was an age of inequity.
Now we have to make it a century of equity as structures to
do so have been created and more need to be created. If we prepare
the ground for outside influence to produce results then outside
influence is bound to grow. Whether the Maoist movement is an
indigenous or externally induced one is a moot question. We
need to create a ground that does not let outside influence
Chairperson's remarks (Dwarika Dhungel):
I was involved in some work regarding the ongoing conflict and,
except the Sadhbhavana Party, we have met most parties. We reached
the Maoist influenced districts also. Based on that experience,
the country appears to be in a fluid situation and still in
a quagmire. It took time to form the talks team. And there have
been hiccups all the way. If this uncertainty continues, things
do not look bright.
The positive thing is that everywhere people seem to be hopeful
about permanent peace. There should be no attempt from any quarter
to disturb the peace. Politicians should be sensitive about
that. People in and from around Libang have been saying that
if the country does not remain, where will the politicians go?
The organisational weaknesses that led to the inequalities existing
today have not been able to be solved by the present Constitution.
So, we need a new constitution, either through a constituent
assembly or through a constitutional amendment. Those major
actors who have not made their positions clear on the main issues
need to make their stand clear. Only then a compromise becomes
The first session of the second day saw the presentation by
Dr. Krishna Bahadur Bhattachan on "Sociological Perspectives
on Internal Conflict Resolution/Management in Nepal". In
it he dwelt on the injustices meted out to ethnic groups of
Nepal by state policies. Gunanidhi Sharma chaired the session.
The following are the floor comments.
Achyut Bahadur Rajbhandari: It appears
that we are jumping into conclusions about the best way for
conflict resolution. The conflicts we are facing today have
been long years simmering. They have become so complicated that
simplistic solutions do not work. There are two reasons of conflict.
One is related to group identity and the other is related with
mal-governance and the lack of access to resources for the marginalised.
Additionally, those marginalised by the political structuring
of today and the inherent bias of the system have also been
These causes have made the problem a complex
one. Therefore, we need to analyse the conflicts, something
that has not been done so far. We need to identify the tools
necessary to solve specific conflicts. A referendum may solve
some issues, but not all. Other conflicts may require joint
workshops to find out the meeting points among conflicting parties.
Then we can go into action.
Conflict resolution also needs to be structured, something that
has been missing thus far in our attempts to resolve issues.
The proposed roundtable may be able to hammer out a structure
to the conflict resolution process.
Dev Raj Dahal: Competition may also
be able to do what cooperation cannot. This needs to be taken
into account. But dichomitization is not easy. Perpetual competition
may make conflicts perpetual, so points of convergence should
also be sought. There are a lot of converging points between
the government and the Maoists. For example, everybody has to
play within the Nepalese space. Until there is a common interest
to restore this common space, no solution is possible. Another
point of convergence is the agreement to protect the 1990 achievements.
Policy mediation too has found convergence. There is also common
concern about external meddling in Nepalese affairs. You have
dealt with the conflict issue by dealing with multiplicity of
actors but the definitions are related with binary models.
Dr. Shreedhar Gautam: You have taken
up the issues more emotionally than analytically. You have not
mentioned the institutions that have been responsible for bringing
out problems. You have gone against particular caste groups,
which is not a changeable variable as nobody has choice over
his birth. Federalism has been embraced too readily by you.
We need to look at the pros and cons before adopting such drastic
changes. National issues should not be comprised. Precautionary
steps need to be taken to prevent possible accidents when changes
Bharat Pokhrel: The census shows 12
per cent Bahuns and about 15 per cent Chettris in Nepal. There
are over a hundred other groups and some have not been identified.
It would be better if we could have people from those groups
coming here so that we could hear their concerns. In the context
of globalization, a single group has been more dominant over
the rest than separate small groups over others. It will therefore
prove to be beneficial to look into economic classes rather
than ethnic groups for a better solution. You have raised the
Ritik incident but did not raise the Rajbiraj incident for better
balance. Galtung has tried to impose the three R threory, (reconstitution,
reconstruction and reconciliation) but will not be successful
just as the three D (debt, development and democracy) failed
throughout the world.
Samira Luitel: Nobody has followed
Bahunism as an ism. Bhattachan himself is following the Bahun
profession. There are a lot of Bahuns in politics, no matter
which party. Their language, Sanskrit, is also under attack.
