Nepali Times
By The Way
Mistaken for peace


BOTH VICTIMS: Maoist CA member Devi Khadka was tortured and raped in police custody during the war.
All signs are that the political transition will be prolonged. The war may be over but this isn't peace. Violence without bullets continues to devastate Nepali society four years and nine months after the Comprehensive Peace Accord formally ended the decade long conflict.

Few will disagree that big strides have been taken in the peace process by isolating the guns from the gunners. Yet, a state of impunity and absence of justice, intrudes upon the families of the victims. The fašade of 'peace' has reduced the sacrifice of thousands who died or were simply 'lost' to bargaining chips.

Nepal's peace process today is defined solely in terms of the management of some 19,000 combatants and their uncertain futures. The de-humanisation of the process to a mere technicality eludes the complexity of the case. How will the state reconcile an ex-combatant, involved in abduction, torture or execution of an individual, with members of the family? How will it address the trauma of combatants and the families who have witnessed unspeakable violence? How will the state ensure reconciliation between the Nepal Army and its civilian victims?

The fact that draft bills to form commissions to look into cases of disappearances and on truth and reconciliation, has been stuck in the legislative parliament for the last four years is a proof that successive governments want to sweep the dirty past under the rug.

The public does not have much faith in commissions, anyway. Countless committees have been set up and reports submitted, but none were ever made public or acted upon. There is a real danger that the failure to address the graveness of the injustice done and lack of political courage to uncover the truth may permanently fracture Nepali society.

But UML CA member Shanti Pakhrin believes Khadka ordered her husband's execution. Both run into each other every day in the CA where two bills to set up commissions on disappearances and transitional justice are being debated.
On 30 August, the world observes the International Day of the Disappeared. Nearly five years after the end of our war, there are at least 1,300 Nepali families who still have no answers about relatives who vanished during the war. Nepal has neither signed nor ratified the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which not only requires the party states to investigate them and bring those responsible to justice, but provides for monitoring of compliance by the nations party to the convention as well as gives rights to its citizens to directly appeal to the committee for assistance in locating a disappeared person.

Both warring sides are in the administration. Yet the healing has to start with the airing of the truth. Even inside the CA chambers, UML member Shanti Pakhrin keeps running into Maoist member Devi Khadka, who Pakhrin believes ordered her husband's execution but has never got a satisfactory answer as to why. Devi Khadka herself was a victim of torture and rape in police custody. How can both come to terms with the truth of the past, what can the state do to help them both?

These questions need serious debate among stakeholders of the peace process, particularly the major political parties. Holding the nation and constitution-writing hostage to the peace process would have made sense if the effort was genuinely geared towards addressing both manifested as well as latent conflict.

Agreement on numbers and a package deal may finally empty the cantonments and who knows, even give us a new constitution in near future. But if we keep mistaking silence for peace, who are we fooling?

Read also:
Forgotten futures, RAM KUMAR BHANDARI
The focus on the constitution has taken attention away from the plight of the families of the disappeared

1. who cares
Maoist member Devi Khadka, who Pakhrin believes ordered her husband's execution but has never got a satisfactory answer as to why. Devi Khadka herself was a victim of torture and rape in police custody.

2. Som BK
Very well written! its nice to know that have some honest and unapologetic columnists also. Devi Khadka and Shanti Pakhrin both were victim to this unjust system and the writer is sensitive to both their cause. I look forward to reading more from you sir.

3. Anonymous
No doubt, the inner most core of Nepal's social fabric has been shaken down to earth during the 'civil war'. The social 'sadbhav' has been completely shattered to pieces; the pearls of wisdom have lost their meaning. The Nation is still recuperating from the agony, we still seem languishing in convalescence. Past has not yet been forgiven,  nor future has been conceived de novo. This prolonged transition in the twilight zone is agonizing, boring, depressing, and has been slowly eating away the marrow of our society. Peace and reconciliation must go hand in hand. Not only the "victim" but also the "perpetrator" needs to be liberated from the darkness trapped deep inside his/her sulci; the poison must be taken out of the system. Then only life can start afresh, we will see a new dawn in the Republic. There should be an open process leading to healing and reconcilialition. If Nepali society is to live in peace and harmony, the Land of the Buddha must usher in compassion and enlightenment.

4. Julie
peace is not a destination, but a road itself. We are all now walking in the same road, albeit on two sides of it. Each must take a step towards the other, because there's no other way out.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)