Monday, August 25, 2008

Nepal's New PM Prachanda & The challenges ahead

Nepal's Constituency Assembly elected Puspa Kamal Dahal "Prachanda" as the Primeminister of Nepal on August 15, 2008. His background: 10 years revolution (February, 1996-February 2006) that saw 13000 Nepalese lives lost and many disappeared and unknown against the 240 years old Feudal Monarchy and failed parliament. Nepal is already declared a Democratic Republic of Nepal on 26 May, 2008. King moved to a secluded residence in the forest. The Maoists who fought from the Forest have entered the city. With Prachanda's election as Primeminister, a new era in Nepal begins. Many people still fear that the Maoists may begin a communist republic type of governance in Nepal. But there are others who say that the Maoists are well aware of the 21st century reality - the globalization, humanrights and respect for plurality.

There was the doubt about what would happen in the peace process if the maoists were denied the power that they were chosen by the people. With the election of the PM from the Maoist party, there seems to be the end of the conflict that was initiated by the Maoists over so many dissatisfactions.

Here is an news article from the BBC.

Prachanda: The challenges ahead
By Charles Haviland
BBC News, Kathmandu

Prachanda has a massive task ahead of him
The elevation of Nepal’s chief Maoist, the leader of the former rebels, Prachanda, to the prime ministership is something he could barely have dreamt of just three years ago.

By the early 1980s, with political parties still banned, “The Fierce One” had abandoned his job as a teacher and was operating underground as an outlaw.

Not until 2006 did he appear in public again, after the end of a decade-long Maoist insurgency that cost 13,000 lives.

Whether he retains his war name or reverts to being Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the new prime minister has a massive task ahead of him.

The euphoria surrounding the restoration of democracy two years ago; the successful elections this April; the historic end of the monarchy shortly afterwards - these have been milestones.

The last two years have been full of historic symbolism as the old Hindu kingdom became a secular republic, sweeping away all references to its past, to the delight of some and the dismay of others.

But at the same time, state authority has crumbled so much that many Nepalis are in utter despair.

Squabbling

A sense of anarchy prevails nationwide, so much so that mention of the phrase “the government” tends to elicit scornful sniggers.

Crime and violence have spiralled. The slightest grievance brings people onto the street to demonstrate or blockade. For example, eastern Nepal has been at a complete standstill for six days, called by transport workers in protest at the murder of a bus driver and a broad lack of security.

Not only that. The shortages of petrol, diesel, kerosene and gas are beyond measure because the authorities won’t balance the financial books.

There is severe hunger in the hills. There are power cuts at the height of the rainy season. The police appear unable to do anything other than arrest demonstrating Tibetans.

The historic end of the monarchy has been a milestone
The politicians including the Maoists have largely ignored all this, squabbling about ministry allocation for weeks on end and scarcely acknowledging ordinary people’ problems.

Luckily most Nepalis are adept at getting on with their lives despite their rulers, so the country has not imploded.

As prime minister, Prachanda will also have to draw together a country which for the past year-and-a-half has been displaying new and worrying fissures along ethnic and regional lines.

As a man who comes from the hills but moved to the southern flatlands as a child, he is only too aware of the widening rift in the south between people of hill origin and the Madhesis -southerners ethnically close to neighbouring Indians who have been campaigning against their marginalisation since late 2006.

Although the new president and his deputy are both Madhesis, the community’s sense of grievance persists.

Violence in the south-east bubbles away, with shadowy rebel or criminal groups proliferating and people dying each week.

In July a Roman Catholic priest was killed by a militant Hindu group waging what it called an “anti-Muslim campaign”.

In an ethnically complex society, many more regional groups are emerging and clamouring, mostly peacefully, for inclusion.

Perhaps the biggest question is how the Maoists can transform themselves into a party of government.

‘Switzerland of Asia’

After the Maoists’ surprise but convincing victory in the April elections, their deputy leader admitted to having some “sleepless nights” given the prospect of running the country.

Having promised, extravagantly, to make Nepal into the “Switzerland of Asia”, they have encouraged high expectations.

Nepalese traditionalists worry that the former rebels retain a totalitarian bent.

This is a party which still sports Stalin as an icon and praises him - alongside Mao, of course. It has not renounced violence.

There is a widening rift between people of hill origin and the Madhesis
Less than two years ago Prachanda told the BBC Nepali Service: “As a party struggling for the hard-working people, we should not torture anyone, even when someone needs to be eliminated.”

Since the election, many accounts have emerged of the way Maoist cadres cheated at the ballot boxes in far-off places, and in May party members killed a businessman inside a military camp.

