By Dr. S. Chandrasekharan
The year 2010 has been rightly described as one of ‘lost opportunities’ in Nepal. One of the able commentators ( C.K. Lal) had said and it is worth quoting- “It was a year when conscience and good sense took a collective leave of absence from the minds of men and women entrusted with the task of shaping the destiny of the country.”
Many in Nepal as usual are putting the blame on India. I wish India had been all that powerful and influential- but it is not so. All the political parties are to be blamed, though the Maoists should take the major share as it was within their capability to transform Nepal into a progressive democratic country.
Ideologically, the party is battling within itself on a “two line struggle’- whether to be pragmatic and consolidate the achievements made so far and then fight further as Dr. Baburam Bhattarai one of the Vice Chairman desires or to follow the radical line of Mohan Baidya which does not have any faith in the peace process and therefore to go for a “people’s revolt”.
Times have changed. Already half of over 19,000 combatants in the camps are looking for rehabilitation. The jungles are not waiting for them either.
All achievements made including the success in the last interim elections that indicated an overwhelming desire of the people for a “change”will be wasted if the party really means what it said in the last central committee meeting to go for a people’s revolt.
It is still not clear why Prachanda, a pragmatist at heart went along with the view of the hard liners. If it is to put pressure on India, it is not going to work notwithstanding the visit of some of the emissaries to Nepal with official blessings.
Media reports indicate that Lynn Pascoe, the UN under secretary general, who visited India before coming to Nepal was told by Indian officials that the Maoists were the ‘main problem’ in concluding the peace process and writing the constitution.
It is important for the democratic parties who are having problems of their own to ensure that the peace process should not proceed unilaterally without credible steps taken to integrate or rehabilitate the Maoist combatants in the camps. Some in these parties still believe that the status quo would benefit them to enable some of the discarded politicians to come to power again!
Firstly a beginning should be made. This has not been done. The Maoist combatants in the camps are a law unto themselves. The UNMIN appears to be determined to wind up and leave by January 15th, but the Maoists are still hoping that they will stay longer. The Nepali Congress is equally adamant in getting the Nepal Army out of the ambit of monitoring.
Secondly, why should the Maoists go for integration or dismantling of YCL camps if their main agenda is to go for people’s revolt again? At least this is their official agenda. They will have to first sort out their internal problems and should come out firmly not in rhetoric but in action. A doable action plan for integration and rehabilitation on a time scale prepared by the Special technical committee on integration was rejected by them. ( More on this later.).
The High Level Task Force led by Prachanda which made remarkable progress with half the contentious issues settled, has for no reason wound up abruptly. The 27 party coalition declared recently on 20th December that the Constituent Assembly should be involved and not the task force in sorting out the issues. But the CA has not met for quite some time and they have many other issues pending.
It is not certain whether the leaders are aware that while everything can be postponed including the integration, what cannot be changed is the dead line of May 28 given by themselves when the current interim constitution lapses.
The Special Committee on integration and rehabilitation had made a five phased integration plan to be completed by 2013 and as said earlier, the Maoists have given a dissenting note. The plan of action begins with an initial move to have command and control over the Maoist combatants before the UNMIN leaves.the scene.
The first phase is to establish a chain of command to take over the monitoring mechanism in the 28 cantonment sites with a mixed group of retired Army personnel and representatives of Maoist combatants.
The second phase is to divide the groups into those for integration (I), those for Rehabilitation (R) and those who would voluntarily retire. (V). This is to be completed by next March.
In the third phase, from 1st week of March, the combatants are to be moved to the training camps. Those disqualified for integration are also to be moved out to rehabilitation camps for training.
In the fourth phase that will go on from June 2011 to 2013, the combatants thus integrated are to be fully trained and those in the rehabilitation camps to have their training in skills completed.
The last and final phase is said to be completing the whole process and tying up all loose ends.
The plan is a doable one but can be done only with the full cooperation from the Maoists. Some of them have started even questioning the very fundamentals of integration. They demand that the two armies the Nepal Army and the PLA should be merged to form a new national army and not a mix of PLA into an existing army as proposed now.
It looks that they would go along with the present process, until they come back to power with Prachanda in the lead or when a pliable personality like Khanal of UML is installed. Some reports indicate that they do not even mind Sher Bahadur Deuba once again! What an irony?