Nepali Times
Crisis of the week

As this country lurches from one crisis to another, the government is too busy fire-fighting to plan or implement anything.

This week's crisis was the violence in the forests of Kailali, where we witnessed a combustible mixture of politics and populism. It is now becoming clear from field reports that the Maoists deliberately mobilised tens of thousands of people they had promised land to in the past.

Some were genuinely landless, some ex-Kamaiyas, but the majority were people bussed in from afar. The timing was what gave it all away: they were pouring oil onto the agitation. What the Maoists perhaps hadn't bargained for, and five people paid for their lives for this, was that the government was determined to forcibly stop the land-grabbing that has rapidly spread across the country, especially in the western Tarai.

There is a moral to the story of the Maoists copying the NC and UML in resettling new vote banks along the highways by clearing forests: don't stir the hornets' nest. Perhaps the more important lesson pertains to the resettlement of Maoist guerrillas, qualified and unqualified alike. If they are let out into society without a plan, incidents like this week's explosion of violence may find better motivated and heavier armed instigators.

But Dudejhari has already started to fade from the media glare, being replaced by some other crisis of the week. It is clear that incidents like these will become increasingly commonplace unless the political parties do not come to a power-sharing agreement soon. Unfortunately, we see a dangerous political polarisation between the Maoists on the one hand and the NC/UML on the other. This chasm is difficult to bridge because both sides are being goaded on by hardliners who agree on only one thing: the peace process was a mistake and we should start killing each other all over again.

Forget the political slogans about civilian supremacy: the secret talks these days are all about the conditions (read cabinet berths) under which the Maoists will agree to come back to power. Deals that had almost been finalised by the moderate leadership of all three parties have in recent weeks been sabotaged by radicals within.

Pushpa Kamal Dahal managed to save his party by deft footwork to have his party convention postponed. The thinking within the right wing of the UML is: "Let's finish them off before they finish us off." And kangresi conservatives now openly say the peace process was a mistake.

All this pushes a power-sharing deal further away. However, there is really no other way to ensure the relative stability we need to finish constitution writing and conclude the peace process. In fact, if the power deal can be done, everything else could pretty much fall into place. The question is will the pragmatists in all three parties be allowed by their hardliners to strike a deal?

Man in a hurry - FROM ISSUE #480 (11 DEC 2009 - 17 DEC 2009)

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)