In this climate of mistrust, you have to wonder if Nepal's high and mighty agree on anything at all.
Surprisingly, there is one such issue: not bringing human rights violators to book.
We have had four governments (including the two headed by the late GP Koirala) since the success of People's Movement II in 2006. But no sincere attempt was made to form an effective Truth and Reconciliation Commission and a Commission on the Disappeared. All we have seen are cosmetic attempts by each of the governments towards setting up the commissions.
Both sides involved in the decade-long Maoist insurgency have found something in the draft bill or its terms of reference (ToR) to object to, thus thwarting the exercise to deliver justice to victims. The most recent activity regarding these two bodies (that is, bills on them) was in April this year, when parliament was discussing the drafts.
It suits both the Maoists and the national army to scuttle any move towards the formation of any such body, or to limit it to an ineffectual commission that will not be able to deal with gross abuses of human rights and crimes against humanity, finding the whereabouts of those forcibly disappeared by the state and the Maoists, and recommending action against the perpetrators.
The stance of the Nepali Congress and CPN-UML is not surprising either. Their fear of the Maoists' not-so-hidden-goal of imposing one-party rule in Nepal has rendered them unable to take concrete steps to punish those who committed human rights abuses by the state. They are under pressure from the army top brass to either ignore or go slow when it comes to addressing human rights violations.
So all we have is lip service.
There are hundreds of families who want to know what happened to their loved ones who never returned home, people who want to know whether any punishment will ever be meted out to those who killed their kith and kin by terming them either Maoists or spies of the government.
It's a given that anyone who says that we, as a nation, cannot afford to dig up past abuses, let alone prosecute the accused, have not had their loved ones killed, tortured, disappeared or maimed for life. When the heat is on and parties find themselves unable to defend their morally repugnant position on the delay in ensuring justice to victims of the conflict, they point out that any (serious) attempt to book those involved would harm the ongoing peace process. This is a silly notion.
The Comprehensive Peace Accord that spelt out the formal end to the insurgency does have provisions on addressing gross abuses of human rights. It also specifically mentions setting up a high-level Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and making public, within 60 days of the agreement, the whereabouts of people who were made to disappear or were killed, conveying the details to family members. The agreement was signed on Nov 21, 2006. To argue that setting up the TRC and the Commission on the Disappeared would rupture the peace process is dishonesty, and only aids impunity.
The government, the army, and the Maoists have got away with it because there has not been enough pressure on them from Nepal's now fractured, biased and partisan civil society, human rights organisations who are afraid to bring attention to atrocities by Maoists, and the international community.
All we have are occasional programs to mark days such as Human Rights Day and International Day of the Disappeared, and then it is business as usual. Impunity remains unaddressed. It warrants repetition, over and over: think about those people and families still waiting to hear the last word on their loved ones.