R.I.P. Constituent Assembly. What next?

On May 27, 2012, the Constituent Assembly (CA) expired dashing hopes of citizens of Nepal. After four extensions to double the CA’s original tenure of two years, the biggest experiment in Nepali politics proved unsuccessful. The 601-member CA comes to an end as unceremoniously as possible without a word of good-bye or apology from the chair.

The major political parties, the largest Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), the ‘democratic’ Nepali Congress, the Communist Party of Nepal – United Marxist-Leninist and the alliance of parties based in southern plains United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF) could not reach an agreement on new constitution and with the Supreme Court (SC) verdict that CA term can be no longer extended, the CA has nowhere to go but to hit the bottom.

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A Leap to Peace

Nepal Army took the chain of control on Maoist combatants in a important development of Nepal’s peace process. However, the wounds of war will only be healed by truth reconciliation.

Cartoon by Rajesh KC/Republica (Reproduced with permission)

For the record, on April 10, 2012, Nepal Army took control of the weapons and the chain of command of the Maoist’s People’s Liberation Army. This officially makes United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) a civilian party without weapons and combatants; and the change marks an important achievement in Nepal’s peace process after the end of Maoist’s 10-year-long People’s War.

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Baburam Bhattarai: the hopeless hope?

Dr Baburam Bhattarai

For non-Maoist supporters, Dr Baburam Bhattarai is the favorite among Maoist leaders. For urban population, the brilliant academic record of Bhattarai, a PhD, along with his no-nonsense statements made him the hope in Nepali politics at the time when many thought politics is made dirty by the group of leaders who did nothing more than quarrelling for the post.

If any politician garnered affection and praise from non-party supporters, it was Bhattarai.

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A milestone of peace process

On January 22, 2011, Maoist party of Nepal formally handed over it’s people’s army and arms to a committee headed by Prime Minister and consisting representatives of other political parties. This is indeed an important step in the ongoing peace process that, when concludes successfully, will transform a nation marred by violent conflict into, hopefully, a democratic peaceful and better country.

The handover was promised long ago, but did not come until United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) left the country ending it’s mandate partially successful. As I wrote earlier, the exit of UNMIN could prove good for the peace process initiated by the parties themselves without foreign facilitation and the parties are capable enough to take it to the successful conclusion setting an example in the world. The handover, that came after seven days of UNMIN’s exit, is a important step towards achieving the peace and it should also end any fear that UN body’s exit will have negative impact on it.

Saturday’s handover ceremony at the Shaktikhor Cantonment, one of seven cantonment where 19,000+ Maoist combatants are temporarily housed. Apart from the emotionally-worded speeches of Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal, the ceremony attended by almost all top leaders, diplomats and government officials featured demonstrations from the Maoist army. I liked the show for at least one reason.

The multi-cultural dances and march pass were conducted on the tunes of popular folk songs and national songs. It was a little transformation, for the Maoist army were probably used to those people’s song that normally promotes nationalism with revolutionary Maoist ideologies. Watching those young army marching made me, and many others, emotional. They too are Nepalis, youth with dream in their eyes, playfulness in their behaviors and curiosity about their future. And, I sincerely believe that if they go into the security agencies, almost everyone of them will commit themselves to the nation’s service.

A step is taken in the peace process and there are still a few steps where the Maoist party and other parties will have to make difficult decisions – and I hope that they will make decisions for the nation’s benefit rather than for their party’s benefits. All those youths who have fought with Maoist believed (wrongly or rightly that up to your evaluation) they are fighting for their nation, for the betterment of the people and want to see peaceful and prosperous Nepal.

I hope the integration and rehabilitation process will go as smoothly as the handover process. And, we all should understand not matter what parties we have the membership of or what ideology we believe in, first and foremost we all are Nepalis and proud to be. And, we all surely want to be citizens of a peaceful country.

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Meaning of slap on Khanal’s face

On Thursday, a 52-year-old Nepali slapped Jhalanath Khanal, the chairman of the third largest party of Nepal which is also the ruling party, in a public program in Itahari, some 500-km from Kathmandu. Khanal went there to welcome around 1,000 new party members and Devi Prasad Regmi, who used to be a UML cadre, lined up with other to reach one of the most likely candidate for next prime ministership, and slapped him right no his face so hard that Khanal’s glasses fell down.

