THIS IS IT
FROM ISSUE #579 (18 NOV 2011 – 24 NOV 2011) | TABLE OF CO November, marks the fifth anniversary of the signing of the UN-brokered Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) that formally ended ten years of conflict between the Maoists and the state. It ended the war, but didn’t bring peace. The Maoists lowered their guns, but didn’t abandon them. They joined mainstream politics, but didn’t abjure violence.
Few remember the sense of jubilation that swept the nation as Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Girija Prasad Koirala signed the document in the presence of senior leaders and the UN brass. The ceremony was held inside the BICC, that later served as the Constituent Assembly.
As I write this, the amnesty case of Balkrishna Dhungel is raging like wildfire, jolting Baburam Bhattarai’s seat of power. There have been five prime ministers in the last five years, all of whom have failed to deliver. There may now be a sixth. Impunity is rife, and the rot starts at the top. Power cuts and fuel shortage have worsened. Farmers are having to take to the streets to demand fertilisers. The middle class is struggling to keep up with inflation.
Never mind the disillusionment this has created in the general public, like a bad dream, the ex-guerillas who had fought for change are now engaged in an intense struggle for the hearts and minds of their own radicalised cadre base.
In the past five years, there have been 4-point, 5-point, 7-point agreements. Promises no one intended to keep, agreements not worth the paper they were written on. Everyone played for time until they ran out of time. All they were interested in was to lengthen their time in office so they could amass wealth from kickbacks and payoffs. Most people were past caring, they raised their heads when Baburam Bhattarai became prime minister with slender hope that he would be different. But they have been tragically disappointed again.
Four years ago, just before the CA elections, I was travelling across Rolpa, the district that was the cradle of the Maoist revolution. Everywhere in Rolpa, hopes ran high. Infrastructure projects that had been stuck for more than a decade were being revived. In Thawang, ex-guerillas were building a micro-hydro power plant. A huge festival was being organised in Jaljala, a historically significant place for the Maoists, to promote tourism in the region.
Finally it seemed like Rolpa would rise. After all, the very leaders who had taken shelter in homes that were destroyed in bombings from helicopters had risen to power in Kathmandu. Thawangis were sure that their time had come.
I can never bring myself to accept violence as a political tool, but could understand the anger of women who had lost all their male relatives to war, were raped and battered and were raising babies of the enemy. But even they lit up with hope talking about the future. They were glad the war was over.
The dream has shattered. The Maoists turned out to be like everyone else. After getting to power in Kathmandu, they forgot about Thawang and Jaljala. Parts of Thawang are still in ruins.
The promises of leaders to make Thawang a model commune commemorating the civil war fails to elicit any response from the villagers anymore. And there are other promises which have remained unfulfilled. The families of the disappeared are still seeking closure, thousands of internally displaced people are waiting to go back home. They have waited for five years without result and have now given up on the government.
This is the silence that is mistaken for peace today. This year, too, there will be the usual rituals marking the CPA anniversary. Leaders will wax eloquent on the historic agreement and its significance. The people will not be listening because they have heard it all before.
Why not do some damage control by paying a fitting tribute to the CPA, by immediately setting up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, or by forming the Commission on the Disappeared? This is what will finally determine the direction of the peace process, how the grievances and discontent of the conflict affected people are managed. In their squabble for power, leaders have forgotten what they had actually come together for five years ago. What a waste.