Kamala Sarup: Peace for Nepal - Opening the Way
Peace for Nepal: Opening the Way
By Kamala Sarup
For too long now, Nepal, an ancient and picturesque land nestled in the Himalayas, has been beset by a devilish set of circumstances, and conflicts.
Caught between the large forces affecting neighboring China and India, the trend of globalization and an ever expanding population without a concomitant set of resources, Nepal has been facing poverty, multiple governments, a long-term Maoist insurgency that has claimed over 13,000 souls and only indifference and hand wringing from the international community, including the United Nations.
The current political situation can be summarized as tense and stalemated. The former politicians, who were not stellar in their previous performance, are braying for a return to the failed policies of the past. The battle-hardened insurgents, controlling more percent of the geography of the Kingdom at will, have offered a 3 month ceasefire, which has at least stopped most of the slaughter.
There are demonstrations and draconian laws concerning press freedom. Arrests and interrogations. And there are still kidnappings and killings. How can element of reason and pragmatic realism be introduced into such a mess? There are, surprisingly, many rays of hope on the horizon.
The roots of Nepal's many problems and the Maoist insurgency are many and complex. They have been amply documented elsewhere and are perhaps beyond the scope of this article which is targeted at specific confidence-building measures which can be taken to prepare for meaningful negotiations.
An American journalist John said "But Nepal must be prepared to go it alone, despite her many international friends. The United Nations is mired in internal scandal and reform procedures. Moreover, there are huge issues facing the Security Council concerning Syria and Iran, to name just two. China and India have their own problems to deal with. SAARC has proven ineffectual in addressing Nepal's situation, even though SAARC headquarters is located in Khatmandu, Nepal's capitol. No, Nepal must be fully prepared to go it alone in the face of cold indifference by those other international organizations who could lend key assistance, such as the European Union, ASEAN and APEC. All face their own critical sets of issues and problems.
What follows are a humble set of proposals for consideration by those in power who can make things happen to move the peace process forward, step by step.
Nepal's situation and its potential solutions can be characterized by referring to underlying conditions. These include poverty, illiteracy, and an abysmal record concerning women's issues: medical care, property rights, and educational opportunities to better themselves, their families and their country. Add family dislocation occasioned by the many citizens of Nepal working abroad and rampant sexual slavery, and the misery index for Nepal's female population, its mothers, daughters and sisters, is not encouraging. And if Nepal's women are not happy, how can Nepal be happy? Women are the cornerstone of the family, home and hope for the future.
So perhaps one place to start is a simple redefinition of women's rights. The right of the women of Nepal to fundamental security, safety and opportunity must be amplified for the soil of national prosperity to be prepared for the spring planting of the seeds of a future that is both practical and sustainable. It is a small step, but one which could yield large results. No Nepali man, whether committed royalist, communist or capitalist, can be said to be a real man unless these basics for Nepal's female populace are firmly guaranteed.
There is a mystical, timeless relationship between women, Mother Earth, family, peace and prosperity which transcends borders and ideologies.
The country will forge ahead only if there is political stability along with peace.
The political parties and the international community must continue to press all sides to the conflict to make principled compromises while favoring no one. Nepalese people expect our participants to practice both the prevention and resolution of conflicts.
The Nepalese people know that meaningful dialogue is a first step to the process of Nepalese citizens empowerment. The effective taking of responsibility for the future can develop both tolerance and understanding. Mistrust and misapprehension of each other's motives arise from both recent experiences.
So, perhaps, the government, political parties and the Maoists can sit down to an honest and result-oriented peace conference for maintaining peace and security in the country and to give momentum to meaningful development and construction works for the benefit of the people of Nepal.
The Maoists and civilians must also be freely permitted to express their views. Negotiations may be protracted and long-drawn, but it is only through a sincere exchange of views that issues can be amicably settled.
Let all shades of views come out openly in front of the final judges: the Nepalese voters, but in any case, corruption set in motion by the leaders must go, nepotism started by the democratic leaders should be rooted out and incompetence, immorality and embezzlement of public funds perpetrated by the administrators should immediately be put a stop to in order to restore public confidence and international support for the process.
Will any of this be easy? No, most assuredly not. But the men of Nepal are equal to the task, be they politicians, warriors or simple working men and farmers. We, the women of Nepal, will support any reasonable effort to solve the problem, but solve it you men must.