Bahuns are not huge property owners. How come Bahunism is portrayed
as the tendency to grab whatever is available. This is hiding
the real Bahun's lifestyle that is simple and non-violent.
Padma Nidhi Tiwari: The Vedic religion
is known as Sanatan, religion not Hindu. It would be better
to comment on the religion only after studying it thoroughly
and not make superficial comments. The problem is with deviation
from religion, not religion itself. If we correct the deviation,
all the problems get automatically solved. We need to prioritise
our issues to solve conflicts rather than lumping everything
together like you have done.
Prem Sharma: You have talked about
five-yearly referendum, something that is only carried out occasionally.
If you are not for Nepalization, what are you for? Indianization
Keshav Jha: Referendum and self-determination
are not everyday issues. You have provided readymade solutions.
Even Switzerland does not use referendums that easily. Western
solutions are not going to work here. If we look at the UN convention,
it does not talk of self determination in every small issue.
The constituent assembly has been a dubious proposition as it
has come at a very crucial time.
You have not mentioned the political parties. Instead of attacking
all by saying Bahunbad is the root cause of everything, you
should talk of the real issues. If you cannot talk of the real
issues, the conflicts will never be solved. While championing
the issues of the backward, you need to show concern about the
needs of the majority and their concern also.
Dhrubahari Adhikari: We do not hear
about the citizen today, only ethnic individuals. I also agree
that it is the literate that have been the villains, but does
it mean we leave the illiterate as they are or should we educate
them? The table you have provided on page 6 does not show what
it is based on. Was there a survey or investigation to formulate
the table? You talk of federalism as the solution. But to think
that every problem will be solved after Nepal is turned into
a federation is going a bit too far. The author also appears
to think that cessation will not take place with his proposals.
What is the guarantee? We had one referendum in 1980. Do we
have the resources to carry them out regularly? Think of the
fact that even the regular elections have sought external assistance.
Karna Bahadur Thapa: When you are writing
something, we are doing so on top of a graveyard of seven or
eight thousand people. That sensitivity should be reflected
in the output. The paper does not quote our traditional books,
only western writers. The truth is that our intelligence failed
in the past 12 years and that the areas where NGOs have penetrated
have been in crisis. It may be that some noses were cut off
in the heat of the battle during Prithvi Narayan Shah's time,
but to quote 18 dharnis of nose flesh means there were a definite
number of people. Who researched the findings? Also consider
the population of Kirtipur then and then come to the conclusion
yourself. And then verify whether it is a fact or not. The Maoist
conflict has victimized a lot of soft targets and their concerns
have not been mentioned in the paper. There have been definite
policy issues that aggravated the Maoist problem and this needs
to be raised. Neither does your paper show justice issues that
have been ignored. A foreign solution will not work for us,
you need to go to the village and look at the grassroots issues.
Jitendra Dhoj Khand: I believe that
everybody has four castes, according to what we do. Our professors
have not studied the Veda, only western books. So they do not
understand what they are saying. All the Vedas were Nepali,
but we have left them to India to provide us with books and
reading them. We should have begun the peace process long ago.
We started too late after too many people were killed. Peace
can be achieved only if we merge the spiritual with the moral
and intellectual. But today the solution seems to be "make
me the king and everything will be all right".
Lal Babu Yadav: The Madhesi community
has remained marginalised and even the leaders that are sought
from the community are from the capital and not really from
the Tarai. In the 1991 election no Dalit candidate came up for
election. Even women did not receive tickets unlessthere was
no other way out. Federalism is not a solution as half the countries
of the world are unitary and there is no such problem as ours.
Even in the US where federalism exists, injustice prevails.
Just look at the Rodney King case. What is there to guarantee
that federalism will not break up the country? Who calls the
roundtable and who implements its decision? Nothing is unconditional,
so how can you call for an unconditional constituent assembly?
When we already have a constitution, how can we talk of a constituent
assembly? Isn't there another alternative to forming a constitution?
Ashok Kumar Pathak: The much feared
clash between Bahun/Chhetri and ethnic groups is expected to
happen, but is the line so clear between groups? You propose
federalism among eco-regions, but will you be able to do so?
I come from Jhapa and before that I was from Taplejung, how
will you solve my problem? How will you solve the conflict between
the indigenous Madhesis and those that came later from India?