Yet now could also be the time when the Maoists are given a chance to prove themselves: to show they are serious about the social transformations in whose name they went to war.

They have a very strong presence in the villages, and many now long for them to be able to build on the starts they have made at eroding caste and gender discrimination.

They also promise a more equitable system of land ownership.

This will be a test of other politicians, too: of whether they can shake off their ingrained habit of trying to do down their rivals and prevent others from getting credit for change.

There are still further challenges ahead.

Many people whose near and dear ones died or disappeared during the conflict are awaiting truth and justice. They will want the authorities to provide it.

On a different matter, having a Maoist prime minister may help resolve the future of the 19,000 Maoist former combatants still in camps as part of the UN-assisted peace process.

With a new prime minister and president at last in place, one more task can also get properly under way - the writing of a new constitution by the huge assembly elected in April.

Hitherto its members have complained that the body is being marginalised by the usual coterie of establishment politicians.

There has been enough talking. The work must now begin.

Friday, August 15, 2008

NEPAL: Analysts warn of rising ethnic tensions

Nepal has more than 100 castes and similar number of languages. The homegeniety of a caste exists only at community level. There are a mix of communities of different castes interspersed. At a larger say a smallest planning unit level, the castes are mixed to form a very heteregenous society. Newest Republic, Nepal now faces a plethora of demands from each caste/ethnic group.

IRIN, a UN news Agency has covered some essence. This is given below as it is. Thanks to IRIN News.

NEPAL: Analysts warn of rising ethnic tensions

KATHMANDU, 14 August 2008 (IRIN) - Failure to address the grievances of Nepal’s various indigenous and ethnic groups may result in further ethnic tension, warn analysts.
Photo: Naresh Newar/IRIN
Thousands of Pahade families have been displaced over the past year due to commnal tensions between the Madhesi and Pahade

Speaking to IRIN in the capital, Kathmandu, they said the country’s top political parties in the Constituent Assembly (CA) must prioritise the formation of the much-anticipated State Restructure Commission, a key national body that may help to address the federalist demands of diverse ethnic communities.

There has been a growing trend of ethnic and indigenous groups calling for autonomy both in the Terai (fertile southern plains), and in hill areas particularly in the east.

In July several ethnic-based organisations declared autonomy in three of the most important districts of the eastern Terai - Morang, Jhapa and Sunsari.

The Federal Limbuwan State Council (FLSC) of the Limbus ethnic group claimed a region they called the “Limbuwan State”, while another ethnic community - the Dhimal - named it “Kochila”. An alliance of nine indigenous groups known as the Terai Indigenous Janjati Organisation (TIJO) has claimed a region which they call “Morang Autonomous State”.

The Kirants

Other indigenous and ethnic groups like the Tharus and Kirants are also emerging strongly, with the latter involved in armed activities to press for autonomy.

Local human rights non-governmental organisations (NGOs) reported that a group called the Kirant Janbadi Workers Party (KJWP) had attacked police posts and government offices and destroyed important documents.

According to human rights activists, the KJWP continues to threaten local aid workers, civilians and traders in the Bhojpur and Khotang districts of eastern Nepal, where they need the group's permission to operate in so-called “Kirant Land”.
Photo: Naresh Newar/IRIN
Mistrust between different groups is growing due to ethnic politics that is taking a dangerous turn

Ethnic tensions

“Ethnic fundamentalism is in danger of growing and naturally giving birth to communalism, which is detrimental to national unity,” Kapil Shrestha, an independent political analyst told IRIN, adding that mistrust and hatred between the various ethnic communities was apparent, and having an impact on livelihoods and security.

Over the past few years pro-Madhesi armed groups, which have been calling for a single Madhesi province, have been openly campaigning against the people of hill origin, known as the Pahade. The Limbus, Kirants and most indigenous communities (Janjatis) come under the Pahade label.

The Madhesi and Pahade communities have often been involved in communal tensions fuelled by ethnic-based political groups: In September 2007 in Kapilvastu District, the killing of a local Madhesi leader by unknown assailants sparked serious violence between the two groups.

“The armed ethnic groups believe that only raising arms will solve problems, and are using their strategy of fear among civilians,” independent conflict analyst Shovakar Budhathoki said, noting that a dangerous trend was that armed criminal groups were also taking advantage of a weak security situation and exploiting ethno-political issues to provoke communal hatred.

Government officials fear for their safety
Photo: Sagar Shrestha/IRIN
Villagers in shock and grief over violence in southeast Nepal

Local government officials in the Village Development Committees (VDCs), the lowest level of government administration, have faced constant threats from the armed groups.

