Nepali Times
Begone, 2004

This has been a year none of us will be sad to see the sun setting on. In Nepal, the escalating violence left at least 2,500 dead in the past 365 days. One-fourth of those who have died in the past nine years of conflict were killed in 2004.

The fact that most of them were non-combatants means this has almost become a rule of engagement in the conduct of this war. It is hard to see what perverted revolutionary logic justifies the forced recruitment of children or blockades enforced by fear of death to strangle the very people one is supposed to liberate. And despite rhetoric about hearts and minds, we see state security falling into the classic trap of guerrilla war: pushing ordinary people into the Maoist fold with its impunity.

The year saw a hardening of positions on the part of all three protagonists in this country's conflict: an intransigent palace, intransigent parties on the streets and intransigent rebels. The rigidity has resulted in a double deadlock: a political standoff in Kathmandu and a military stalemate across the country. We are stuck in a quagmire and sinking fast. We are not just back to square one with Nepal's development and the economy-we have been pushed back decades.

September First illustrated the volatility of the situation, a hair-trigger polity in which there was no dearth of those fishing in murky waters. State security mysteriously stood by and watched the capital burn even though they had prior warning of the sectarian mayhem that was unleashed. The hired goons of one 'anti-regression' party went on a pre-meditated orgy of arson to capitalise on the chaos and the born-again obscurantists who arrived in their wake added fuel to the fires. How can we trust the leadership of this country to erstwhile members of parliament who demonstrated in 2004 that they have no qualms about stoking communal violence for political ends? Or those who wish to take the country back to political authoritarianism by provoking a stampede of religious orthodoxy?

A disastrous end to a disastrous year has been the apocalyptic devastation of the coastal regions of the Indian Ocean. Some near to us also perished, bringing home the truth that in this day and age no tragedy is local anymore.

If 2005 is to be any better than 2004, we must nurture the few signs of hope that flickered this year. The rising collective voice of citizen's groups for peace and their message that authoritarianism is not the antidote to totalitarianism. And finally, our tribute to the real heroes of 2004: the women of Dailekh who showed boundless courage and set an example for the rest of the country with inspirational unity to rise up non-violently to put down violence.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)