Prof. Maheshwar Man Shrestha: The paper
is provocative and is successful in that respect. Bhattachan
is trying to diagnose the inherent contradictions in the society
and is looking for their resolution. He has given the people
a supreme position, but does not mention them much. The role
of civil societies and the media in conflict situations has
not been mentioned. Had it been, they would bring issues represented
by all groups. If the media is responsible, it can help in conflict
resolution. Most of the write-ups of today are trying to provoke
passion rather than calm it.
Prof. Pradip Khadka: Who are you trying
to show as parties in conflict? Outsiders are showing interest
in Sanskrit, but you oppose it, why?
Bindu Pokhrel: If you are trying to
refer to Bahunbad as a behaviour, why not use some other word?
This might allay passion in many.
Khagendra Prasai: Federalism will not
solve the problem as no VDC has a homogenous community. Can
you assign a separate place for every community? Is it possible?
The realities have been forgotten here. Why differentiate people
along ethnic lines? You can do so along class lines as it is
the Bahuns that are suppressing Bahuns and other groups doing
the same to their own brethern. A secular state is not sensitive
to any religion, but the secular state purported in the text
appears to mean something else.
Ananda Srestha: Lig Lig Kot incident
was during Dravya Shah's time, not Ram Shah's. The peripheral
issues needs to be thrashed out first and then home in on core
issues to have a permanent peace, not the other way around.
Although ethnic uprising to threaten the country's cessation
is hardly likely at the moment, will it not push us towards
that, given the external interests? The Maoist movement has
been located in the west and it also happens that the major
rivers are in the west. Cannot external meddling be directed
towards grabbing the natural resource when situation there is
Durga Poudel: Schools and other public
constructions took place in Ilam with ethnic cooperation, not
conflict. We have not raised the issue of people displaced by
the conflict and who have not been rehabilitated. Their issues
need to be brought forward.
Krishna Prasad Poudel: Prithvi Narayan
Shah has been mentioned in apparently a derogatory manner. Had
there been no bloodshed then, we would not be talking as Nepalis
today. Every country has its own painful history. In our society,
we have our own social stratification, like everywhere else.
But our efforts should be towards bringing harmony among the
groups, not confrontation. It is because of our lack of understanding
of our own issues that people have begun to take Nepal's name
disrespectfully. The fact is that Bahun, Chhetri and the Newars
have remained a privileged class, but the solution should come
about in a cooperative manner, not through confrontation. Federalism
may not be feasible for a small country like Nepal. We should
rather focus on proportional representation.
Dr. Bhattachan's reply
There are those that are on a state of denial of the ground
realities. Another opinion is confused, another is trying to
infuse and still another to diffuse. The same appears to the
case in this gathering. On the issue of dichotomization of conflict
and cooperation, it is true that things are quite fuzzy and
not exactly clear. Madhesis have their own identity, and I cannot
be a Madhesi just because I go to live in Madhes. Similar is
the case with Bahunbad. Bahunbad is not caste related. Monopolistic
behaviour can be termed Bahunbad. This has been accepted. On
cessation, there are graver issues threatening cessation than
just ethnic demands for autonomy.
Chairman's remarks (Gunanidhi Sharma):
Social contradictions have been there for a long time but they
have been exposed at this point in time. We need to manage the
conflicts. The source of conflict is not only internal like
Bhattachan says, but also external, because of globalization.
Risk averters are of the opinion that change could bring about
more conflict. Risk lovers meanwhile want to create more of
them. The society moves forward because of disequilibrium and
it should not be cause of worry only. And there is no way out
through the traditional outlook. There needs to be leadership
vision to propel the society forward. The root cause of everything
is the economy where sharing is warranted.
Therefore, the moves should be designed in
that manner. Majority rule may put all the resources on the
hands of the Hindus. Additionally, the bureaucratic outlook
is feudal and governance institutions have been hampering equality
moves. The police, the courts are all entrenched in traditional
practices. Risk averters have been thwarting demands for a constituent
assembly while risk lovers have been calling for change. If
the present constitution cannot accommodate the aspirations,
a new one should be sought. But state concerns should not be
forgotten, as there could be risks for the survival of the nation-states
itself, in the pursuit of constitutional change. Costs can be
calculated in terms of instability or destabilization, which
may or may not be possible for the state to bear.
The last presentation of the seminar was made
by Yubraj Sangraula on "Dynamics of Continuing Conflict
in Nepal: A Geopolitical Perspective". The author pointed
out that his was not an independent paper but part of a larger
work he was carrying out. He presented the historical background
of the Maoist movement and dealt with the current situation
including all the contending political forces. He also dealt
with the influence of foreign communist movements in the Nepali
one. The session's chairperson was Prof. Bharat Bdr. Karki.
