Nepali Times
State Of The State
Is peace really breaking out?


Unlike the emptiness in western philosophy, sunyata in Vedic thought is full of infinite potential. On the surface, the current stalemate in Nepal may be unnerving but we also stand on the threshold of immense change that will irreversibly transform the Nepali polity.

True, the state is still in a state of suspended animation. Everyone is waiting for something to happen, but nobody wants to make the first move. The king has made his intentions abundantly clear: he wants a system where his word will be the law. Defending the constitutionality of the RCCC, the royal attorney general argued in the Supreme Court early this week that the rights of a Hindu king were almost limitless. But the cloak of constitutionality, howsoever thin, is too precious for the palace to discard. To save face, the royalists are pretending that the 4 October, 2002 takeover didn't create a constitutional vacuum. But they are clutching at straws now.

Maoists are firm in their resolve to let the constituent assembly decide the future of the country. But their leadership seems to be uncertain about whether the rank-and-file will accept this. For all their bravado, the Maoist leadership lacks the courage to make a complete break with its blood-stained past. But if they can claim that this is victory in negotiations, there is no reason why the commanders will not accept an exit strategy to end the pointless war.

The mainstream parties have realised the futility of their delaying tactics. They too know that nothing less than a new compact with the people can break the present deadlock. But leadership has never been the strong point of either Girija Prasad Koirala or Madhab Kumar Nepal. Both are better at reacting to decisions made by others. They, too, are waiting for someone else to hasten the process of reconciliation between the insurgents and the mainstreamers.

With bureaucracy controlled, academia strictly monitored, professionals emasculated, media muffled, courts confused and NGOs threatened, Nepal's nascent civil society finds its voice too weak to make an impact. Lately, even peace and conflict experts have begun to speak in carefully calibrated tones. They are unlikely to question the relevance of the king's African odyssey at taxpayer's expense, the Maoist's hesitancy to extend the unilateral ceasefire for an indefinite period, or the reluctance of the mainstream parties to accept a constituent assembly without ifs and buts.

All major stakeholders are twiddling their thumbs and creating diversions to hide their nervousness. Incapable of ending individual and collective humiliation on their own, each wants an outside facilitator to rescue them from their predicament. Since helplessness is hard to accept, pretensions have become their armour of compulsion.
The chairmen of the council of ministers are engaged in orchestrating municipal elections to divert international attention. The Maoists are holding talks and biding time. The parties are staging symbolic rallies to display their prowess. Civil society is engaging donors to save its existence. To end all this grandstanding and indecision some form of outside intervention has become inescapable. The Maoist supremo has been most forthright in accepting the importance of the participation of a 'dependable international community' in disentangling the royal knot in Nepal.

Pushpa Kamal Dahal has hinted he is ready to take the plunge if an atmosphere conducive to peace is created by all for a safe landing of their cadre. Should peace break out in the near future, we now know who we should be grateful to. Even more importantly, if hurdles are placed on the road to truce, it will not be difficult to pinpoint the blame.

So we are poised between sunyata and infinity. It's everything or nothing.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)