Nepali Times
Moving Target
Federalism or death



One factor that makes the Hand so Foreign is his affliction with the 'logic syndrome'. Despite a long, meddlesome career in the mysterious East, part of him still expects things to ultimately make sense. In a country like Nepal this need can be quite a burden, especially when faced with a civil war completely bereft of rationale.

Imagine his relief when the latest bahun to stalk the corridors of power explained it was all about achieving Federalism. Since previous justifications for this tragic conflict were so mired in outdated jargon as to be nonsensical, the Hand seized upon this interpretation as a way of finally putting the nagging question to rest.

Within moments, though, the logic syndrome flared up again: was it really necessary to launch a devastating revolution to establish a federalist government?

This current excuse for the Pupil's War, lame though it may be, establishes another first for Nepal, as the only nation in history to institute federalism through mayhem and terror.

It lies beyond the scope of this diatribe to debate the merits of various systems of governance but well within its range to call a spade a spade.

When the fledgling Maoist party saw its demands ignored in 1996, they declared war in a pique against a democratically-elected government. Ten years and 14,000 deaths later they join the same government, ironically composed of the same individuals and parties they went to war with, proving the entire exercise was a disastrous, ego-driven waste of time.

Wanton destruction of infrastructure, torture, murder, coercion and massive extortion has nothing to do with federalism versus centralism. No one attacks police posts with human waves of hapless villagers to establish a series of ethnically-based states, nor do they shut down schools, slaughter teachers or kidnap children for such a cause.

In the hard-bitten world of international meddling, speculation as to how 'it might have been' has no place. Nevertheless, the Hand indulges in the occasional wistful moment (usually on national holidays) between interfering in the country's internal affairs.

A recent daydream took him through the lost decade of conflict, amazed at the amount of energy expended on wrecking the state. Impressive organisational skills were displayed in targeting and destroying the nation's infrastructure, setting up chains of command, safe houses, munitions supply, kangaroo courts, bomb factories, and propaganda centres. The extensive network of spies and informers established to suppress dissent and gather intelligence is notable, exemplified by the highly detailed research conducted before embarking on their recent Kathmandu based extortion drive. The Maoists spent months collecting information on the assets of potential targets (anyone with anything). This required vitality, and paid off to the tune of billions of rupees.

The daydream grew more surreal with the insight these very skills and high levels of motivation could have been used to build the country instead. The extraordinary energy required to conduct a war and terrorise the people might have been used to build bridges instead of demolishing them.

An impossible dream, of course, shattered by the tawdry realisation that this war has never been about benefiting the impoverished masses, through federalism or anything else. Nepal's political class across the spectrum has always treated the people as expendable, a medium to be manipulated while grabbing at the throne. This particular power struggle has proven to be no different-just another attempt by a wannabe aristocracy to seize power. Once again, the elite have pitted the sons of poor men against each other in pursuit of their narrow, self-serving agenda.

Imagine: if ten years of reckless destruction got the Maoists 30 percent of the seats in parliament, a decade of constructive activity might have earned them the respect and votes of the majority. Too late for that now.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)