“Politicians ruined the country, it’s better to go mad than be dead,” Regmi said in the police custody.

Although Khanal happened to be the receiver of the slap, it was a slap in the faces of all those political leaders who have a say in their party’s decisions. The unruly event, despite being condemnable, is something that reflects the frustrations of many more Nepalis.

Devi Prasad Regmi, 52. Photos courtesy myrepublica.com
Regmi used to be a UML cadre; he voted for Maoist during the Constituent Assembly (CA) election for he thought ‘Maoists could give something to the country’ and was forced to slap Khanal ‘in anger’ for he could not ‘tolerate the leaders ruining the country’.

How many more Nepalis have been angered, even more than Regmi? How many more Nepalis want to slap leaders in their faces for their false promises? At least a few more, it’s just that they don’t have the courage. I am saying this after reading comments on news in many news sites, reactions in social media and blogs.

Time has not ran out yet! There are still a time that the leaders could save people from getting frustrated and angry – and if the leaders continue to search for consensus with inconclusive meetings and rigid stances, I am sorry to say, but many, many Nepalis will have an untold consensual agreement to follow Regmi’s path.

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Thank you, UNMIN

Flag lowering ceremony of UNMIN. UN Photo by Chandra Shekhar Karki

At January 15 midnight, United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) concludes its four-year long stay as monitor of the Maoists combatants and arms. Although, it’s exit didn’t coincide with the conclusion of peace process – the official end of the Maoist’s People’s Liberation Army that fought hard and violent for more than 10 years, UNMIN’s role in bringing the peace process to this spot is laudable.

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Paras Shah: Crown Prince to Prison?

Former crown prince of Nepal Paras Shah was ‘taken under control’ by police on charges of firing with an illegal bullet at a resort inside a national park late night and threatening a Bangladeshi of life. No matter what will the court decide, the series of incidents has a greater impact in Nepal’s political scenario as it symbolically indicates the ‘real’ end of the monarchic power and is also a step towards the no-tolerance towards criminal activities under political hood.

I believe that it was wrong for Paras Shah, 38, to threaten anyone with a pistol and fire a round in air regardless of the degree of provocation injected by the person on the other side. It was a crime for a commoner (Paras Shah declared himself similar to a commoner) to carry an unlicensed weapon, to carry weapon inside a national park and to threaten someone of life firing on air.

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Nepal parliament’s embarrassment

Friday night continues to be pivotal in Nepal.

November 19, 2010 will go into history books as a shameful day for Nepal’s parliament and will continue to embarrass the nation for years to come. The representatives of the people involved in such a scuffle that ended with manhandling of ministers and ‘abduction of the budget speech’ by the Maoist lawmakers.

Into the records, Maoist lawmakers disrupted the House session and resorted to vandalism and manhandling soon after Speaker Subas Nembang permitted Finance Minister Surendra Pandey to table the budget. They manhandled Pandey and snatched the briefcase containing the budget booklet. Other Maoist lawmakers also manhandled some ministers and lawmakers belonging to the ruling party.

Budget is a dire need of the country for rescues it from plunging into the financial crisis. The people were told (by the leaders) that the main three political parties including the Maoist agreed for the budget through a constitutional amendment and use of special rights by the President. Maoist then backtracked and said allowing President to use the special rights might set a wrong precedent – and government was adamant to go with the budget presentation resulting in the ugly scene.

Shame on Maoists

After watching the incident live on television, there is nothing else to say to the Maoist. Through protest at parliament is allowed, their behavior was immature, beyond tolerance and unacceptable. Time and again, Maoist proved themselves to be immature in politics and their thinking/action had remained that of the rebels – not that of the democratic political party.

The UCPN (Maoist) should apologize with people for the incident.

Shame on Government

The government knew something is coming for the Maoists have said they won’t allow the budget presentation. Despite that they went ahead inviting Maoist for confrontation. They should have tried for a middle-path with understanding from the Maoist.

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Nepali Politics, the Secret Meeting & Media

Just before Tihar – the festival of lights – it looked like the long-standing political deadlock of Nepal is finally being dismantled as the top leaders of three main political parties agreed to go for a meeting at a resort. The meeting was dubbed the ‘secret meeting’ for it was not accessible to media and assistants to the leaders. Not many knew the venue before it began.

