Nepali Times Asian Paints
PRASHANT JHA
Plain Speaking
Struggle for existence


PRASHANT JHA


A survey of key recent events is revealing.

There are increasing incidents of Maoist land-grabbing and forest-clearing in the Tarai to settle supporters from the mid-hills. The Maoists are in the process of announcing autonomous ethnicity/nationality based provinces. The NC has not yet submitted a common draft of its vision of federalism to the CA committee. The NA has been facing relentless international pressure to punish major violators of human rights, rather not reward them. And the PLA is organising a major sports jamboree to celebrate its ninth anniversary in a few months.

The Maoists can selectively cite instances and accuse the other side of being 'regressive reactionaries' bent on protecting the present state. The others can in turn point to the pattern of peace agreement violations by the Maoists and claim the former rebels are 'preparing for an urban insurrection' to establish a people's republic.

Both perspectives might be considered at least partially fair. What we are witnessing is a battle to determine the precise balance of power. Both sides feel they are stronger than the other. The non-Maoists feel confident with the army and India's support; the Maoists rely on their massive organisational structure and ability to cripple the state. Their respective constituencies are telling them not to compromise and instead prepare for a 'final confrontation'.
But there is another pattern to the recent incidents.

All of them essentially revolve around three broad issues - land, federalism, and the state of the security sector. Three years on from the CPA, there has been little progress on any of those fronts.

There are still demands for the return of confiscated property, while the Maoists continue to insist on the need for 'scientific' land reform. There has been broad acceptance of the decision to adopt a federal structure, but little concrete discussion on how ethnicity will be accommodated. Most worryingly, NA continues to be bloated and unreformed, and is increasingly restless about the restrictions on recruitment and arms supplies. Meanwhile, the PLA has become stronger and more cohesive with state funding, and is a distinct political voice within the Maoist structure.

On top of this, we live with the fiction of the CPA, which still has no independent monitoring mechanism. Nepali actors only remember the accord when they have to accuse the other side of breaching it. Internationals can point to the importance of the CPA all they like, and it does serve a purpose in deterring an outright resumption of violence. But they are holding up a baby long after its Nepali parents have given up on it.

So what we are seeing now is a real struggle to determine the balance of power, seen as necessary to determine which side will dominate the discussions on the shape of the Nepali state, and who will subsequently run it. This battle is so fundamental that no short-cut deal will fix the problem.

What is needed is a really broad alliance across parties, diverse segments of civil society, ethnic groups, classes, and international actors. This can then facilitate another accord that builds on the CPA and takes on board the anxieties of all actors - from the parties' suspicion of the Maoist commitment to pluralism; the Maoist need for credible guarantees that they will have a stake in a changed power structure; the NA's fears that this is all a conspiracy to subvert the institution; and the apprehension of the marginalised that they will never move beyond token representation.

The possibility of such an alliance or agreement is zilch right now. It will only happen when all sides recognise that they have to work together, shedding both entrenched privileges and dogma. For this to happen, there has to be a crisis that shakes them out of their stupor and brings home the point that Nepal is too fragmented for the hegemony of one ideology or actor.

Till then, we can only watch and wait as confrontation escalates.

READ ALSO:
Held hostage
, Editorial - FROM ISSUE #479 (04 DEC 2009 - 10 DEC 2009)
Parliamentary supremacy, Editorial - FROM ISSUE #478 (27 NOV 2009 - 03 DEC 2009)



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