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Some Thoughts on Nepal

Friday 26 June 2009

Anand Swaroop Verma

After the resignation of the Prime Minister, Mr Pushp Kamal Dahal “ Prachand” the political parties once again have created the situation which reminds of the days of the 12-point agreement which took place in November 2005. The 12 point understanding was reached at that time between the CPN-Maoists (which was underground and carrying out peoples’ war) and seven parliamentary parties. This was a historic accord as based on this the programme which was framed that culminated in November 2006 peace agreement, election to the Constituent Assembly and establishment of republic.

If 12- point accord was not signed then the monarchy would not have been thrown out so soon in Nepal. This is worth recalling that America had brazenly launched a campaign against the accord. The then US Ambassador to Nepal, Mr James Moriarty had advised the parliamentary parties not to join hands with the Maoists and instead should face the Maoists in league with King Gyanendra.

He also told the parties that even if they had signed the accord they should come out of it and do some evaluation. This is imperative to mention that this agreement was signed in Delhi and at a time when the government of India was also busy arresting the Maoists of Nepal. Obviously this accord could not have been signed without the consent and knowledge of India. Since the image of Nepali Congress of the then Nepal prime minister, Mr Girija Pradad Koirala has been quite good in the eyes of the Indian government, this accord could be signed in India due to his efforts. However after some time once the situation completely normalised it was revealed that Mr Prachanda had suggested to hold the meeting in Rolpa and had even offered to ensure the security of the political leaders but Mr Koirala did not agree for this. Instead he selected Delhi while giving guarantee of security to Mr Prachanda and his colleagues. In fact once Mr Gyanendra took control of power on February 1, 2005 and launched the drive to arrest the leaders of the parliamentary parties then they realized the need for joining hands with the Maoists for providing strength to fight against monarchy. Maoists were also looking for proper opportunity to forge alliance with parliamentary parties.

The American reaction to this accord also revealed that notwithstanding mutual cooperation between India and US on many issue of having control on Nepal they have sever contradictions. India treats a strong presence of America in Nepal against its national interest.

The political polarization in Nepal on the issue of dismissal of the old Shahi army chief Rukmangad Katwal to a large extent is the manifestation of the American desire that all the parties should form a front against Maoists. Monarchy has been abolished but its remnants are present in the form of Katwal and once again America, which had earlier lost the game, has tried to turn the situation in its favour. It is significant that the parties like Nepali Congress, CPN (UML) and others have united on the issue of Katwal and trying to alienate the Maoists. The Nepali Congress and CPN(UML) which won only 37 and 33 seats respectively out of 240 seats of the constituent assembly are contemplating to form the government alienating the Maoists which won 120 seats in first-past-the-post voting.

An analysis of the May 2009 events would reveal that the former general secretary of CPN(UML), Mr Madhav Nepal who lost the elections badly from Kathmandu and Rautahat by less known Maoist candidates and whose party was completely washed out, was getting ready to take over the task of the prime minister. The persons who have led the people of Nepal, democracy of Nepal and politics of Nepal to such a dastardly shameful situation are the same who from the beginning were striving to forge some kind of understanding between monarch and the political parties so that a joint offensive could be launched against the Maoists. On May 17 Mr Nepal already managed to get the majority (301) with the help of Madhesi Janadhikar Forum and Nepali Congress. If some dramatic development does not take place he would become the prime minister.

This government would last for how many days or when the government will be constituted is yet uncertain. But one thing is certain that isolating the CPN(Maoists) which has 240 seats in the constituent assembly would be a tough proposition for any government to function.

Now it is gradually becoming clear that under a well planned conspiracy the Prachanda government was thrown out of power. It is also known who were the persons to encourage the army general Mr Katwal not to abide by the government orders. The main ally of the CPN(Maoists) in the government, the CPN(UML) had impressed upon Mr Prachanda for immediate sacking of Mr Katwal. After deliberating the issue inside the party the party chief Mr Jhalnath Khanal had conveyed this to Mr Prachanda. Despite this the day Prachanda sacked Katwal, the party protesting this step withdrew its support to the government. Incidentally the senior vice president of the party and home minister of the government, Mr Bamdeo Gautam had publicly criticized this move of his party and had described this as a suicidal step.

