Bhupal Lamichhaney: Looking For Answers For Nepal

Published: Mon 3 Oct 2005 01:17 PM
Is Absolute Monarchy or One party Dictatorial Communism an Answer?
By Bhupal Lamichhaney
Conflict is inevitable. We cannot escape this. What we can do, however, is to address the conflict and transform into an atmosphere from where the beginning of sustain Peace can start. Peace is not just the situation where there is no war. Peace is also the situation where progress and prosperity, harmony and freedom, democracy and respect of human rights exist as well.
Societies in which respect for human rights and freedom are denied cannot be Peaceful, even though demonstrations and other so-called “disorderly” exercises of democratic rights are absent. In truth, these are cultures of silence not peace at all.
If any anti-establishment demonstration is organized in undemocratic societies, it will be done with full knowledge of the likely consequences of imprisonment, torture or death. This type of situation we observe in oppressive societies where human rights and democracy are considered as luxury for the educated elite alone, and the mass of people are deemed justly satisfied if only their basic needs are met, such as food, shelter, and clothing.
This kind of elitist doctrine indeed prevails in the minds of some rulers and their followers in the many parts of the world today. However, such people are undermining the democratic rights and freedom of all people who have the right to pursue for their own destiny in the peaceful means, not just the select few who try to uphold the state power by undemocratic means.
We all agree that Nepal is facing enormous problems at present. These problems are not the product of democracy. Nevertheless, during democratic rule these problems (conflicts) have been encouraged to appear that were underneath the surface in Nepalese society for centuries.
Providing opportunities to bring conflicts to the surface is necessary in order to transform them in peaceful means through democratic process. Conflict, if hidden, suppressed, and unmet over a long period will certainly explode into violence causing loss of life and property. However, many resolutions still need to insure the total livelihood of the Kamayas.
The status of Women, Dalit and Minority Rights are the prime concerns of present day Nepal. Maoists, too, have brought these conflicts out in the open air loudly by use of forceful means. Solutions to these problems are indeed time taking process. The solution to these problems may take many years. No single person in Nepal is of different view regarding this. The Maoists must have thought as well that magical solutions to these problems are not available. The same thing applies to the Monarchists.
To transform a society these conflicts need to resolute. Economic and political structural change can facilitate the process of transformation. However, the process requires time. It would be very naive to think that Nepalese society will emerge from these problems overnight.
To transform problems into opportunity and tackle the grave challenge, root causes of conflict must be addressed. There is no other alternative to this. If these problems are suppressed, for the time being, it may be silent now, but if unmet, it will continue to grow and eventually explode more violently. Addressing the root cause is the basic means for transformation of the Conflict. When the roots of injustice and exclusion are not tackled, the symptoms reoccur, often in a stronger form, until they are finally addressed. Nevertheless, at the same time this too will be a time taking process.
Organised violence, terrorism and war between and within nations threaten the very survival of human society. However, as mentioned before, peace is much more than the absence of behavioural violence and war. Peace requires effective, courageous peacebuilding and leadership at the grassroots on up through the middle sections of society, complemented by wise and inclusive elected governance at policy-making levels. The best-planned peace processes otherwise fail in the face of popular fears, stakes and sectarian divisions. From Northern Ireland to South Africa, from Angola to the Middle East, from Sri Lanka to our own country and beyond the lesson is the same.
In the post September 11 world, governments as well as rebels are increasingly turning to militaristic solutions. The militaristic solutions will never build peace. It may be necessary for peacekeeping but the conflict as in Nepal will never be resolved by militaristic solution.
Both parties in current Nepalese conflict are seeking solution through military might. This process of strengthening the military at the cost of civilian authority will further degrade the fundamentals of human rights and democracy. The evidences of violation of human rights from both sides have been reported at a growing rate. Torture, intimidation and killing without discrimination have become the common practices in the context of growing military presence.
The civil leadership in both parties are sometimes just helpless when strong protest from the military comes. The Government in the context of pressure from the RNA has ignored the agreement at the time of the Peace Dialogue between the Maoists and the Government regarding the movement of RNA later. At the same time, the Maoist leadership seems helpless when the PLA are killing, abducting and receiving money from innocent people and destroying the physical infrastructure against the decision of the leadership that has been made public through press releases from the Maoist Supreme Prachanda offering three months long unilateral cease-fire. This is how the military wing is overlapping the civil authority.
Indeed this situation is not benign to democracy and human rights. Once this kind of practise is established, it may be the turning point in the course of the nation. It will lead the destination of the country into never ending cycle of violence as in neighbouring Afghanistan.
The increasing presence of armed force in every state and party affairs will definitely promote forces like the Taliban. The rise of Taliban power was from foreign lands bordering Afghanistan. In context of Nepal, similar force can easily emerge from foreign land as people from Nepal are displaced and they are leaving the country. This could present a very grave problem to the core identity of Nepal. One of the major problems we have been facing as a nation is to sustain our nationhood. Our nation weakens daily because of the unending violence and presence of military undermining human rights and democracy by both parties at conflict. So keeping it secure from the presence of foreign hegemony is becoming more and more challenging.
