Nepali Times
Guest Column
Enough is enough


It is easy to see where the problems of our national crisis lie: in the three power centres unwilling to give an inch. We know what needs to be done: we need a triangular negotiating table so the three can sit together till they find a way out. The riddle wrapped in an enigma is: how do we do it?

Such is the mistrust, the lack of political will, the refusal to compromise, that even if we got the three political forces to sit around a table it will not guarantee a solution. In fact, what we may get is a full-fledged fistfight. Each of the three power centres is bent on enforcing its wish through brute force or agitational tactics. The people of Nepal are left out of a tussle that everyone is fighting in their name. The long-suffering citizens of this country are bearing the brunt of the mayhem and murder, the displacement, the joblessness and dislocation caused by a collapsed economy.

No one believes there is a military solution, yet they fight. Everyone knows political disagreements are taking the country down, yet they refuse to agree on anything. They know what needs to be done, and don't even take the first step towards it. Even though rationality doesn't seem to work anymore, here are some logical points all three parties need to bear in mind:

The Maoists
. Parts of Nepal may be feudal, but the Nepali people are now alert citizens of a democratic country who are used to their freedoms. This is the 21st century and political power doesn't come out from the barrel of a gun anymore. You don't pit citizens against each other to reduce economic, ethnic, caste or religious disparity.
. True longterm revolution will only come by emancipating the masses through peace, understanding and cooperation. Coercion, threats and violence may look like they are a shortcut, but they breed an all-consuming counterviolence.
. Nepal's geopolitical reality is that sustained governance is only possible by taking up an unbiased, neutral and peaceful path. Our giant neighbours will not tolerate instability beyond a certain point.
. estruction of national infrastructure or private property doesn't help the Maoist cause. Social disruption, instead of hastening the revolution, will complicate matters beyond control.
. n armed struggle may have been justified if there was a totalitarian regime. Democracy has been sidelined, but it's not dead. Changes in the constitution, even the preamble, can be done through future referendums. You don't have to kill Nepalis and destroy Nepal to achieve that goal.

The king
. We need to see more evidence that the palace and the government are honest about upholding democracy. Make a genuine effort to bring the Maoists to the mainstream, an offer the parties can't refuse, and declare a timetable for general and local elections.
. The king must now take the major political parties into confidence before nominating an interim government, and not expect everyone to join the government once he nominates the prime minister. Such a government should then be given authority to induce peace, and hold elections within a timeframe.
. The king should agree on a referendum on some of the main demands like the constitutional monarchy, and the crown's powers over the army.
. Appointing ministers, key constitutional posts and local body administrators make a mockery of multiparty democracy. It is spreading distrust, and it should stop. The Nepali people know their fundamental rights and want to decide who is going to rule over them and how.
. Tempting as it may be in such turbulent times, the king must keep himself above politics and power and let the forces elected by the people play the game of politics.
. The government must urgently create conditions for the Maoists to lay down their arms and disband their militia in exchange for the army returning to the barracks. This would be the first step in the process of restarting the electoral process.

Political parties
. The major political parties must own up that they are partly responsible for the mess this nation is in, and undertake a commitment to the people that they will mend their ways. During the last 12 years, the parties have neither been responsible nor accountable. Their mal-governance has pushed many Nepalis to blame not just the parties, but democracy itself. The parties need to earn back the peoples' trust.
. All political parties advocating constitutional monarchy must unite with the king to form a united front to draw the Maoists to the negotiating table as quickly as possible, ensuring lasting peace.
. The unity of the five-party alliance must not be allowed to collapse at the first sign of a tussle for ministerial positions. It has gone beyond cabinet positions, now it is about the survival of the nation. Once the country comes back on track, they can go back to playing petty politics, but, please, this time without paralysing the whole country.

Part of the reason there isn't enough pressure on these three forces to patch up is because civil society in Nepal has been so dormant and has been divided along partisan lines. That is why there is no one on behalf of the people saying: enough is enough.

In times of war, armed belligerents tend to ignore the voice of civil society. Here too, neither the army nor the Maoists want to hear the calls for peace. But if civil society unites and genuinely speaks on behalf of the overwhelming majority of Nepalis who want to have no part in this war, that voice will be hard to ignore.

And there will be enough people who have the courage to stand up and be heard.

Dhawal Shumshere JB Rana is the former UML mayor of Nepalganj.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)