To express protest and displeasure at the President, Mr Rambaran Yadav reinducting Katwal, massive rallies were held in four major towns besides Kathmandu in the country. Addressing the massive rally in Kathmandu Mr Prachanda made it clear that under no circumstances the CPN(Maoists) would go back to the villages and forests and resort to guerilla warfare. It would take to peaceful struggle against the feudal and status quoits forces which do not desire that a complete structural change should take place in Nepal and a peoples’ constitution could be drafted. Mr Prachanda resigned on the issue of supremacy of civilian rule in contrast to the supremacy of army and increased the popularity of party many fold. Generally the action of President enacted in league with Katwal is being described as “coup’detat”. Mr Prachand holds the view that till the President does not retreat, the struggle will continue. On a whole once again Nepal appears to be on the threshold of a civil war.

The approach of Indian media on the developments taking place in Nepal has been quite shameful and ridiculous. Editorials of the newspapers and particularly of Hindi newspapers are quite amazing and unbelievable how could these newspapers muster so much of courage to disseminate misinformation to the people. These comments generally observe that Mr Katwal refused to succumb to the pressure of Mr Prachanda to take the guerillas of his Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) in the national army which is why he was sacked. Obviously if a reader is fed with this (mis)information he would stand by Mr Katwal and condemn Mr Prachand for this. For him the step taken by the President would appear to be rational. These editors even did not bother to inform that the question of induction of fighters of PLA into the national army was not the issue of Mr Prachanda or CPN(Maoists) instead it was the part of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement reached in November 2006 based on which the present incidents gradually developed. This is an integral element of the peace process. These editors even did not think it proper to inform that the peace accord reached between the government and Maoists underlined that neither the Maoists nor the government would go for fresh recruits till the two forces are unified. Violating this agreement Mr Katwal in fact recruited 3000 persons in the Nepali army. The UNMIN (United Nations Mission in Nepal) which has been monitoring both the armies had in fact written to the Prime Minister to stop recruitments in Nepali army. The Prime Minister through his defence minister had informed Mr Katwal of this direction but the army chief refused to abide it. During the rule of Mr Prachand atleast on five-six occasions Mr Katwal refused to obey the government orders.

The Hindi daily ’Janasatta’ carried the most idiotic editorial. It said "since Mr Prachand could not succeed in inducting his persons of the armed squad he sacked Mr Katwal". It also mentioned that his insistence to transform the army according to wish could not be accepted. Else, "tomorrow it would be said that the judges of the jan adalats (People’s Court) which he ran would be given the place similar to the judges of the judiciary. Democracy has its own norms, rules and compulsions. When a party or a government prefers to overlook these then that gives rise to the threat of authoritarianism’.

’Dainik Hindustan’ ran an editorial on May 5, 2009 under the heading "Prachand Arajakata" (Prachanda’s Anarchy). It wrote "This incident underlines that his dropping title Prachanda which he had adopted for guerilla war and becoming a suave Jananayak ( peoples’s leader) was a façade and he failed to provide a correct leadership to Nepal under the pressure of China and Maoists. Violence and immature political education and the illusion of having accomplished the Maoist revolution within 20 years did not allow him to understand the ground realities of his country as well as to his neighbouring countries. He was hell bent to induct the personnel of the peoples liberation army into the country’s army." The editorial had confessed that at the time of cease fire agreement the issue of unification of armies was included in it but the army chief was reluctant to accept it. Despite this the editorial declared sacking of army chief as disorder.

’Dainik Jagran’ wrote no army chief would ever accept those persons who were resorting to violence and arson till yesterday should be made the part of army. ’Dainuik Bhaskar’ also justified the opposition from the army chief as this was heinous attempt to politicise the army. Obviously the editorial made it clear that the editor was not aware of the fact the general was refusing to obey the political decision which was incidentally an important part of the peace agreement. ’Rashtriya Sahara’ held that Prachanda was trying to achieve his political target by inducting the PLA personnel into the army. Besides the editorial cautioned "Prachanda along with all Maoists should realize that in democracy and that too in a coalition government it was not possible to impose ones own desires on others and this was also against the principles of democracy".

On May 5 the article ’Nepal Phir Badhal’ (Nepal Again in Bad Shape) by Madhukar Upadhyaya editor of the daily ’Aaj Samaj’ observed "In spite of the protest from the partners of the ruling coalition, Mr Dahal at the advice of his party issued an order in the name of the army chief that former Maoist guerillas should be inducted in the army. Naturally the army chief refused to implement it and as a result Mr Dahal sacked him". Madhukar also wrote as to how in the entire world after a war comes to an end the fighters are not inducted in the army. He gave the example of Ajad Hind Fauj of Subhas Bose and said that the personnel of fauj were not taken in the Indian army. Some body should ask Madhukar what necessitated him to do so much of research. He should have known that the decision to absorb the maoist fighters in the army was arrived at after much deliberation and then the government had entered into agreement with the Maoists for unification of both the armies. Obviously it implied that Madhukar is not aware of the basis of the agreement and is also not aware of the sensitiveness of the situation.

