Nepali Times
Now, Idea Management

The peace process, which had been moving in fits and starts, is now having one of its fits.

A prolonged deadlock over the interim government has brought things to a standstill again. It hasn't exactly gone into reverse gear, but there is no forward movement either.

That the Constituent Assembly election can't be held as scheduled in June is now a foregone conclusion. And despite the crocodile tears the 7+1 are shedding about it, this suits everyone just fine.

What is much more serious is that they all fiddled while the tarai burned just so they'd have an excuse for a poll postponement. This is political cynicism at its worst, and most dangerous.

Nepal's paranoid politicians are masters at the game of playing victim. They blame everyone but themselves for bad governance, inability to deliver development, and for all-round fecklessness. We blame the royals, India, militant Madhesis, but never ourselves for letting things get out of hand.

The most appalling and dangerous display of calculated victimhood was the mass funeral at Pashupati of 18 Maoists last week. No doubt, it was the most macabre massacre even by the brutal standards of the past 12 years of conflict. And if anyone had any illusions, it proved that the ceasefire of the past year in the rest of the country has never applied to the eastern tarai. The Maoist cult of martyrdom seen at the funeral could easily have gone awfully wrong if it had lit the spark of ethnic retaliation in the hills. It is a tribute to the traditional tolerance of Nepalis that they refused to be provoked. A majority of those who were watching the funeral from the sidewalks felt that the Maoists were reaping the whirlwind.

Latent ethnic prejudices when stirred up by politics can be an explosive mixture. Those who want to provoke an ethno-separatist war in this country can easily use violence to breed more violence.

As a party that is about to enter the government, it doesn't behoove the Maoists to show such gross capriciousness.

It is in the interest of the Nepali people that we assist the CPN-M to make a smooth transition from an underground guerrilla force to a political party. The sooner that happens the easier it will be for everyone to accept them in an interim government. But it will be difficult to trust a group that is still beating up people who don't pay extortion money, threatening to take the lives of newspaper editors, decimating forests, and refusing to return confiscated property.

We've had an 'arms management'. Now the Maoists need to agree to 'ideological management' by formally renouncing violence and intimidation as a political tactic.

Only this will engender trust, expedite their entry into government, ensure free and fair elections, and prevent the peace process from derailing.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)