There is something in the air at Tihar that makes you see the glass half-full. The Maoist violence and army crackdowns are intensifying, but there are the stirrings of a peace backlash. Nepalis are getting restive, and there is growing weariness with the daily scorecard of death and devastation. When Maoist warriors burn passenger buses or hack septuagenarians to death, it doesn't show strength, it shows desperation. For the first time in the seven years of insurgency, Prachanda's storm troopers are on the defensive, shooting soft targets and scooting.
he tactics of terror have always been counterproductive. It alienates people from the 'cause', assuming there is one. But who is going to tell that to a group that will 'physically eliminate' anyone who disagrees with the partyline?
The nervousness in the other camp is no less counterproductive. There is a needless arbitrariness to state violence: forces in civvies rounding up innocent villagers presuming everyone is a Maoist until proven otherwise, entering schools full of children under covering fire. Using a hammer when a scalpel will do. There has been an unprecedented militarisation of society, but the security forces are organs of the state and are governed by its primary mandate of protecting citizens.
Sooner or later, the true horror of Doramba and Mudbhara will force the Royal Nepali Army to do some soul-searching. It is a disciplined army renowned for its bravery and valour, and it can't hope to keep its image intact if it doesn't reform itself. One of the possible corrections could be a decision to subject itself to civilian control. If the defence forces in Turkey with its long martial legacy can do it, why can't we? During Tihar, to hope is permitted.
Most Nepalis never agreed with the war being waged for their liberation, but their opinion didn't matter to those who prosecuted it. Now, civil society has started voicing this popular yearning for peace. An internet poll on Kantipuronline this week shows more than two-thirds of respondents think the situation in the country has either worsened (56.37 percent) or remained the same (16.62 percent) since the royal takeover. What the people need now is to be able to take matters in their own hands, and exercise their rights through political representatives: the mainstream parties agitating for the restoration of the constitutional process.
A challenge such as the Maoist insurgency is a crisis only when it is transient. Once it is protracted, it ceases to be a crisis-it becomes a hardship that people learn to live with. In seven years, Nepali society has learnt to live with the terror of insurgency and counter-insurgency.
There is one factor we must be wary of: no foreign government, imperial or otherwise, is coming to our rescue at the cost of antagonising our friendly neighbour down south. Most outside powers have their own hidden axes to grind in civil wars that aren't their own. But this one has a regional gatekeeper.
The performance of special British envoy, Sir Jeffery James, proves the limited role. Globally, London is too aligned with the Washington neocons to pursue an independent foreign policy. Britain discharges the same duty for the United States that the Gurkhas once did for the British: supplying specialised troops to defend imperial possessions. King Gyanendra knew what Sir Jeffrey had to say, and didn't want to waste time on an orderly, when he has direct access to his boss.
Moreover, provoking both our immediate neighbours is too high a price to pay for the dubious service of military advisers whose job seems to be to recommend that fundamental rights are dispensable luxuries when a country is at war. Baburam Bhattarai's loathing for the Americans comes from his belief that they are a part of the problem, hence they can't be dispensers of solutions.
That leaves Beijing. There are people, eminent constitutional lawyer Ganesh Raj Sharma is one of them, who believe that the Chinese are active behind the scenes to help Nepal resolve an insurgency that carries the name of the Great Helmsman. The Chinese have great clout in international diplomacy, and if Beijing truly fears a fire in its backyard, it will wield an extinguisher. But so far, it seems to be banking on New Delhi to take care of firefighting south of the Himalaya.
There are no saviours on the horizon, we have to grow up and learn to solve our own problems.