The editorial of the ’Navbharat Times’ reflected that the writer was aware that under the peace agreement various parties had accepted this condition. This also mentioned that Katwal wanted some special power and for this he did not bother to confront the government. This was the only editorial which confessed that behind Katwal the President and all the political parties had opened a front against the Maoists.

In contrast to most of the idiot Hindi editors some editors tried to take the situation seriously and studied the matter in the right perspective. Look at the editorial of May 5 of ’Hindustan Times’- "Though the Maoists would be blamed for acting in haste and also unilateral, the undemocratic approach of the General towards the civic control and peace process is primarily responsible for the present crisis. At the time when the peoples’ struggle against the King Gyanendra was at its peak all the parties had agreed that PLA should be inducted into the democratized national army. Now once the democracy has been established and the task to create the Constitution of Nepal is in progress, the Nepali Congress and the CPN(UML) have gone back on this issue. The maximum damage has been done by the attitude of the General Katwal." The editorial refers to violations of the government orders by the General Katwal. The editorial mentioned that no democratic institution could tolerate such indiscipline of the General. It also referred to the danger that it may jeopardize the peace process. The editorial also wrote that the CPN(UML) and Nepali Congress on the name of opposing the Maoists had endorsed the actions of the President Yadav and also euglogised it that it started a dangerous precedent for the new born democracy and also people-army relation. ’The Asian Age’ also gave proof of its lack of knowledge. It also echoed the views of most of the editors of Hindi papers. It appreciated the President for the reason that he protected the army from being destabilized with the entry of the Maoist forces in the army.

Nepal has two armies: the old monarch’s army which is now national army and the Maoist PLA. National and international organizations have accepted the identities of both the forces. Under the 2006 peace agreement the national army is in the barracks and the Maoists forces are in specially erected cantonments. Since the two armies must not violate the peace agreement a UN Team has been monitoring them. Without knowing the following management mechanisms of the two forces, any comment would be incorrect and ridiculous.

1. In point 4 of the ’Comprehensive Peace Agreement 2006’ of November 21, 2006 under the heading ’Management of Armies and Arms’ the issue of management of the army has been explained. In point 4.4 it is stated that ’The interim cabinet shall form a special committee to carry out monitoring, integration and rehabilitation of the Maoist combatants.’

2. In the same manner in the part 20 of the interim constitution under the heading ’Provision Regarding The Army’ the issue of rehabilitation of the soldiers in the point 146 it has been mentioned "The Council of Ministers shall form a special committee to supervise, integrate and rehabilitate the combatants of the Maoist Army, and the functions, duties and powers of the committee shall be as determined by the Council of Ministers."

3. On December 23, 2007 a 23 point agreement was reached by seven parties. This was signed by Sushil Koirala( Nepali Congress), Madhav Nepal (CPN-UML), Prachand (CPN-Maoist), Amik Sherchan (Janamorcha), Narayan Man Bijukchhe (Nepal Majdoor Kisan Party), Shyam Sunder Gupta (Nepal Sadbhavana Party—Anandi Devi) and C P Mainali ( United Left Front). Under article of the agreement it is said "Regarding the integration of the verified combatants of the Maoist Army, the special committee formed by the Council of Ministers as per the interim constitution shall move ahead the process after deliberations/discussion"

4. The news released by ANI and Nepal News.Com it is said "the chief of the Nepal army General Rookmangud Katwal said that the political parties have already reached agreement on army integration." The General talking to newsmen in Kathmandu said that now discussions are going on amongst them which is the part of the democratic process. He said as per the peace pact and other understandings among the parties, the army integration will be carried out through a special cabinet committee which has not yet been formed."

5. On October 28, 2008 the government formed a five-member army integration special committee headed by Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Bamdeo Gautam who happens to be the leader of CPN(UML). Members of the committee include defence minister, Ram Bahadur Thapa, the leader of Madhesi Janadhikar Forum Mohammed Habibullah and Peace and Reconstruction minister Janardan Sharma (ex-officio member). One post was kept vacant for Nepali Congress. The main problem facing the committee was the Maoist wanted to head it which was opposed by the Nepali Congress. Finally the leader of CPN(UML) was entrusted with the task to lead the committee.

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Translation of the Hindi article published in the June 2009 issue of FILHAAL, a radical Hindi fortnightly published from Patna.