Sunday, November 21, 2010

Still Waging Our Peace War

Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal exonerates the Maoists from damaging allegations that they are training India’s Naxalite guerrillas. In return, our former rebels beat up Finance Minister Surendra Pandey in parliament just when he thought he had the Maoists’ approval to present the delayed budget.
The minister happens to be an in-law of Premier Nepal’s chief rival in his CPN-UML, the chairman Jhal Nath Khanal. Amid the bedlam, the prime minister rams his budget through a presidential ordinance and announces his intention to go to Russia for a tiger summit.
The Maoists, upholding their pledge to block a full-fledged budget, get to growl inwards at their Gorkha plenum. The Nepali Congress’ Ram Chandra Poudel, the sole candidate for much of the legislature’s embarrassing search for a new prime minister, is left in limbo. However, he, too, gets to boast that his hanging candidacy is what stops the Maoists from capturing the state.
Meanwhile, the chief of the Armed Police Force denies ever having suggested that he had found no evidence of the Maoists’ training the Naxalites – which had ostensibly underpinned Premier Nepal’s exculpation. And so the peace process completed four agonized years.
When the nation is expected to pin its hopes on secret conclaves, peace in pieces looks better than nothing. But what exactly is it that we have been collectively seeking?
For the mainstream parties, the peace process was something to hit back at the monarchy with. The Maoists went along because their principal external patron shared that sentiment, all the while hedging its bets.
Today, the international community is anxious to see the integration of the state and former rebel armies as the most compelling evidence of peace. This comes at a time when fewer and fewer ex-fighters seem to consider that as a prerequisite to peace. The human rights wings of the world body want to see that part of their agenda on the front-burner, something their cousins in the non-state sector are far more incendiary in asserting. Words like justice and reconciliation would have retained their sonorous ring if the truth of it all had not kept shifting so swiftly.
A chastened Nepali Congress today wants the Maoists to prove their commitment to the democratic process, despite the fact that the voters validated those credentials by electing them the largest party over two years ago. Even then, the Nepali Congress wears a far more substantive aura than the UML, which does not seem to know what it wants from the ex-rebels.
The Indians want the Maoists sidelined because they had envisaged the ex-rebels merely as something that would propel the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) protests beyond Ratna Park. The SPA’s subsequent performance has fallen far short of New Delhi’s expectations. The mainstream parties may have succeeded in pulling the Maoists to their own level of ordinariness. But they did little to foil the ex-rebels’ overtures to Chinese pragmatism. Beijing, which once helped the palace and the parties in their effort to crush the rebels, today wants the Great Helmsman’s local offspring to head a broad patriotic front.
The Americans want the ex-rebels to maintain equidistance between the regional behemoths and have been extending a lateral hand in all directions. The Europeans, Russians, Japanese, Pakistanis, Arabs are all staking their claims. The international left is more interested in peddling such pet issues as homosexuality and abortion – not to mention that perfect watermelon, environmentalism – as the defining characteristics of Nepal’s newness over everything else. The global right is not only resisting with full force, but the evangelical variant also wants to spread the Good News in such a way that there is no Second Going.
What do Nepalis want? Surely, there must be something more than the CNN Hero and Alternative Nobel laurels.