Frustrated about the lack of state protection, local VDC officials are shutting down their offices and holding strikes to pressure the government to pay serious attention to their security. Around 17 Civil Servants Unions in Sunsari and Siraha districts (eastern Nepal) have been regularly holding strikes.

Government employees said they would return to work only if the government provided security guarantees. “The officials are too afraid to work in the VDCs as the government has been unable to do anything, despite our constant requests,” said Khadag Poudel, president of Bhojpur Civil Servants Organisation.

The District Administration Office (DAO) of Bhojpur explained that although the government had given them assurances of their security, they had remained unwilling to return to work.

Analysts say the government needs to hold talks with the various ethno-political groups and respond to their demands.

Meanwhile, civilians are bearing the brunt of the strikes, armed activities and violence at a time when food and fuel prices are rising.

nn/ds/cb

Source: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?ReportID=79818
Theme(s): (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Early Warning

[ENDS]

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Nepal under US radar: Interesting article

Yesterday's post consisted of an interesting article from a political analyst of India from their website www.indiareacts.com.

Today another interesting story woven by a Nepali political analyst from www.telegraphnepal.com. It is hard to believe in some of the articles in this portal. However, it is interesting to read.

All that said, will there be Nepali politicians standing on their own feet, ever? The old genre of Nepali politicians is experienced without much academic hardwork in their lives. However, the new ones are definitely the ones who at least had been to the college and university - most of them. May be this is the reason the government should be run by new and young ones with the support from the senior peers.

Here is the thought provoking article from the Telegraph Nepal

US scanner
TGW Analyst
Kathmandu: If what the analysts have understood of Nepal’s Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, the politics of consensus that have been agreed upon by the Nepali Congress, the UML, the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum, MJF, and the Maoists might catapult in a day or two.

If Koirala concludes that the four party consensuses is to sideline his prospects of becoming the next Prime Minister, he would definitely, as is his habit, begin playing destructive politics as he is presumed to be the number one player of “destructive politics” of Nepal.

Those who have seen Koirala from close quarters say that he will approve the four party consensuses arrived Monday afternoon on condition that the four parties also provide him the Chair of the Prime Minister.

If denied, what is hundred percent sure that he will twist the arms of the UML and MJF in a surreptitious manner forcing these parties to change their current stances in his favor.

Koirala can’t stomach the Maoists coming to power and this is what has been agreed upon in Delhi-the Mecca of Nepali politics-in between Koirala and his “Indian masters”.

To boot, Koirala is a conspiratorial player as well or else why should a Prime Minister who has lost his political standing back home and remained in a state wherein his resignation had also been accepted by the President should exhibit his utter excitement to visit Colombo?

The idea was to meet his real “masters and mentors” in Colombo or in New Delhi and seduce the Indian leaders so that they ultimately approved Koirala’s claim for the post of the next Prime Minister of Nepal.

And in effect he did meet his Indian counterpart-the India proxy Prime Minister Dr. Man Mohan Singh right in Colombo and convinced the latter that the Maoists were still “bad boys” who could not be trusted for some time to come in the power structure of Nepal.

The Indian Prime Minister got stunned, reports say, when Koirala appraised him about the likelihood of Maoists’ staging an “October Revolution” of the type and dimension of Russia if denied power this time.

Power insatiability in Koirala grew to the extent that he even told the same “spine-tingling story” to the US Assistant Secretary of State, Richard Boucher who was right in Colombo during the SAARC Summit, and presented the Maoists case to him in such a way that Boucher too got horrified.

No wonder then the US dignitary said of the Maoists that “even if the Maoists form a government in Nepal, the US will have no objection as such”.

However, he made it abundantly clear that the “Maoists were still under the US scanner”.

This perhaps caps the possibility of the Maoists jumping to Singh Durbar if Koirala’s schemes go smoothly.

The word “still under the US scanner” do implies that the US preference would be a government in Nepal sans the Maoists.

The statement made by Richard Boucher that “We don’t have any objection” if the Maoists come to power is just a diplomatic language to keep the Maoists in good stead. However, the inner meaning is that, analysts presume, the US would take some time to watch the “activities of the Maoists prior to the party of the ex-rebels come to power. But then yet one has to admit that the US has some what softened its stance as regards the Maoists.

Look what he says of the Maoists in Colombo: “Though the US didn’t want to alienate the Maoists, they were still closely watching the party, specially their threats to carry out another movement”.

