Nepali Times
Guest Column
Breakthrough or betrayal?


The 12-point Delhi Agreement has many objectionable elements, but it is the very process of engaging in this alliance that must first be condemned. Gandhi's legacy is that even in just political struggles one needs to choose just means. How is total democracy to be ushered in with the aid of total terrorists?

Who has usurped the power and legitimacy of the mainstream parties? It is the Maoists with their violence-backed refusal to allow parliamentary elections.February First could be undone in a flash with a newly-elected parliament.

Yet the parties have chosen to add the Maoist weapon to their arsenal in their fight against the active monarchy. Once unsheathed, who will control this weapon and direct where it will land?

Forging a significant alliance with the Maoists without the latter's pre-commitment to forgo violence and lay down arms is to acquiesce in their terrorism. Most tragically, it sets a long-term precedent that political
parties need only put together an armed militia to get their way.

Secondly, who has given this band of conspirators (mainly four bahun men) the authority and legitimacy to demand a new political order for Nepal through a constituent assembly? Two of them came riding on the tiger of terrorism and the other two on the back of their past failures and incompetence to take Nepali democracy forward after the gains of the People's Movement. Their slogans are 'total democracy' and 'new people's democracy',
yet they are autocrats in their own right, representing factions or personal cliques with little practice of democracy.

Their apparent grand design is to hoodwink the Nepali people and the gullible international community with the promise of a 'peace dividend' by ending the 'people's war' and of a return to parliamentary democracy by
bringing the Maoists into mainstream politics. With such vain promises, these four believe anything can be demanded of war-weary Nepalis, including approval for a constituent assembly.

Peace is precious to all Nepalis now but not peace at any price. The seven parties have given away too much and departed from democratic values out of sheer personal vendetta against a specific monarch. The Maoists no doubt see great value in this alliance. The end game of a constituent assembly election offers them the safe landing that they crave so desperately. It does not really matter much to the Maoists what the proposed constituent assembly will decide. Hence, their pledge to accept whatever comes out of it is quite hollow. Their only requirement is to have something to point to as the fruit of their violent methods in order to permanently justify their terrorist past.

We cannot simply acquiesce to a straightforward and painless entry of the Maoists into Nepali mainstream democratic politics. Their leaders and armed cadres must be charged and prosecuted to the full extent possible under our laws for their crimes, including crimes against humanity. Those found guilty must be punished, including possibly being barred from future political participation. We must also require that they recant on many aspects of their core political ideology.

Many in the intelligentsia and media are fascinated with and sympathetic to the Maoist political objectives, condemning only their resort to violence.

Not enough criticism is leveled against their core beliefs which are fundamentally incompatible with a free and democratic society. Their forceful political indoctrination of the rural poor, minorities and other vulnerable groups with false promises and utopias known to be unachievable is despicable. The rights of individuals derived from the core values of individual liberty and liberalism (the very rights for whose protection we turn to democratic political processes in the first place) have little standing in their philosophy. How can Prachanda Path be acceptable as a legitimate political and economic philosophy for a 21st century democratic Nepal?

It is not sufficient to renounce violence, which the Maoists still have not clearly done. Terrorism, to be practiced through absolute controlling power of the state, is ingrained in the basic tenets of the Nepali Maoists. Even if they are not going to win control electorally, they must not be allowed to compete as legitimate political players while keeping their core purpose intact. A change in tactics is not sufficient to rehabilitate them, a change in purpose is needed with justice for past actions.

The alliance with the democratic parties now gives irreversible legitimacy to the Maoist purpose. It gives the Maoists more credibility in the hearts and minds of Nepali voters than they could ever get by military means. The irony of the 12-point agreement is how it highlights the distinction between the Maoists and the seven parties: they agree on everything except the demand for recalling the dissolved House. So now the CPN (Maoist) is of
the same democratic progeny and credibility as the Congress, except for this minor tactical disagreement!

Even if the Maoists are genuine in their new-found faith in pluralistic politics, aiding and abetting them in making this transition without changing their fundamental nature does not strengthen democracy in Nepal. Being in love with the Maoists, unchanged in their purpose, can be more dangerous to Nepali democracy than being at war with them.

Prem Jung Thapa is an economist based in Canberra, Australia.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)