Nepali Times
Trial and Terror

Past cruelty is always eclipsed by headlines of more recent brutality. Time blunts the jagged edges of pain. We have to keep reminding ourselves of the horrific new year massacre of villagers in Nawalparasi by Maoists hunting vigilantes, the murder of popular preacher Pandit Narayan Prasad Pokhrel last month, the recent abductions of children and teachers in Kaski, Dadeldhura and Dang.

Memories of these atrocities were pushed aside by news of the deliberate and pre-meditated terrorist attack on civilians in Madi and Kabhre in the past week, the senseless murder of Campus Chief Ganeshman Palikhe in Pokhara and on Tuesday the slaughter of six family members of two policemen in Dhangadi that included a year- old baby.

There are signs the revolution is now using terror for terror\'s sake. It has lost what remained of its social and political reform agenda and has degenerated into criminality. Even by the terrible standards of its own past cruelty these recent killings can only be described as crimes against humanity. Yes, 12 armed soldiers in mufti were travelling in the Madi bus but anyone (especially the comrade with his finger on the detonator trigger) could have seen from a mile away that the bus was piled high with civilians.

An elderly Madi farmer said it for all of us Nepalis: "You can\'t ask forgiveness for something that is unpardonable." Just as the Great Helmsman himself intended, support for the movement now comes mainly from the barrel of the gun-it is no more a genuine espousal of the cause of revolution. The political base of the cadre has eroded, the chain of command is in disarray and the leadership rift is showing fissures right down to the grassroots.

To be fair, the comrades are in a dilemma. Moderate elements within the movement that now see the futility of further violence are incapable of braking or steering this runaway juggernaut. And there is every sign the hardliners are dominant. Indian and Nepali politicians tried in New Delhi last week to convince Maoist ideologues to join the mainstream through a constitutional compromise. But the comrades know that as soon as they put down their bombs, they will be chased out of the villages.

While we wait for the broader political agreement necessary for restarting the peace process, the Maoists would do well to reclaim their political agenda by unilaterally announcing a moratorium on use of landmines, booby traps, assassinations of unarmed civilians and abductions of school children. For its part, the security forces could respond with a reciprocal freeze on offensive action. You don\'t need to agree on a ceasefire to begin such confidence-building measures. And whoever does it first attains the moral high ground. Such gestures will build the trust necessary to begin the more challenging work of sustainable peace-building. But it needs visionaries.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)