This is what has been told by Aditya Baral, Koirala’s political advisor to the press men in Colombo. Baral accompanied Koirala when Richard Boucher met with Koirala in Colombo.

A close look at what Boucher says of the Maoists does indicate that the US possesses a sort of soft corner for the Maoists for the word “alienate the Maoists” explains this.

But concurrently, the US is some what suspicious of the Maoists inner “intents”.

That the US is still concerned with the Maoists political overtures becomes abundantly clear from what the US dignitary says.

Let’s analyze the US fresh consideration as regards the Maoists from what has been aired by Mr. Boucher in Colombo.

First, the US would not mind the Maoists steering the nation.

Second, the US would want to see the Maoists paraphernalia wearing democratic clothes prior to swinging to power structure in Nepal.

Third, the US was still not confident of the Maoists that the latter if in power would act in a manner that is demanded of them in a fully democratic set up.

Fourth, the US has reasons to suspect the Maoists’ changed credentials as the party of the ex-rebels more often than not air views that speak of what Boucher says “another movement”.

Perhaps it is this factor that has distanced the Maoists with the US administration.

And here is power hungry Koirala to benefit from Maoists’ lapses. Analysts presume that Koirala might have presented the Maoists’ case in a way that might have startled the US dignitary who out of frustration might have told Koirala to “proceed” with his ambitious plans.

Unfortunately, the Maoists have had no emissary in Colombo who could have defended their case and put the Maoists perspective in a proper manner to the US official.

Analysts wish to advise the Maoists leadership not to annoy the US any more through their fiery lectures. The Maoists must understand that the US is not the villain. The scoundrel is right across the border of which Koirala is number one collaborator. A far flung US in no way could influence Nepali politics.

The Maoists must read in between the lines what US Assistant Secretary of State has spoke of them. The US possesses no evil designs against the Maoists, however, all that the US wants, as would be clear upon reading Boucher’s statement, that the Maoists “behaved” in a democratic manner and that the Maoists must discard the habit of terrifying the national population by airing that yet another revolution was round the corner if denied to form the next government. The more the Maoists terrify the population, the more they are distanced from the people and the democratic countries here and there.

Such fiery lectures with threat loaded meanings must have alarmed the US administration. If they continue to talk on the same lines, it is Koirala and New Delhi who will extract benefits from the Maoists’ repeated follies.

Now coming back to Koirala’s Delhi stop over.

It was a deliberate move taken by Koirala. In effect Koirala wanted to prove that his rule was still “indispensable” in Nepal to provide what he calls a “logical end” to the ongoing peace process.

Koirala to a greater extent bagged success in receiving “sanction” from “Mother India” and other “brother Indias”-read Lal Krishna Advani and Raj Nath Singh-the two powerful leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party having profound connections with the Madhesi leaders more so with Upendra Yadav.

Or else why Mulayam Singh Yadav, an Indian leader who prefers not to poke his nose in Nepal’s affairs too this time bluntly put his inner feelings by stating that “Nepal must have a consensus government”.

What this consensus government means in Mulayam’s consideration is that Koirala be made Nepal’s next Prime Minister who should be trusted by the entire political parties without any glitch.

Mother India too has reportedly assured Koirala that he should steer the nation. Prior to this assurance, Koirala presented the Maoists as “evan the terrible” who could destabilize the entire Indian Union if they were allowed to assume power in Nepal. A practically terrified Mother India instantly instructed, say reports leaking from the men in Koirala’s entourage, her “loyal” servant(s) to act fast in a way that ensured Koirala’s Premiership next.

No wonder that the Bharatiya Janata Party too gave a clear nod to Koirala and thus a confident Koirala landed in Kathmandu all beaming.

To recall, Koirala prior to his Colombo trip had said in a private family gathering that he will teach a befitting “lesson” to Comrade Prachanda soon.

Reportedly Koirala expressed his anger over Prachanda for the latter’s aversion against him for the Presidential candidate.

Under the given circumstances, if Koirala becomes the consensual candidate of the Prime Minister then it would be no wonder. If this does happen, it is the Maoists once again who will be ditched.

This would perhaps explain as to how deep penetration the New Delhi establishment has in Nepali politics.

However, what is for sure that if the Delhi preference prevailed, then the Maoists will tease India under one pretext or the other.

The issues are abundant.

Finally, but at what price Koirala received such blessings? Is it for free? India and non-reciprocity can’t go together. It is time that the Nepali nationalists watch as to what Koirala gives India in a silver plate?

