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Understanding psychological barriers to Nepal's peace process

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Overcoming psychological barriers to internalizing the peace process and its vital agenda in Nepal appears an indispensable task to save the country from the revocation of civil war, which if repeated, would causes far more serious losses to the Nepalis.

Despite ideological differences, it is possible for the Nepalis to transform their society by implementing progressive political and socio-economic agenda. However, the political parties that ruled Nepal for decades under absolute and semi-autocratic monarchy are afraid of those agenda because they have got under-sized after the Maoist rebels emerged as the largest political force through the Constituent Assembly elections held on 10 April 2008.

Late Girija Prasad Koirala, former prime minister and Nepali Congress President, though he preferred the retention of monarchy, did sign in the declaration of the republic because of all-out pressures across Nepal. He, in no way, could resist those peoples' pressures. Before the declaration of monarchy on 28 May 2008, he was still pronouncing 'baby king' mantra. There, definitely, were many other Nepali Congress leaders, who opposed Koirala's signing in both the Comprehensive Peace Accord (21 November 2006) and the declaration of republic. But they, too, were unable to face the upsurging people all over Nepal. The situation was beyond their control. Keeping silent was the only safest way for them then.

Now the situation has changed somewhat after two years of the abolition of monarchy replaced by republic. Monarchists rooted in various political parties have enjoyed at least two years to get better organized for proceeding with their overt and covert campaigns to restore monarchy. They are using subtle language and communal terms to preach monarchy.

Especially, advocates of monarchy have made the provision of secular state in the Interim Constitution 2007 a primary agenda for referendum. Kamal Thapa and Khum Bahadur Khadka, both former home ministers under monarchist rule, have tried to instigate the Nepalis, most of whom are Hindu followers. Both of them have been advocating the restoration of monarchy at any cost. Thapa, the chief of the Rastriya Prajatantra Party Nepal (RPP-Nepal) represents only one percent vote in the Constituent Assembly elections while Khadka, an influential Nepali Congress leader, was defeated by Maoist rebels in the elections.

Prachanda tried to take actions against the then Army Chief Katawal who directly defied the elected government and its Defense Ministry by making parallel decisions within the Army. Besides, Katawal usually delivered political speeches directed against the overall peace process and the Comprehensive Peace Accord, the main basis of the peaceful transformation of the 10-year long Maoist insurgency in which about 15,000 people were killed. Since the integration, management and rehabilitation of the Maoist combatants have remained the vital points of peace agreement, the Nepalis in general had never expected the then Army Chief to advocate against this provision. He continuously stood as an above-the-constitution force directly disobeying the peace agreement. While he repeated that he would never let the integration, management and rehabilitation of former rebels--vital peace agreement components--happen in Nepal, Maoist Prime Minister Prachanda, who led the then five party coalition government, proposed actions against the anti-peace process army chief. Even after two-month long talks with other coalition partners on the issue, Prachanda was unable to win their support. While in such a moral impasse, Prachanda on 4 May 2009 unilaterally sacked the army chief, who tried to over-rule the elected government.

But President Yadav sent a special letter to Rookmangud at midnight nullifying the elected prime minister's decision and reinstituting the sacked army chief President Yadav did not refer to any Article of the Interim Constitution in which there is no provision for any executive decision-making role for the ceremonial president.

In response to this parallel rule by the ceremonial president, the then Prime Minister Prachanda, elected from both of this constituencies--one in the capital (Kathmandu)and the other in Rolpa district--resigned from his post stating that ceremonial President Dr. Ram Baran Yadav and the then Army Chief Rookmangud Katawal overruled the democratically elected government.

"The interim constitution does not give any right to the president to act as a parallel power," he stated in his resignation letter.

Following the immediate resignation caused by the defiance of Katawal and President Yadav, the United Communist Party of Nepal Maoist (UCPNM) launched street and House protests for several months. Their seven-month long protests across Nepal have proved them to have been the largest political force in Nepal. This power of Maoists has extremely distressed other peace process stakeholders whom the former rebels have not been able to convince positively.

Behind the quick departure from the elected government replaced by all defeated leaders' government--a universally notable farce in democracy--both national and international experts of international analysts need to pay attention to the existing complications in the inter-party and intra-party ideological relations.

While 99 percent of the Nepalis have really welcomed the abolition of monarchy, 99 percent leaders in the Nepali Congress party and the United Marxist-Leninist (UML) party still have not internalized this change. Just for the sake of vendetta war against the former rebels, they have shown their reluctance to internalize the republic. Without internalizing the end of monarchy, it will not be possible for them to be cooperative and positive as to institutionalizing the republic.

Regarding the complicated inter-party relations, the Nepali Congress and the UML are ideologically similar in essence while Maoists are basically different. The two parties, in collaboration with hardcore underground monarchist fighters with the bent of rightist extremism, have activated their previous contras to kill change-advocates and activists, according to locals of Rautahat, Siraha, Dhanusha, Parsha, Bara, Kapilvastu, Nawalparasi, Arghakhanchi and Rupandehi. Continuous contra activities causing increasing deaths may jeopardize the very peace process in the country.

The Nepalis, especially the majority of working class people, expect remarkable changes in their political and socio-economic spheres should there be no military interference from India and the USA. Both India and the USA favor conformist leadership in Nepal. They appear extremely uncomfortable with the emergence of the UCPN as the largest force. Both the nations believe that Maoists can never be democratic. No matter how they react to Nepal's reality, the fact that they prefer a Nepali leadership favorable to Indian and US interests is apparent. Besides, ideological prejudices work as the chief barriers between Maoists and non-Maoists, at home and outside the country.

Top-ranking Nepali Congress leaders Sushil Koirala, Sher Bahadur Deuba and Ram Chandra Poudel have accused Maoists of not wanting to draft a new constitution. Similar remarks by top-ranking UML leaders Khadga Oli, Jhalanath Khanal and Madhav Kumar Nepal have been common in the current media coverage.

On the other side, Maoists have been accusing non-Maoist parties, mainly the Nepali Congress and the UML, of trying to annihilate the working class forces through a presidential coup backed by the Nepal Army still led by hardcore monarchists. They feel that the traditional monarchist army cannot help to institutionalize the newly declared republic unless state restructuring is guaranteed, with the guarantee of restructuring national defense systems.

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