Nepali Times
From The Nepali Press
Talk to whom?

The government has begun an unusual method to look for mediators with Tarai parties. Peace minister, and coordinator of the government's talks committee, Janardan Sharma says the government will offer a cash reward of Rs 50,000 to anyone who can successfully bring the Tarai groups to the negotiation table. And Prime Minister Dahal says he is ready to provide the post of assistant or state minister for a mediator who proves himself able to fix talks with a significant party in the Tarai.

Chairman of the Dalit Janajati Party and member of the constituent assembly Bishwendra Paswan disclosed the 'offer' after a meeting with the prime minister, "I don't know about other parties, but Jwala Singh will be present in the talks." Paswan is an uncle of Jwala Singh of the JTMM faction. "He's not just going to sit at the talks just for the sake of it, the talks will be successful," Paswan said.

The government doesn't know how many militant groups there are in the Tarai, what their demands are and where they are based. There is difficulty in reaching them, sending letters, and even figuring out their location. Moreover, the parties who have been sent letters have begun to raise the bar and are increasing their preconditions and demands. All of this is heavily weighing on any possibility for the talks, and thinning chances that they will be held at all.

Parties such as the Rajan Liberation Party who have received the letter are demanding that the government's talks committee itself should be dismantled. But the talks committee is persistent that demands and pre-conditions should only be discussed on the talks table, and not beforehand.

The government has agreed not to arrest members and politicians of any of the armed Tarai groups, and has even agreed to ensure security during the talks to create an enrironment conducise for the talks.

The three-member talks team which was formed under the coordination of Minister Sharma, decided that armed forces should not be arrested prior to talks, and that members who attend the talks be guaranteed of their full safety. They will try to reach and inform other parties about the talks and fix a location and date for the talks to be held.

However, the government isn't clear about which parties it considers as criminal and which as political. While Sharma says that the talks will only be started after this is sorted out, other members of the talks group have been saying that they are ready to talk with everyone from Ramchandra Rai to Renu Yadav. This shows that the government isn't prepared for the talks and also clearly reveals that there is confusion even on the rules and principles level. Political analyst Nilambar Acharya says that the government should hold separate talks with the criminal and political groups. Says Acharya: "Holding talks without being aware of a criminal group's character, could result in criminality gaining legitimacy."

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)