But if the Maoists are allowed to form their own government per chance, Koirala will instantly engineer mechanisms to pull the Maoists leg from the power structure. Take it for granted. The one who broke his own bi-cycle can easily break the BOLERO of Prachanda.

2008-08-06 07:56:09

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Midwifing Nepal: India must assist the Maoists into the mainstream

Sometimes it is very interesting to ponder over the fate of Nepal. So many forces are interested in her, reigning a chaos making difficult to navigate the political quagmires. The following article is copy-pasted from IndiaReacts

Midwifing Nepal
India must assist the Maoists into the mainstream, says N.V.Subramanian.

24 July 2008: India should beware that the Maoists' defeat in Nepal's presidential election has not been to China's liking. The Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist chairman, Prachanda, has been published by Xinhua in a tilted commentary saying, "There is a big reactionary conspiracy of foreign powers after we won the faith and belief of (a) large crowd of people. Nepal's politics has clearly signified a great danger of anti-revolution."

Prachanda did not name the foreign powers allegedly conspiring against the Maoists, but India would figure prominently in them, preceded or followed by the United States. Even if the Chinese were meddling, Prachanda would fear to say so. But the Chinese and the Maoists see eye-to-eye on several issues, including oppressing the Tibetan protestors, downsizing India, and bringing pro-Beijing changes in Nepal.

The Chinese were not unhappy with the deposed king Gyanendra. Their problem comes from centrist parties like the Nepali Congress (NC) which are close to India. The NC candidate, Ram Bahadur Yadhav, won Nepal's presidential election, defeating the Maoist Ram Raja Prasad Singh, after the Nepali Congress, the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) and the Madhesi People's Rights Forum joined their parliamentary strength to beat the Maoists convincingly.

Even if India played no role in this presidential election, the Maoists would fan trouble against it. With two twenty-seven seats in the Constituent Assembly, the Maoists are the largest party. They have declared they won't form the government but sit out as the opposition. "After the defeat in the presidential election," Prachanda told Xinhua, "our moral base to make the new government has totally come to an end. So we have decided to stay in (the) opposition." Xinhua says Nepal faces political uncertainty now.

That it does, but to play up the foreign conspiracy angle puts India in the firing line. It is unlikely that anyone in the Manmohan Singh government was manipulating Nepal politics to defeat the Maoists considering the crisis here over the Indo-US nuclear deal. But that won't cease Prachanda from pointing accusing fingers at India. And with the Left-CPI-M withdrawing support to the Manmohan Singh government, the Maoists would reckon they have lost an ally that could restrain New Delhi. On the other hand, New Delhi conceivably could feel emboldened to get tough with the Maoists now that the CPI-M support has been withdrawn.

Except that the gap between perception and reality may be so wide that Maoist and Indian interests could hurt with misunderstanding while benefits flow to third parties like China. Nepal's strategic value to India cannot be over-emphasized. Before more misunderstanding sets in, India must play host to Prachanda, or alternatively, have its representatives meet him and clear the air. The Maoists are the largest party in Nepal's Constituent Assembly, and this gives them a legitimacy that India cannot deny.

Possibly the Maoists overplayed their hand by demanding both the President and PM's posts. They never reckoned on the gang-up against their presidential candidate. But equally, their election as the largest party cannot be minimized, and their absent majority cannot be so twisted as to pervert the elections. The Maoists have gone into a deep sulk, but it is not a matter to rejoice.

The Maoists will remain a danger to Nepal's parliamentary democracy so long they are kept out of mainstream politics. It was quite a feat to wean them away from armed struggle, and the abdication of Gyanendra has proceeded peacefully and at considerable more pace than expected. The presidential election and government-formation have taken months, and the second issue is still not resolved. This is understandable. An evolving political solution tautologically takes time to settle.

But even so, there must be recognition of an approaching new political order in Nepal. While the Maoists did not gain a majority in the Constituent Assembly, they still were elected in the largest numbers. This must be recognized by veterans like G.P.Koirala and this should limit backroom manipulations of the sort witnessed in the presidential election.

India can at best give a gentle guiding hand to Nepal's political evolution. That election that elected the Maoists in large numbers must be reflected in government formation, and India must press the Maoists to enter the power structure. The presidential election cannot be unraveled, so the next best option is to have a Maoist-led government.

Once the responsibilities of power weigh on the Maoists, the process of their political integration into mainstream Nepal politics would commence and become irreversible in due course. This should be India's goal. While the Manmohan Singh government has committed the bulk of its energy to pursuing the nuclear deal to conclusion, Nepal in its second birth cannot be neglected either.

N.V.Subramanian is Editor, NewsInsight.net.