Sri Panch Gyanendra continues to be the reigning monarch of Nepal. For having outmanoeuvred the seven parties in the peace process, Prachanda is Sri Sat. As leader of the eight-party coalition, head of state, and head of government, Girija Prasad Koirala is Sri Aath. In recognition of his influence, Indian ambassador Shiv Shankar Mukherji could be Sri Nau Sarkar.
But no matter how high you are in Nepal, western donors and their government-inspired NGOs are higher than you. It's hard to decide how many 'sris' suffice for a person at the pinnacle of the donor community. Exasperated by the attention showered on the founder of the Carter Centre, the ever-popular blog Mero Sansar prefixed Jimmy Carter's name with Sri Kati Ho Kati.
Carter granted an audience to Dahal and his alter ego. He called upon Koirala twice, presumably first to ascertain the status of the aging ruler and then to confer legitimacy. Mukherjee was also graciously received. In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that I too presented myself to this chief. Carter dominated the news for the entire 96 hours he was here.
In a way, the commotion over his visit was an amusing diversion in these otherwise dull and dreary times. His closely watched schedule did highlight the agenda of marginalised groups. It also stressed the importance of mainstreaming the Maoists with cautious urgency. Thanks to the former US president, the plight of madhesis is the flavour of the month among donors, lenders, and various parachutists.
Had the Nobel laureate paid platitudinous praise to the glorious peace process of Nepal, his visit would have been a roaring success. Unfortunately, everything but Carter's 'private' observations about the Maoists echoed Moriartyspeak.
It's understandable that the various excellencies strutting around the country are concerned about their personal security and resident foreigners deserve full government protection from such exigencies. But when someone like Carter expresses his concern about the security situation in the country, we're missing some details. Whose safety are we talking about? Security to do what and for what purpose? Where exactly does the security situation merit immediate attention, and how are we to do that?
The lawlessness in the tarai is the main concern for obvious reasons. But a law and order approach to establishing peace in the tarai is unworkable for one simple reason: the government looks nothing like the demographics on the ground in the region. Rather crudely put, the police in Gaur looks too much like the armed wing of the Chure Bhabar Ekta Samaj. For a Yadav in Siraha, the CDO looks like Kathmandu's agent, and the local military barracks, an outpost of an occupying force. There is only one way to address this: level the playing field for contestations for political power.
Carter emphasised the importance of improving the security situation and addressing inclusion ahead of the constituent assembly elections. But when inclusion is a stand-in for integration, and law and order boils down to giving continuity to the status quo, the perfunctory prescriptions of a parachutist deserve just a bemused hearing.
A government that lacks legitimacy and acceptability should avoid having explicit intentions, a strong will, or proactive initiatives. There are times when less is more. The tarai needs patience, not rashness.