Nepali Times
Peace by peace


As Dasai approaches there are indications that both sides will observe an unofficial festival truce, but prospects of peace talks to resolve the conflict are more remote than ever.

A purported statement from the Maoists declaring a Dasai-Tihar ceasefire on Tuesday turned out to be a hoax. Rebel spokesman Krishna Bahadur Mahara set the record straight by dashing off an e- statement, but that was followed on Wednesday by another release purportedly signed by Prachanda saying the original statement was correct and 'action' would be taken against Mahara.

Analysts do not rule out the possibility of army disinformation at work, and see signs of a rift in the Maoist hierarchy following the group's plenum in Dang last month which reportedly rejected peace talks for now. The meeting was followed by strident anti-Indian rhetoric and an intriguing silence on the part of Baburam Bhattarai, who is said to have favoured a softer line on India.

The contradictions between central-level statements about 'links to fraternal parties' and recent attacks on the leftist United People's Front in the mid-west hint at a breakdown in control. While the leadership calls on UN mediation, grassroots militia defy international condemnation of forced recruitment of school students, abduct of a Unicef staffer and loot WFP aid.

In eastern Nepal there have been desertions by senior commanders disenchanted with the violence and hardship. And tensions are simmering between the Maoist central command and its regional autonomous units.

Despite signs of internal tension, the Maoist party is not about to split. One retired general told us: "We shouldn't be trying to divide them. If you do that, there is a danger of the conflict spinning out of control, with ethnic-based warlords taking over."

Nepal's Maoist revolution is part of a wider international revolutionary struggle. The country is often cited in Maoist literature as a 'showcase revolution' and references are made to finishing off what Mao Zedong started in China. Frequent expressions of solidarity by foreign comrades, and reports of intimate links with Indian Maoists could indicate coordintation of strategy on Nepal.

This outside dimension is now recognised by Indian intelligence, which, after eight years, has finally admitted that Nepali Maoists have a safe haven in India. Noted Indian commentators warn this is now more India's problem than Nepal's. Even so, Indian and Nepali Maoists are said to have met in Calcutta this week right under the noses of the Indians. The People's War Group in Andhra Pradesh is trying to negotiate with the state government in Hyderabad, and whatever the outcome, it will be significant for Nepal.

In Kathmandu, there is a reciprocal hardening of stance in government and military circles. The brutality of Nepal's war is beginning to attract international attention with rights groups issuing reports this week censuring both sides for widespread abuses (Read A climate of intense fear). The hope lies in the only power centre that needs peace to survive: the political parties. Those on the streets and in Singha Darbar urgently need to stop bickering among themselves and, with the king, launch joint peace moves.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)