Nepali politics is standstill – for no new Prime Minister has been elected (despite 16 rounds of election in the parliament) to replace the caretaker government that is facing crisis in lack of annual budget. And, there is the whole issues relating to peace process and constitution writing stalled (or progressing very slow) due to lack of understanding (read power-sharing agreement) between top parties.

In such scenario, the secret meeting – attended by 15 top leaders where the leaders agreed to spend uninterrupted days was surely a positive move and the nation hoped a good news as a Tihar gift. But there was none and at least for now the meeting was a failure. The joint statement that the parties managed to come up with after the end of two-day meeting was nothing new – just reiteration of what they were saying in new words undersigned jointly.

They said they seriously reviewed/discussed the implementation of agreements (as if they were doing in as a joke earlier or they were not doing this). They also said they realized the need to work on consensus (good but we all thought they realized this much earlier). They then reiterated commitment for peace, democracy et all (were they not committed earlier?). The only new thing that I saw in the statement is ‘November 10’ meeting – which I didn’t know earlier and they haven’t said earlier.

And, the media were kept out of the meeting. I do support the idea that most of the times it’s worthless to give access to media during the meeting for a photo or a video or a quote. And, it becomes even worse when there are so many television stations which need news every hour. There was no access and it was expected that TVs will be make a little cry over it.

But then I do also believe that mass media are a bridge between politicians and citizens and they have every right to seek information; and its duty of the politicians especially at the time when they hold a meeting of national interest to inform the media (thus the citizens) something about the meeting. They did a good thing organizing a press conference after the end of the meeting but I still believe they should also have issued at least a preliminary release at the end of Day 1 (even if there were nothing substantial information, even quotes like we were talking would have worked).

Media wants information desperately – but it doesn’t mean that they want for their profit alone. Media functions in such a way that it becomes a medium of democratic practice and tool to fulfill citizens’ right to information.

Let’s hope that the leaders meeting on November 10 will be fruitful – and media are duly informed about the outcome (or progress).

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Nepali Congress: Wind of Change

The future’s in the air
I can feel it everywhere
Blowing with the wind of change!
Scorpians (Wind of Change, 1989)

Nepali Congress (NC), the Nepal’s biggest rightist party, recently concluded its 12th General Assembly electing Sushil Koirala as the new president. With a history of leading all successful fights for democracy, and also tainted history for its unsuccessful governance, NC’s existence as one of the powerful political parties is important for the country as it provides the rightist hold in the political power balance that has, through the Constituent Assembly (CA) election, swung sharply to left.

Historically, NC has remained under hold of Koiralas – Sushil being the sixth Koirala president among eight in his long history. It still believes in the principles envisioned by BP Koirala and the contribution of Koirala family has been tremendous. The party’s newly elected CWC includes four Koiralas.

Throughout the history, also because of Koirala’s dominance, the party has remained conventional and undemocratic in itself. The joke that Girija Prasad Koirala would conclude his opening speech at the CWC meeting saying ‘you go on discussing agenda, I will return in three hours to announce the decisions’ did hold some truth.

Also, during elections, many believed NC chose candidates for their contribution and/or loyalty to leaders rather than his ability to win. Also true was that NC, in many occasions, did not favor popular voices – in both identifying prospective leaders and changing its principles.

The 12th General Assembly, however, hinted towards some ‘change of wind’ that the leaders and the party itself, if it wants to regain the position of the biggest party and fulfils the expectations of its cadres and people, should think, discuss and act upon.

The first good message that the assembly gave was that it still prefers honestly, loyalty and simple-life leader over extravagant leader. The defeat of Sher Bahadur Deuba should rather be taken as a defeat of his not-so-clean image rather than the faction. Koirala had already declared that he would only lead the party for one term, and if Deuba wants to ensure his victory next time, he should be able to clean up his image.

Similarly, if Deuba and Koirala panels are considered, almost equal numbers of members have been elected. While media are terming it division, it’s better for NC, and especially those elected to steer the party, to take it as the unity and accept each other equally. The first step towards accepting that value could be during nominations in CWC.