A summary of the comments from the floor is given below.
Bharat Pokhrel: The paper is the weakest
among the four in methodology.
Although you have mentioned other countries where the communism
movement took place, you have not mentioned the USSR. Why? The
date that the Maoists were born should have been Feb 13th, not
Feb 12th of 1996.
Why employ mediators who have their own vested interested? Every
country has its own interests to look after, not someone else's.
This case can go to such extremes that, for example, some Americans
even proposed that French fries be named Freedom fries when
the French refused to go along in the Iraq war.
Pancha Maharjan: Communist movements
are influenced by the communist ideology, not India. The Indian
influence in the movement may have come about because people
of the movement lived for a long time there.
Do you think that this is democracy that we have today? You
appear to think that democracy should not be cancelled out by
the outcome of the peace process. But nobody seems to be for
compromise among the feuding political parties for a united
I think the main reason for the insurgency is the tendency to
suppress the minority by the majority. Even during the 1990
movement, this political force was not included and told to
go alone by other parties. The Constitution was a compromise
between those included. The United Front therefore adopted a
two pronged strategy after that. They split themselves to participate
in the elections and at the same time letting the other half
boycott the very elections. Their objective was to smash the
parliamentary process. Even the UPFN (United People's Front,
Nepal) that took part in the elections was marginalised in joint
programmes of the communists. So, until the tendency to undermine
the minority ends, it is useless to talk of democracy.
Padma Nidhi Tiwari: Even in 1951 there
was external influence in the establishment of democracy in
Nepal. In 1991, too, without Indian pressure through the trade
embargo, multiparty democracy might not have been possible.
So there has always been external influence in Nepalese politics.
How can you change the Constitution especially regarding provisions
on the monarchy and multiparty democracy which cannot be changed?
How do you do it without revolution and without a constituent
assembly? How was it a democratic move for the parties to recommend
to the King to use his prerogative? And, how does it become
undemocratic when the King uses this privilege given to him
by the parties? The parties could not even provide a candidate
that the King wanted for the post of the Prime Minister. Why
complain when he chooses one to fill the vacuum?
Som Thapa: The three feuding parties
have been dilly dallying on their stance without being clear
on anything. What are the elements of the new constitution that
we are seeking by setting up the constituent assembly?
Shreedhar Gautam: You say that the
five parties should be aligned to either one or the other party
in the govt.-Maoist dialogue process. Can't they have their
own position or should they have to join one party? The reason
you gave for the insurgency cannot be that simple.
Gunanidhi Sharma: The paper does injustice
to the title term 'geo-political'. It is more 'political' than
'geo'. Also, as you are from the legal profession, it would
have been better for us had you described to us the legal provisions
and constitutional provisions that would solve the problem.
If you believe in democracy, why be afraid of the constituent
Mahashwar Man Shrestha: I think if
you can initiate regulation of the border, rather than closure
of the border, it may be more implementable. The main theme
appears to be not to have a constituent assembly, but constitutional
change, nonetheless. This should have been written down on the
paper more explicitly. If we can't give life to the dead constitution,
we need to bring in a new one. The 1991 Constitution had stopped
the peaceful road to bring in change, hence the insurgency.
For change, the feuding parties and the media and civil society
need to thrash out a solution about how to bring about those
changes. Thus far political parties have not been talking consistently.
Samira Luitel: Political parties have
lost their ideological moorings. As soon as leaders reach positions
of power, all of them appear to have the same ideology-that
you are above the law. If you do not recognise the law, how
can we call it a democracy?
Prakash A Raj: On page 4, on Scandanavia,
you talk of it being as a great tourism market and that they
are not interested in poltical-cultural invasion. I do not agree
that they would not want cultural invasion. They have cultures
that do not go with ours. You also mention that government officials
carry a blue passport. Is it such a big issue to be mentioned?
You also mention perks and benefits to civil servants and that
they do not pay income tax. This is a normal thing. Why go against
that. In fact, in Nepal the civil servants are the only ones
who pay their tax at the source. On autonomy of local institutions,
I saw, in Latin America, that in Bolivia there was no Shining
Path movement, while in neighbouring Peru it was rife. They
replied that it was due to devolution of power to the local
level. Both the countries have a very similar population make-up
like that of Nepal.
