Nepali Times
Peace epistle


Seven years ago, beleaguered by your constant bickering, I decided to take some time off. Few took my displeasure seriously. Your home minister promised to bring me back within a week. Soon the crackles of conflict became louder. When those who could stop them stepped in, I thought my homecoming was at hand. The preparations turned out to be just another ploy in the political playground. Few deigned to gauge how far I had gone.

When the Brave Lion from Dadeldhura came full circle two years ago, he looked as if he really was on to some act of contrition. After all, he was the one who trashed that radical architect's 40-point wish list and exhausted my patience. Many of you felt the former premier was just trying to take a short cut into Singha Darbar. I, too, was troubled by his shallowness. What kind of conciliation was he contemplating by announcing a cease-fire even before taking the oath of office and emptying prisons of insurgents before concluding what their commissars were up to? Equally menacing was the pressure political rivals exerted on him to wrap up the peace process as soon as possible. In retrospect, Osama bin Laden merely provided the cover for a fiasco that was waiting to happen.

The murder and mayhem over the next 14 months don't seem to have injected enough seriousness into your debate. A roundtable conference, interim government and constituent assembly are possible ways of ensuring that I stay for good this time. You act as if you can end the root causes of the conflict simply by dispatching disarmed lads and lasses to the Gulf. Even if you cut the manpower-agency middlemen, how many sheikhs would want battled hardened and bloodstained hands for help?

My grievances go back a little further. I was miffed by the commanders of the people's movement who ranked the withdrawal of the peace-zone proposal among the major features of the new constitution. To be honest, I, too, felt the palace was trying to use me as a prop after that other Himalayan kingdom disappeared from the map. When over half of the world endorsed the peace proposal, I started feeling a little better. I know your southern neighbours didn't. By making peace the first casualty of democracy, I thought you were just trying to extend an olive branch down south. You actually ended up uprooting many things. This may help explain the ease with which the mainstream parties could today pick up from where the Maoists left four months ago.

Don't get me wrong. The grievances of the big parties are genuine. No one can be at peace in the absence of freedom. The architects of Jana Andolan II know that Nepalis had more elected representatives under the partyless system they overthrew than they do today. Now, that hurts. Given their record, Kangresi and comrades may look like power-hungry predators to some of you. Don't make that blur the bigger picture. They are the people who will have to implement what the palace and rebels decide to sign. They need to be part of the process, not mere witnesses as the two sides want. True, instead of trying to capture the local bodies, they should have stormed the conference room, captured most of the seats and flung open the doors and windows so that every Nepali could see what was going on inside. When each push towards constructive engagement brought greater humiliation, street action became inevitable. Isn't it human nature to prefer war on one's own terms to peace on someone else's?

Yes, I heard your next question. Does it make any difference to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, as Mahatma Gandhi reminded another generation, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy? Don't even try answering that while all three political forces feel they have goals worth staking everything on. To cut a long story short, I've decided to stay away a little longer. So don't bother calling me. You'll find me at the front door the day you discover you're too tired to fight.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)