The strongest wind of change is indicated by the victory of Gagan Thapa as a CWC member. Thapa, the former student leader whom the earlier NC leadership tried hard not to promote in ranks, received the highest number of votes among 97 candidates. More than two-third of the NC delegates voted for him.

Gagan’s overwhelming victory is founded on multitude of reasons: he’s good orator, he has voiced for change (sometime even stood against all-dominant Girija Prasad Koirala) and he has established himself as the future hope of the party (and of course, his marriage with the daughter of a powerful leader who garnered second highest votes behind him should also have helped him). Youths are coming ahead with a strong voice for change in the old party – for good if the experienced leaders act wisely.

Right now, the leftist parties – the Maoist and CPN-UML – have failed to perform according to expectations, and NC had proved to be a vital power to keep a few things on track (or off track, you can argue), it’s high time that NC should adopt to the demands of time and convert it into a modern yet principally firm political party.

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I admit defeats

I admit defeats! First, I admit the defeat of hope of an average Nepali in the hands of the politicians whom I had the misunderstanding of having some qualities of the statesman.

By extending the term of the Constituent Assembly (CA) by one year, they proved true those who liked to call them the corrupt-minded and selfish. I’m sure many of the 601 CA members did not like the extension (compared to constitution) but they are more helpless than us.

They had to follow what their party/top leaders say and keep quiet. I can at least vent out.

I had always believed that no matter what the leaders say or do, they will somehow come out united to promulgate the new constitution within the deadline. For this side of the story, I debated at tea-shops/gatherings with some of the most pessimists; I wrote blog entries and I believed it would happen despite all odds.

But I am proved wrong. My belief based on hope was just a passing thought. My hope was just an arrow swishing through the dark unknown of its destination.

And, the the most importantly success in the part of the leaders (in keeping us foolish) is that they made us pray for the extension (forgetting that the mandate we gave them was for promulgation of constitution by May 28, 2010). Otherwise, they made us the believe, the country will go into deepest trouble possible.

Defeat is hard to digest; and to admit. The parties (I don’t know if they could be called political) could not even compromise (defeat is a long way ahead); not even for the betterment of the country and decided despite knowing the possibility of dirty games from extremists that the liquidity of the situation should continue rather than consolidated.

And, as I – as an average Nepali who provided mandate for the leaders to write constitution in two years – feel betrayed with the defeat, I sat to analyze where I was wrong.

The first wrong thing I thought was: Maoists are different. They proved not to be. They fought for power (not for people) as all other parties; were divided internally on personal egos and double-tongued.

The second wrong thing I thought was: the leaders learnt lessons after the Maoists’ War and the Royal Takeover that extremism can put the country in danger. They however did not. The April Uprising that people (not the parties) staged was not enough for them.

The third wrong thought I had: belief in magic. Yes, the country had never suffered much. Whenever it looked like the country going into a real danger of being a failed state, there was some magical turn that put the nation back on the track (the end of Maoists’ conflict and the end of Royal Regime).

I still believe in magic. I still believe that the leaders will do something. And, I still believe there will not be much problem. All this beliefs are there because I have no other options to believe on positively.

And, although I admit the defeat; there is no winner. I am defeated; all Nepalis are dejected; nation is beaten and the all those leaders, they too have lost. The winner: no one.

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(Enough is enough) End strike.

Our vote is for peace.

[UPDATE: At 9:30 p.m. on Friday, Maoist withdrew the general strike.]

So many wars, settling scores
Bringing us promises, leaving us poor
I heard them say, love is the way
Love is the answer, that’s what they say,
But look how they treat us, make us believers
We fight their battles, then they deceive us
Try to control us, they couldn’t hold us
Cause we just move forward like Buffalo Soldiers
Waving Flag by K’naan

On Friday, the indefinite general strike called by the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) entered the sixth day – without indicating that it’s going to do any good for anyone. The increasing incidences of minor clashes, however, are clear indication that a few more days of it may result in violence – the last thing that Nepalis want.

It’s time for main political parties to make compromise because this is not a ‘win-win’ situation but rather a ‘lose-lose’ situation with the Nepal – the country – and Nepalis – the people – are set to become the biggest losers.

