Nepal: Human Rights in Perplexity
(First published date: 2006/2007 )
Nepal is the country for whom? Democracy is only the pretence of a word; human rights are only a constitutional decoration. Similarly, a resolved peace agenda is the only likely way to create a stable government.
Nepal is the poorest country in the world with low per capita income, along with other low demographic indicators. Due to political instability and an unsystematic development process, the nation has not been able to fulfil the needs of the poor for a long time. Before 1990, the non-democratic government, which ruled for 30 years, never worried about national development. Corruption, administrative carelessness, impunity, criminal activities and so many other social evils have existed within the nation as a consequence of bad governance, which was especially exposed through open media after the restoration of democracy in 1990.
In the 1990s, a popular movement created a new constitution with a clear provision of fundamental rights for the people, allowing the Nepalese people to develop into citizens from the King’s countryman. However, the political parties concentrated on their own welfare, rather than the national and institutional development of democracy. Similarly, ethnic and caste discrimination, economic crisis, people’s participation in the development and social process became a neglected issue. As a result, rich people became richer & richer, and the poor remained almost the same. Thus, ‘Voicing the Voiceless’; rural communities and helpless people are now concerned with the Maoist slogan toward expectation to revolutionize. But this Maoism that has captured the rural areas creates deadly violence using weapons and has killed 4,312 people within nine years.
In this situation, the Monarch, King Gyanendra, dissolved the elected government headed by PM Sher Bahadur Deuba on the 4th October 2002 and retained executive power of the State. The pro-parliament political parties have been flaying the Royal Declaration from the very beginning, labelling it unconstitutional, along with a demand to correct it. Regrettably, the Royal Palace, never anxious for political parties, continues to formulate its own road map for the non – democratic way.
King Gyanendra imposed a state of emergency on the 1st February 2005, justifying his seizure of power by blaming Nepal’s political parties for failing to address the nine-year conflict between often brutal Maoist insurgents and government forces. All fundamental constitutional rights, including freedom of assembly and expression; the right to information and privacy; the property right; and the prohibition against arbitrary detention were suspended. According to the INSEC, 3,332 political activists were arrested, and 2,232 are released on the 1st Feb. to the 2nd June 2005.
Analyzing the above situation of Nepal, we can find out some major problems: 1) the loss of Democracy; 2) strangled Constitutional exercise, 3) peace in perplexity; and 4) violence developing as a culture. Human rights and open media are hidden through the lack of democracy and peace. These are the causes of the division of Nepal into four sectors; a Royal Palace with army power; political parties with popular support; Maoism and violent activities; and finally, the International community in the leadership of the UN.
As part of the United Nations’ ongoing effort to help find a peaceful resolution for the conflict in Nepal, Secretary-General Kofi Annan sent his Special Adviser, Lakhdar Brahimi to meet with top officials in the strife-torn Himalayan kingdom of Nepal. Mr Brahimi, an older diplomat, during his visit in Nepal from the 10th to 15th of July, met with King Gyanendra, senior Government officials, leaders of political parties and a cross-section of representatives from Nepalese society. Likewise, In April, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour and the Government signed an agreement to set up a monitoring operation to help establish accountability for rights abuses and prevent further violations by all sides in the nine-year-old armed conflict with Maoist rebels.
“I don’t believe that peace will come. If the peace talks fail, the fighting will begin again. Even if they succeed, the Army and the Maoists will take all the jobs. If the fighting begins again, we’ll have to run away and hide and hope we survive.”
I have picked up this expression from the Elderly Man of Sankhuwasabh Village to explain what types of effects on development the internal war in Nepal has and will have. In the same way, the Elderly Village Woman added, “We are old. We don’t care about ourselves. We want our children to grow up without war without being afraid. People say peace has come, but it’s not true. We are still afraid to walk around freely, and nobody knows what might happen tomorrow.” These few words are not only the view of these two villagers; it represents the grief of the Nepalese inner soul.
Due to the conflict between the Maoist supporters and the government, the above expressions have gained validity. The Maoists control several rural areas of Nepal, and the government has been forced to withdraw police and civil servants to the district capitals. Furthermore, the government has dissolved the local bodies, and as a result, the Maoists have developed their own mechanisms for operating the community. For example, they are on the way to launching a new education and centralized property system. On the other hand, the government implements most of the budget to protect the war, not for primary education, health care and other means of development. In this situation, due to the lack of democracy, the major donors and agencies have suspended their funding and army support. This meant a serious deterioration of security for the civilian population in the countryside. Besides, several relief projects, NGOs and international donor projects have been forced to pull out their workforce in the remote regions, further generating a difficult situation for the civilians.
Internal displacement is another important issue, where a large number of people are being displaced every day. Some districts are dispatching people, and some are receiving large numbers of displaced persons. The displaced people initially come to the district headquarters, city or capital (Kathmandu) and later move further on, seeking shelter and refuge. Currently, Kathmandu is crowded by them, who are in movement, demanding to receive internal refuge from the government and UN.
Rural youth have options either to involve themselves in the Maoist movement and raise weapons or exit the country to protect their lives. By this way, the rural area is a youth free zone. They exit to India or the Gulf countries to protect their lives. For students, their choices are European and American countries for further studies. These ways, the Nepalese are well-known as serious violators of the constitution, democracy and human rights, rather the country of Mt. Everest & Lord Gautam Buddha.
