If we take a step back from the see-saw of daily headlines that sway from 'Parties Near Agreement' to 'Gap Between Parties Widens' you can see why this is happening. As we noted in this space as far back as May 2006, we had a conflict that neither side won or lost, despite their claims. It was the Nepali people who lost. The country was devastated and the people brutalised.
This is not a peace process anymore. What remains is a ceasefire, and a tenuous one. The Maoists gave up the gun, but not their use of violence and threats. They were forced to put the war into deep freeze because of a military stalemate and geopolitical pressure. In that sense, a section of the Maoist leadership views this ceasefire as it did previous temporary cessations of hostilities: an opportunity to regroup and recharge. They have never wavered from their end goal of declaring a totalitarian people's republic, employing Gang of Four methods.
For their part, the political parties have also not given up on their aim of preserving liberal democracy. For parties that believe in non-violence and pluralism, the first priority was to stop the war. Only then could an open society, the rule of law, an independent judiciary and a free market have a hope of surviving.
In this contest, it should be fairly easy for the friends of democracy and freedom to decide which side they are on. Yet we see confusion, a romanticisation of violent revolution, and an effort to tolerate and excuse chronic displays of Stalinistic despotism even by those who should know better.
In hindsight, we could say the democratic parties gave away too much to the Maoists in 2006-7. But some of those concessions were necessary to keep the Maoists engaged, especially since their negotiators kept threatening to pack up and go back to the jungle every time things did not go their way. These differences were sure to come out sooner or later, as they did when the drafting committees had to tackle the nuts and bolts of the future statute, and are clear to see with the deadline for the constitution approaching.
There are two ways to break this stalemate: go back to war or negotiate in good faith. Since the first option is unthinkable for the Nepali people and neither side has the stomach to fight, they have to talk. The Maoists are willing to test the boundaries of how far they can go with the threat of a return to war, and that was why they punished the people with an indefinite strike. They still think that a show of might and a hint of veiled violence will improve their bargaining position.
In the week that is left before 28 May, the first order of business should be to extend the CA, reconstitute the government and catch up with stuff we should have done last year. It is symbolic that on the eve of the constitution deadline we should be observing Buddha Jayanti.
Running on empty
Don't kill the CA, Gagan Thapa
War games, Prashant Jha
The PLA speaks, Ekal Silwal
Flagellating the self-flagellators, Rabi Thapa
Online incline, CK Lal
Buddhaland, Indu Nepal