Nepali Times
Guest Column
A democratic antidote to violence


This time when the ceasefire broke down and the fighting began anew, the nature of the war changed. Instead of trying to over-run garrisons and district headquarters, the Maoists are targeting the capital and urban areas.

Earlier, when the rest of Nepal was bleeding the residents of the Valley hadn't felt that their security was particularly threatened. Not any more. For the first time, Kathmandu's elite is spooked and there is a siege mentality. This has brought renewed clamour for an end to the violence and a return to the peace process. This yearning for peace is natural and there is really no other alternative to this crisis but a negotiated solution.

But I want to ask: are we ready, for the sake of peace, to give up our freedom of expression and our freedom of the press? Will the private owners of media be willing to give up their independence? Will the burgeoning new middle class be willing to trade its multi-party choice or their hard-won freedoms for peace? One thing is clear: Nepalis have forever bid goodbye to dictatorship and it can never sneak in again in the garb of a one-party system.

The people have been through a bitter experience in the past 12 years, with corruption, partisan politicisation and political leaders who had no qualms about using the administration to put down dissent. We must turn over a new leaf and present the people with a new age of democracy and good governance. We must convince the people that we leaders are now ready to function strictly as per democratic norms.

We have to be more inclusive than we have been before and bring the Mahdesi, Janajati, Dalit and our women into the mainstream of political decision-making. We have to give them proportionate representation in the civil service and the legislatures. We have to convince the downtrodden in the tarai that we are now committed to giving them a voice. And not just lip service. We must actually convince the Rolpa or Kham Magar youth that there is a place for them in the political mainstream. The Tharu youngsters from Bardia and Kailali should be encouraged to share in this dream of democracy.

We don't want democracy just for the sake of democracy, the marginalised farmers of the of Bajura and Baitadi must be convinced that it will bring them development. We must transform the governing process through local self-governance in order to address existing regional, ethnic and other disparities and ensure balanced development.

The symbol of Nepal's national unity is the constitutional monarchy. We must take this message to the grassroots. We are in danger of falling into the cracks between the economic progress of our two giant neighbours. India's economic growth rate this year may exceed six percent, and China has, for the past 20 years, been growing at eight percent a year. If we lag behind, it will be difficult for us to survive as a yam between these two huge boulders.

For economic growth, a sustained peace is a pre-requisite but not enough. We need to make our national identity more robust by kick-starting the economy for long-term growth. Is such economic growth possible without a free market and foreign investment? Those who answer 'yes' may want to look at Mao's own homeland today.

The fuel for this growth must come from the development of our hydropower, from tourism and from a 20-year strategy to promote cash crops suited for our conditions. Peace is the precursor and we need the conflict to end so we can set up labour-intensive industries in the tarai that can manufacture goods for the north Indian market. As a new member of the WTO, we now have the opportunity to use our comparative advantage to take a giant leap into global trade. We must seize the opportunity of the new railway link that is soon going to join Lhasa to the rest of the China. We cannot afford to miss the bus again and be waylaid by failed economic models that have outlived their time.

The RPP believes that all these changes and reforms are possible only through a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy. And our party has the capacity and experience to see these projects through. We see this as the long-term guarantee for peace and development in Nepal.

Only a peace process that has the full support and participation of the people will survive. The RPP cannot do this alone, nor does it want to. All parliamentary parties need to be united in the first challenge: to win over the demoralised and terrorised people of this land. The people are alarmed by this new threat of urban warfare and the parties have to deal with it together.

Ever since they chose the path of violence, the Maoists have adopted the policy of dividing and weakening the constitutional forces. No one has any doubt anymore that the Maoists are solely responsible for the present crisis. The parliamentary parties are now aware that the Maoists are the most aggressive against the party in power and softest on those out of power. The five parliamentary parties have now also realised that they are playing into the hands of the Maoists with their agitation. For the first time, we have indications that the constitutional forces are finally coalescing. I personally have been working towards this precise goal ever since our Third Convention. Sometimes, it seems, time and luck are more important than logic in attaining one's goal.

The RPP is committed to the establishment of an all-party government. Once this happens, sooner or later, the rebels will be forced to come back to the negotiating table. And it will be a united front of constitutional forces that will show the way forward through a new and effective democratic model.

Pashupati SJB Rana is the President of the Rastriya Prajatantra Party. This piece was translated from his Nepali original.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)