By S. Chandrasekharan
There was a hope that with the Maoists in power, the peace process and the constitution making will be completed before end May as directed by the Supreme Court.
When Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai began his term in August 28, there was a commitment to peace, constitution, good governance and economic prosperity.
After being five months in power, the commitment was reduced to peace and constitution. Following the central committee meeting of the Maoists, the Prime Minister finds himself to be increasingly isolated. It is a sad development to a promising beginning!
Now it appears that even the PM’s commitment to constitution making is in jeopardy. As late as January 28, he said that his party will use the 3 Ss- namely Sadak, Sadan and Sarkar to achieve a pro people’s constitution. (Whatever this means).
We find that after the last central committee meeting of the Maoists in mid December. , Prachanda is seen to be teaming up with the Baidya group to prepare for a people’s revolt rather than going ahead with the peace process.
Ram Bahadur Thapa the General Secretary of the Maoists who has now identified himself fully with the Baidya group is said it have made a statement in a closed door meeting that the Bhattarai government should earnestly use the government ( one of the fronts) for preparing the ground for revolt.!)
Dahal the chairman in one of his closed door meetings is also said to have admitted that he made a mistake in compromising with the parliamentary parties on the issue of peace and constitution and that he would no longer enter into any such consensus!
The result- the Maoists have gone back on their commitments and the consensus reached after long hours of discussion on the issues relating to the contentious issues on the new constitution and even on the integration process. They are not willing to close the camps of the ex combatants and there is no news yet whether those7365 cadres who have opted for voluntary retirement would be allowed to leave with the cash given to them!
For the past few days the opposition has not allowed the parliament to function. The leaders of the two major non Maoist parties the Nepali Congress and the UML have refused even to meet the Prime Minister to discuss the latest controversy relating to the regularisation of land deals made by the Maoists during the conflict.
The latest Controversy: In early January, the cabinet had decided to distribute land ownership certificates for plots purchased, sold and transferred by the “Revolutionary Council” of the Maoists during the conflict through the Revenue office.
The government planned to issue a 35-day notice to call the property owners to register the land transactions.
The decision may look harmless. But it has serious implications.
During the decade long conflict, the Maoists had through their revolutionary councils in the five districts under their control- Rolpa, Dolpa, Salywan, Jajakot and Kalikot authorised the sale, transfer and properties after collecting some fees from the beneficiaries. In all a total of 12.000 deals were made.
It could be argued that in the absence of any government administration, the land deals will have to be gone through and since the Maoists were in control, only they could approve the deal.. Fair enough, but what had happened was that in large number of instances, people were coerced to sell their land.
As part of the peace agreement, there was a promise by the Maoists that seized lands will be returned to the rightful owners.
The cabinet decision was therefore against the interim constitution, the CPA and the law of the land. This is the stand of the opposition and they have refused to allow the parliament to function until the decision is withdrawn.
The Supreme Court has also stayed the implementation of the cabinet decision.
It is not clear how the UDMF members in the cabinet agreed to the decision. Is it because that the decision involved only the mid western districts and not Terai? . Would they have allowed such a decision to be implemented in the Terai?
It is said that the Maoists are likened to a “freshly caged” tiger which tries to free itself through every possible gap in the cage and sooner or later it accepts the inevitability of confining itself to the cage, The cage in the Nepali context is the constitution and sooner or later they will have to come to terms with the law of the land, the existing realities and the constitution.
If the talk of going for a “people’s revolt” is just to get better terms for their cadres in the integration process and in the constitution, their actions could be justified. But if they really mean it, there are going to be more complications and instability.
It is getting clear by now that the calendar, the constituent assembly had set itself for the new constitution has already slipped and it may not be possible to complete the draft before end May. There is already a report in the media that the interim parliament has already approached the Supreme Court for further extension.
It is difficult to guess the reaction of the Supreme Court. It may ask the government to find other means to complete the constitution.