Nepali Times Asian Paints
Guest Column
Same difference


Now that the republican slogans on the streets sound more radical than Maoist graffiti on school buildings across Nepal, it is getting increasingly difficult to see a difference between the political agenda of the parliamentary parties and the rebels.

More than 10,000 Nepali have been killed in the Maoist war, but not a single person died in the street agitations by the political parties. Yet, both are fighting for the same things!

The student unions and the parties hijacked the republican slogan from the Maoists who have now lost their raison d'etre. There is no need to keep spreading terror in the name of a 'people's war'.

It is true the present constitution doesn't completely encompass Nepal's plurality. A new one will have to be crafted soon, and it will have to contain provisions to include our multiethnic, multilingual reality, geo-politics and include marginalised Nepalis.

If Comrade Prachanda agrees to this, there is no need to kill and destroy anymore. All the political leaders, intellectuals, the international community and civil society who are pressing for talks should look ahead at who will benefit and who will lose. Until that is clear, talks don't make sense and may even mark the start of another war.

In a statement last month, Prachanda called on the king, the political parties and civil society to work towards 'united negotiations at an all-party political conference that lays the groundwork for the formation of an interim government and a new constitution'. Prachanda's reasoning is that strategic parity between the state forces and his guerrillas makes it imperative to agree on a political resolution through a new constitution.

But there are grounds to doubt whether a 'strategic parity' has actually been reached, and whether the military situation on the ground is any different than it was. Are the Maoists really more powerful? Given that they exert their power through murder and terror tactics, it looks like the state is still superior.

In which case, we have to ask: what is the real reason to talk? What should be the agenda? At a time when most political parties are coming around to the need for a constituent assembly, Prachanda is talking directly about a new constitution. Students are holding republican referendums in campuses, while Prachanda raises the need of talks with the king.

None of the forces pushing for a 'constituent assembly', a 're-worked constitution' and a 'new constitution' have said what they mean. Prachanda, on his own, can't show us the way forward. Marxism, Leninism or Maoism are not ultimate truths and people who see only one dogma as the answer to societal contradictions are just being duped.

Today the world has moved beyond 'isms'. We need policies that offer real solutions to real problems. Is there place for freedom of thought and discussion in Prachanda's new constitution? How will the new regime be any different from the old one?

Maoist victims who criticise Prachanda are immediately killed. In the past nine years, buses with passengers inside have been torched, people have had their legs broken with axes, farmers have been displaced and their harvests looted. Is this revolution?

Prachandapath alone doesn't have the answers. So far, the agitating parties, the Maoists and civil society haven't sat down together to find a way out, even though there isn't much of a gap anymore on the questions of the monarchy and the army chain of command.

There is nothing more absurd than to say you want to negotiate a republic with the monarch. The Maoist demands are now no different than those of the political parties. There is no need to kill Nepalis anymore.

Man Mohan Bhattarai is a youth leader in the Nepali Congress (Democratic).

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)