Nepali Times
Give peace a chance

The most bizarre aspect of the present period of national deadlock is that our political forces are fighting over the spoils of peace even before peace returns. A ceasefire in any conflict is the most delicate time, where words have to be weighed before being uttered, actions thought through for their impact. A truce is a tight-rope act. And yet, our politicos are doing aerobics on the high wire with wild and woolly pronouncements. Even peace doesn't seem to be sacred to them.

Whatever goes on behind closed doors in their meetings with King Gyanendra, they cannot control themselves from posturing and bravado when they come out. Funny, we never get to hear the king's side of the story. You'd have thought that they would have learnt a few lessons by now, that they have enough of a pulse on public opinion to figure out what Nepalis say about these hollow men. But that has been the problem all along, hasn't it: we never showed a capacity to learn from our mistakes. (These words could have been written at any time during the past five years and they would have aptly described the state of affairs.)

There has never been a time in Nepali history when the Nepali people had so little trust in the individuals and institutions who purport to rule over them. They have lost what little assurance they had on national-level politicians, they don't trust the Panchayat throwbacks calling the shots now, they don't trust the Maoists and their brutal methods, they don't trust the Kathmandu elite with its arrogance and pompous airs, they fear the security forces almost more than they fear the rebels. And they have questions about the king's motives, but are willing to go along with him because he is only one who is dispensing hope.

Still, the palace and the parties must patch up. There is no other way. And if it needs the party leaders collectively meeting the king, there is no reason such a meeting can't be arranged before King Gyanendra embarks on his pilgrimage tour to holy sites in India.

When a group of musicians decided to do a peace roadshow this month, the organisers were surprised by the unexpectedly large turnout. People didn't need to be bused in as they are in political rallies, this was no rent-a-crowd. The 200,000+ mostly-young Nepali men and women who attended the concerts in Dharan, Hetuada, Butwal, Mahendranagar, Dang and Kathmandu were spontaneously and openly telling the politicians in Kathmandu what they want. They want them to stop trying to wreck this chance for peace. The concert in Tulsipur, in the heartland of the insurgency, was the most heavily attended with upwards of 50,000 people from the outlying villages of Dang, Salyan and Rolpa. This was a musical referendum for peace.

The Nepali people are so down they need a break. They deserve a break. The economy needs a break. Tourism needs it, too. And development needs a breakthrough. All we are saying is, give peace a chance.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)