Maoist leader Parchanda'santi-Hindu bais is no surprise. A Christian by faith and a Maoist by conviction, he is not expected to have respect or sympathy for Hindu identity, values and traditions, Nepal is so proud of. His first ?achievement? after the King relinquished absolute power was to rescind the centuries-old tradition of Nepal'sidentity as a Hindu State. After signing a comprehensive agreement with the Government led by the Seven-party-alliance, he is now insisting that the cow ceases to be country'snational animal. Non-communist pro-democracy parties are resisting this unreasonable demand as Nepalese worship the cow and hold it in high regard as Hindus do all over the world. Parchanda? uncompromising stand on the cow has converted it into a major controversy. This is emerging as roadblock in arriving at a consensus on the interim constitution.
There is no dearth of issues that are dogging the peace process. Certain elements in the Government and outside have openly come out in support of the demand for a constitutional monarchy. Gopal Man Shreshta, a senior Minister in the Governmment, has gone further to demand that the King be made the interim President till elections are held and a new Constitution adopted. Fate of the monarchy, he says, is a complex and sensitive issue and it will not be easy to abolish 238-years old monarchy by merely adopting a clause in the proposed Constitution Assembly. The pro-democracy parties are divided on the method to resolve the issue. While the Nepali Congress – the largest amongst them – wants the issue to be resolved through negotiations, some other parties want the decision to be left to the Constitution Assembly. There is also a view that the fate of the monarchy be decided by a referendum. A recent poll – no one knows how credible it is – says 52 per cent of Nepalese want the monarchy to be retained as a ceremonial institution. Many in Nepal and country'sfriends in India feel that constitutional monarchy will bring stability to the country divided down the middle by the Maoist violence and inept and insensitive handling of the mass upsurge by the King. Despite the King and Crown prince'spersonal unpopularity, there is considerable public support for the monarchy as an institution.
The implementation of the agreement over management of the arms is also posing problems. It was decided that weapons and arms with the Maoists will be kept in containers in 28 camps where the cadres would be settled and allowed to carry on their drills but no arms training. A total of 315 armed- cadres will guard these camps under the overall supervision of the UN. The cadres who had been brought to these camps are said to be restive. They complain of lack of basic amenities, though the Government has sanctioned RS 10 crore for providing infra structure in these camps. This may be a minor irritant. The crucial issue is whether the rebels masquerading as revolutionaries will hand over their arms, refrain from indulging in extortions, abductions and violence? Or will their leaders make politically correct noises while their followers continue to play havoc with the civil society? The peace process can go forward only if the rebels sincerely implement the understanding and abide by the commitments they have made.
The conduct of the Maoist cadres is already a cause of concern for those who want peace and democracy to return to the landlocked country. It has created serious doubts about what would happen during the impending elections to Parliament/Constituent Assembly. No one believes that Maoists will deposit all the arms and weapons they have accumulated with the help of other terror groups and countries hostile to India. There are grave apprehensions that a large part of arms and a large section of the cadres would remain underground as part of the Maoists? grand strategy. They will be used in the coming elections to terrorise people and rig polls. These fears are not totally unfounded for experience world over is that no terror outfit lays down all its arms. It goes without saying that no free and fair election can be held if one of the parties in the field has armed cadres fully trained to terrorise the electorate. This poses a huge challenge for the UN that will supervise the management of weapons and for the fragile Government headed by Koirala. Much will depend on how far they succeed in containing the use of the gun by the Maoists in the coming parliamentary elections.
Although age and health are not in his side, the Prime Minister has shown courage and grit to resist pressures from Maoists and their friends in India – particularly the CPM to whom the UPA Government seems to have outsourced the Nepal desk in External Affairs Ministry. Koirala stood his ground and didn'tagree to totally negate the role of monarchy in the country. The PM also declined to include Maoists ministers in the Government till the issue of management of weapons and cadres were sorted out. Unfortunately, democratic forces in Nepal are divided and the army – or its part that may be allowed to move out of the barracks – is unlikely to have adequate manpower and moral to ensure a free and fair play, notwithstanding the fact that the Prime Minister holds the defence portfolio. The army too has been asked to deposit weapons – equal in number of the arms deposited by the rebels – in stores under the supervision of UN. One can only hope and pray that any attempt by Maoists to rig the polls through terror tactics would be foiled by the Government, the UN and the international community, including India.
Unity among democratic forces in Nepal is the crying need of the times. It is only through a joint effort that they can possibly prevent the Maoists to capture power by fraudulent means. That would be worse than the cruel and anti-people rule by the King. First of all, the Nepali Congress must put its own house in order. Both the factions must sink their personal egos and work together. They also need to have an electoral understanding or alliance with CPM-UML (a group of several communist parties) led by Deputy Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli. Although reports from the interiors suggest that Maoist wouldn'tallow any other party to win, there is a chance of an alliance of the Nepali Congress and CPM-UML forming the next government if elections are, by and large, free and fair.
Oli, who is the Foreign Minister in the present dispensation, was in India recently. New Delhi needs to heed his advice albeit unsolicited to avoid ?past mistakes? not necessarily of his perception. It also applies to Nepal that is understandably keen to maintain the status quo with regard to open borders between the two countries as a ?symbol of enduring friendship and cooperation between the two countries?. Its leaders and citizens must appreciate that expecting India to stand by them and give Nepalese equal rights with our citizens and hurting our national interests by exporting Maoist and Islamic terror and heaping insults on us can'tgo together. UPA Government also needs to remember that acting in Nepal under pressure from the Left is neither in our national interest nor in the interest of cordial Indo-Nepal relations. New Delhi must wake up to the developments in Nepal and reorient its diplomacy to ensure that no third country is able to create mischief in a country with which we have unique historical, religious and cultural relations.