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National Seminar on Conflict Resolution in Nepal

Organised by Nepal Foundation for Advanced Studies (NEFAS)

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.

SESSION I

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 irresponsible.
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 in Iraq.
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 'conflict'.

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 off.

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.

SESSION II

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 such.

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 foster.

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 possible.

DAY 2

SESSION III

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 a reason.

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 are sought.

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 or what?

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 so fluid?

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.

SESSION IV

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 stance today.
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 assembly?

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?

Sangraula's reply
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 African communists.

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 Karki):
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.

 
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