Achyut Bahadur Rajbhandari: The Constitution
says that to activate Article 127, the cabinet is required to
provide the counsel to the King to do so. Once that is done,
the Constitution does not speak about how it can be reversed.
Once holding of elections became a problem and the cabinet decided
that it was so, the then caretaker government postponed it.
Again, it could not hold the elections as promised and asked
for the King's decision on postponing again. This would have
extended the life of the government more than the constitutionally
stipulated six months without parliament. The King appears to
have decided to change tack and made other arrangements to hold
elections. A task force needs to be set up to find out whether
the changes required need a constituent assembly or just simple
changes in the Constitution. There are two ways to amend the
constitution. According to the Constitution, sovereignty remains
with the people and the King gives the ultimate okay. This shows
that there is nothing that the people cannot do. So if the King
should seek what the people want and do accordingly in a codified
manner, this should be possible. The matter is between the King
and the people.
Bharat Bahadur Karki: On whether third
party mediation or indigenous efforts are required in the peace
process, the paper should be clea. Can the National Human Rights
Commission mediate? CIAA has been quite active today. How will
its current activities affect the dialogue process? You mention
that the King retains residual powers. Where is it mentioned
in the Constitution? You also say that the parties have turned
into gangs. Is that not a bit too extreme?
The Communist Party of India had harboured all the different
factions within it, initially. Only in the sixties did an offshoot
come out as Naxalites. The violent Jhapa movement has accepted
that it was affected by the Indian Naxalite movement. So there
is that Indian influence. More precisely, The tactics adopted
by Che Guevera and the Cuban movement was adopted in India and
that inspired the Nepali communist movement. And, in spite of
the internationalist character of communists everywhere, Nepalese
communists have taken up the nationalist agenda from the South
The Maoist demand for a constituent assembly
is a compromise by the Maoists from their earlier demand of
a republic. But the assembly is only a means to constitutional
change. And, until the new constitution comes into effect, the
old one is not dead. Saying that it is dead is denying the sovereignty
vested on the people. Many of the judicial activities and CIAA
activities are fully operational and they are all constitutional.
There are exceptional and there are general
application of constitutional provisions. It is true that the
exceptional move taken by the King in the absence of elections
can only be brought back to a general situation when elections
take place. It is not some words of a document, but political
behaviour that determines the kind of democracy. If the same
words in their constitution have provided such good democracy
in S. Africa, why not in Nepal? Residual powers exist in the
head of the state of countries to mete out crises. It is not
mentioned in words in the constitution, but it happens in all
the countries all the time.
The Maoists did have an agenda of armed struggle,
but they also did try to enter the parliamentary process. It
was the inability of the majority parties to include them in
the process that forced them to fall back on their armed agenda.
Regulation of the border has a very vague meaning in legal terms.
So 'closure' makes better sense. I agree that there is an ideological
crisis in political parties, but the Maoists have been faring
better than the rest so far. When I talked of perks to civil
servants, I was not against them. I was only pointing at the
way it was done. Everything is done according to the position
of the person, not in a proportionate manner. For example, the
Jhapa farmer pays more for his basic goods than the urban rich
man for his luxury goods. Also, a peon gets 3,000 rupees for
treatment if he has cancer and the secretary gets 80,000. How
can cancer treatment cost different to people of different posts.
This is ridiculous. Civil servants get their work done faster
than the ordinary man in public offices. The bureaucracy is
supposed to serve people, not civil servants. Status should
not determine privilege, only need should.
The only way to correct the move to implement
Article 127 is by holding an election. A constituent assembly
may not be a necessity and we need to convince the Maoists of
that. But if they want the assembly so badly they can have it.
But this can only be done by asking the King to use his residual
powers. This is a debatable issue and constitutional experts
need to be consulted for that.
Chairman's remarks (Prof. Bharat Bahadur
There should be no foreign intervention in our domestic affairs.
All the opinions coming from the political forces need to be
taken up sensitively. We have to move further ahead from the
achievements of 1990. Even the Maoists have agreed to that.
The political parties need to leave their old ways and move
with a new spirit. Even lawyers cannot say with determination
which course to take at the moment. So we need to make a more
mature constitutional document where there can be no debate
in the future. We lawyers believe that a national government
needs to be formed, including the Maoists, to go for election.
The following parliament should make the constitutional amendments.