Watching the Maoists’ YCL cadres carrying iron-rods or locals at Budanilkantha carrying Khukuris does not feel good in the hard time when for an average Nepali, their village/city is becoming a jail-like environment due to strike.

CPN-UML/Nepali Congress

We know this is the biggest time for you to ‘bring the Maoists on/below their real ground as their strike seemed to have no popular participation’.

But, for the country, the strike/indecisive situation is fast becoming a quicksand. So please, compromise – begin thinking that the Maoist is the biggest political force and the one that received votes of more Nepalis than any other party.

MAOIST

Success and failure travel together. Withdrawing a strike does not mean you failed – rather it will mean that you care for the country. If an agreement can be reached with the parties by withdrawing the strike first, please show that mercy to the country/people.

Don’t continue difference over a ‘bird first or egg’ issue.

The path to confrontations leads only to more confrontations, to achieve peace, all have to turn back to take a different path.

Enough is enough. End strike.

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The April Uprising

From April 5 to 24, we mark one of the greatest displays of people’s power. The Jana Andolan II or the April Uprising of 2006 was a landmark people’s movement that ended monarchy and Maoists’ People’s War establishing a more reformed democracy.

But more than that, it was a splendid example of what people of Nepal are capable of. Nobody counted, but estimated 500,000 people took on streets at the peak of the uprising – a huge number of those who are not otherwise interested in political activities.

I salute all those people for there bravery!

Photo from ekantipur.com

* * *

Mass is amazing. You never know what motivates them.

During April Uprising, they were motivated and it was their wishes with which political parties had not other options but to go along. People directed the course of movement and led it.

For me, it was two things that motivated them. First, it was a fight for democracy. Second, the success of the Uprising also meant the end of Maoist violence that killed 13,000 Nepalis.

* * *

Who did not participate in the Uprising. I remember all women of Kaushaltar rallying – wow! that was truly an amazing thing to behold. It was the enthusiasm of people who participated in the movement that made it a success.

Police and Army had not other options. They could not have shot at thousands of people.

Photo from ekantipur.com

* * *

Off course, majority of the people have gone into the shadows now.

Political leaders are on the top and all those in shadows believe, no matter what media says, the leaders will transform the country into a peaceful democratic nation.

We await the future.

But if people had directed the course of history in April in 2006, they can do it in any month of any year! And when people arise, all power will have to surrender!

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Maoists, lead now

When Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda visited Girija Prasad Koirala at a hospital on March 17, Koirala told him to shoulder the big responsibility of the peace process.

Probably Koirala, who passed away three days later, foresaw his demise and wanted leaders to know the importance of peace process and the need for unity [his last audible words were, according to his daughter Sujata Koirala, ‘national consensus.’]

The grandfather of Nepali politics is no more. The peace-broker is gone.

And, now, it’s time for the Maoists to fill in the role he was playing.


Why Maoists (or why not any other party or leader)? There are a few reasons.

Koirala did not tell any other leader to shoulder the responsibility of the peace process. Why? Because he knew nobody is capable. His own Nepali Congress is left with managers or leaders [but no statesman]. CPN-UML is seriously lacking the good leader. And, the two parties are more likely to be involved in internal scuffle rather than working united for the nation.

Even Maoists are not the best right now; but then there are leaders who could become the statesmen, and they lead the largest party which also happens to be a major player of the peace process.

Dr. Baburam Bhattarai said it was mistake in their part for not electing him the first President of Nepal. It would of course had been a fitting responsibility for Koirala, but Maoists played childish failing to understand that the politics is the game of balance rather than domination.

It looks like now they have understood it [unless they translate Koirala’s shouldering responsibility statement into leading the government meaning]. It’s up to Maoists now to try for national consensus and the successful conclusion of the peace process.

If Bhattarai can write that ‘we bowed our heads in reverence to GPK’ for his statement before the CA Elections [“I know my party is going to lose the elections and you people will win. But I will be happy if the elections are held in a peaceful and democratic manner.”]; he and his party should also think that ‘they should be happy if the peace process comes to a successful conclusion’.

For Maoists, it’s an opportunity to lead the nation. For Maoists leaders, it’s an opportunity to transfer themselves into the statesmen.

Maoists, lead now.

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