The past educates us; it is a bitter fact that those who have military power will in no way give up their authority effortlessly to those who weep for power, particularly to those who have pushed a nation into confusion and a quantifiable state. At this time, present political leaders are bad, not political parties. Democratic governments were unsuccessful, not democracy. In this century, we know a single democracy is a hardware; democratic parties are the operating system, and the Nepalese are users of the Constitutional Monarchy System.
The Royal Palace is that which has not only the Army’s power but the most effective power – the moral support of the Nepalese. They respect the king as a live god because the King is the parent of the Nepalese, not a player of politics. They want warm love, not a Governor. But the King is in politics with the support of army power. On his road map, political parties and people’s agendas are hidden, and he doesn’t want to give the power to the present political leader. According to the Maoist, “without political parties’ government peace talk is a pleasant drama.”
Corruption, unsuccessful government, administrative carelessness, etc., were activities published because of democracy and open media. More than this, a huge sequence of corruptive practices is operating with the lack of democratic government. We must find out what types of corruption were committed when Nepal was under a non-democratic government. In my opinion, corrupted persons must be punished according to the constitutional process, not as the king orders. It is a foolish idea to hijack democracy with the grounds of some corruption cases. It is confirmed that while democracy was re-established in Nepal in 1990, pervious political system stakeholders were in the process of trying to demonstrate democracy as an unsuccessful system, to show that the King must be in the power of Nepal. In other words, Nepalese have not received actual democracy. To resolve the conflict, we must return to democracy. History observed, a new creation is achievable only in peace and continuous peace, where we can address all section communities’ voices equally.
I want to commit once more to some fundamental things. We can not compromise on democracy, human rights and open media. In the light of democracy, human rights will grow. For example, in the Nepalese media house, the government has done one experiment after the 1st Feb. 2005, where army forces stay for censorship, public voices are hidden. That decision is not for public rights. In turn, we must develop all types of media as an authenticity source for the news and a platform for the people.
We have to develop a strong belief in respecting basic human rights, peace and democracy. Our idea revolved around strategic thinking, problem-solving and panning agendas under the theme of peace, not putting too much emphasis on temporary conflict solutions. People have to understand that peace is a process in itself. We have to be educated about it. In the same way, conflict transformation is a procedure, rather than a single act. And can apply at the micro-, meso-, and macro-levels – at the intra- and inter-personal, group, community, social, cultural, national and state levels, and involves a series of events and approaches. For conflict transformation to be sustainable and effective, it must address all the levels and manifestations of the conflict, including the actual causes which gave rise to the war.
If our leaders fail to guide the moral campaign for honesty and human dignity, if they are unsuccessful in voicing the fundamentally humane essence of politics, the oppressed, the deprived, the humiliated and the dispossessed will have chosen to forget the humaneness of politics, but will use the solidarity it entails for violence. If politics does not become a component of the solution, it will motivate a feeling of trust and a sense of peaceful dialogue, which is essential at various levels. First, there must be a dialogue among political leaders; equally important is a dialogue among people, among leaders, among scholars, and among laypeople.
Now, this is a time to talk about all forms of corruption; economic, social, political, and religious. These issues will be prominent in negotiations- an infected mindset will come to the forefront: people will talk about sacrifice for their country, but they expect to sacrifice from the other side only. All the parties will be engaged in power-grabbing strategies, rather than dealing with real and practical issues.
Maoists understand that if democratic forces are marginalized, they can rule for a couple of years, maybe a couple of decades, but after that, we will be in the same chaos. The country will be plunged into a civil war again, trying to throw the Maoists out of power. Political negotiations and power-sharing is just the beginning. The country should be repaired rapidly; otherwise, political peace will mean nothing: “Millions of hungry stomachs can not survive on peace; they need a piece of bread on their plates”.
An energetic civic society is forever needed for leading the people movement because a strong civic society is the foundation of democratic development and the creation of a just and equitable society. In any time of conflict and politics when political leaders fail, it is the civic society that plays the lead role in bringing about a tangible and lasting solution to problems facing the nation and community for the betterment of the future. Nepal, too, is not an exception. Maoists should realize the importance and necessity of peace and stability for their long-lasting identifications.
The main formula for the solution of the conflict is peace. War and human rights can not move each other. Where there is a war, of course, there are violations of human rights. In my opinion, if there are political instabilities, there arise many problems in every field of the country. Taking this view in mind, first of all, we have to clear that multi-party democracy and constitutional monarchy are nature’s gift for Nepal. Thus, the King and political party, to make a clear view go forward, must go hand in hand to solve problems. After finding a common point, they should call the Maoists for peace talks. The Maoists should take part with their agendas with the aid of a mediator from the United Nations (UN). Governments should accept the UN’s proposal for mediation, which serves not only to restore the Maoist problems; but also to reconstruct the perplex constitutional exercise and infrastructure that was damaged during the civil war.
Maoist problems are political and should be solved politically. If there is a doubt with any issues, then let’s develop the culture to go to the people for the last decision. Let’s wake up, it’s too late and take it seriously: we have already lost 12,300 lives and 10 years because the country has wanted peace and improvement through the wrong means.