In the presence of strong military in both conflicting parties, the third force in Nepal, those in favour of the democratic parliamentary system seem helpless. It is vigorously publicised that they need to support one of the party’s military resolution of the conflict. The triangular power equation is the reality of the country. These parliamentary parties are never in favour of building their own-armed force to dictate policymaking. Hence, the hope for the restoration of civil and non-military approaches to the solution of the problems lies within these parties.
There are many causes for this conflict to grow in such a destructive way. However, the conflict, as such, is a political one. Therefore, it requires a political solution to resolve it, not a military solution. A military solution will not be able to resolve this. If military intervention were the solution, either Maoist PLA or RNA would have won and restored peace in the nation. Nevertheless, restoration of peace is not as simple as the military planners of both sides have thought.
The armed conflicts in the world have shown predictable patterns. That whenever the presence of the Military is in the planning of the political affairs of a nation, it inevitably leads to a non-democratic dictatorial regime. This is true in Asia and Africa, Europe and in the Americas too.
Therefore, it has become all the more urgent to promote non-violent approaches to the resolution of conflict. However, there is a major problem preventing the growth of the conflict transformation constituency countrywide. A well-respected and well-versed organisation is yet to come out. The personalities now working for the promotion of non-violent resolution are not considered well trusted by all sides involved.
The prime ego and self-interest on the part of key players have not let the non-violent activists freely travel to the different parts of the country to spread conflict transformation information to the constituency. Policymakers in all the parties and practitioners alike are finding that the challenges they face make demands that go well beyond the initial stages; in addition, they have to face being challenged from within their own camps.
The non-violent approach to the solution of the conflict should be practical, flexible, cross-cultural, knowledge-and-theory-creating, and accessible and rooted in real work. It should be promoted and able to be freely engaged by individuals and their organisations at all levels in order to make a step by step change towards creativity. These societies must move beyond short-term, patchy impacts, towards major, sustained peacebuilding influence locally and nationally.
One key to building peace lies within civil society, where educated, thoughtful individuals living and working for peace and social justice in their own unstable and threatened societies. These practitioners or catalysts are often engaged in fields such as development, human rights, trades unions, journalism, agriculture, health, education, mediation and reconciliation, community relations, and emergency relief. The nature of violent conflict has so within our world that common citizens have become frontline actors.
An equally vital constituency exists at the policy and decision-making level. There is a real need for political, military and senior administrative personnel to be conversant with the essentials of conflict transformation, familiar with the crucial political and social issues fundamental to peace, and aware of the ways in which peacebuilding needs to be undertaken by all levels of society working together.
In order to make change happen in the different levels and sectors of society, root causes as well as the symptoms of insecurity and injustice must be addressed early. This will lead to an increase in need of competent individuals able to work effectively and sensitively in conflict-affected areas before conflict turns to despair and hopelessness, and violence erupts. Currently both civil society practitioners and policy-level people have little opportunity to reflect on their experience, much less to explore patterns and explanations and articulate their insights for truly meeting the needs and insuring the rights of the population as a whole.
It has always been a debatable issue as to how change can be brought about. Some are of view that socio-economic structure is the base of a society, so change in the socio-economic structure will pave the way for change. Some are of opinion that politics is the guiding factor of all the bases of society. Once politics is corrected, the gradual process of responding to change will occur and change in economy, culture and so on is bound to happen.
The present conflict has exposed many contradictions prevailing in our society. The causes to the contradictions need to be addressed in the process of negotiation. However, no causes can be solved at the negotiation table itself. For instance, if we want to eradicate poverty, no doubt the process of inclusion must be the entry point. Nevertheless, the negotiating table alone will not eradicate poverty. It provides the opening of the political process inviting all sectors to be involved in the negotiating process, to reconcile differences in a win-win setting, perhaps lay out a preliminary plan of action. However, the actual eradication of poverty will not happen while we are in the negotiation. Thus, all the concerned people must understand that peace building starts from nothing except dedication to Democratizing the Process itself.
The solution to the present crisis of Nepal cannot be realize through regression or in the name of progress banning the democratic rights of the people as in the classical communist societies. One party rule and undemocratic regimes have no place in present world politics. The world has become a global village. The classical communist rule in Nepal would be a dream of the believers of the communist doctrine, but as we have observed, even Mao’s China has changed itself from a classical communist state to a modern capitalist state by modernizing all sectors of the society except politics.
If any new political system has developed without any errors, the people in Nepal are ready to accept which should be democratic, respecting human rights at all levels. In the name of the solution of the present conflict, militarizing and converting the country into a communist or royal gulag cannot be tolerated. The forceful resolution, if it occurs will surly brings tragedy for the nation, as it will open a larger level of conflict. This could lead to unwanted results. Therefore, the only solution to the problem of the country is to accommodate all thoughts and ideologies. Is absolute Monarchy or one party dictatorial Communism an answer?
Bhupal Lamichhaney is vice president of Human Rights Organization of Nepal (HURON) one of the oldest HR organizations in the country. He has been writing articles on democracy and human rights in English and Nepali languages.

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