A decade on, legacy of Maoist war stalks Nepal

10-year civil war re­mem­bered

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

KATH­MANDU: Sabi­tri Chilwal’s eyes mist over as she re­mem­bers the day 12 years ago when her hus­band was shot in his of­fice and left to die in a pool of blood at the peak of Nepal’s Maoist in­sur­gency.

Sun­day marks a decade since the Maoists signed a peace deal to end a 10-year civil war that claimed more than 16,000 lives, lay­ing down their arms and en­ter­ing pol­i­tics with a prom­ise to bring change to the deeply feu­dal coun­try.

The peace agree­ment has­tened the end of a 240-year-old Hindu monar­chy and trans­formed Nepal into a sec­u­lar repub­lic, and with it came hope that a new con­sti­tu­tion would heal the deep fis­sures in the im­pov­er­ished Hi­malayan na­tion. But Nepal has since shuf­fled through nine gov­ern­ments, mostly brit­tle coali­tions, as po­lit­i­cal in­fight­ing has thwarted rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and left vic­tims of the bloody in­sur­gency doubt­ful that they will ever see jus­tice.

Com­plaints filed

Chilwal is among over 60,000 peo­ple who have filed com­plaints with the two com­mis­sions set up in 2014 to in­ves­ti­gate the mur­ders, rapes and forced dis­ap­pear­ances per­pe­trated by both sides dur­ing the con­flict. The com­mis­sions have been ham­strung by a lack of fund­ing but the slow progress is also blamed on re­luc­tance among some quar­ters to find the per­pe­tra­tors, many of whom oc­cupy po­si­tions in the mil­i­tary and po­lit­i­cal par­ties. “It has been ten years since the war ended and yet noth­ing has hap­pened. My hus­band’s killers are walk­ing free,” said Chilwal. “They them­selves are in the gov­ern­ment now. I don’t know how any­thing will hap­pen,” she added.

The Maoists swept to vic­tory in the first na­tional elec­tions held af­ter the 2006 peace deal but soon fell out of fa­vor as for­mer cadres ac­cused rebel lead­ers of adopt­ing lav­ish life­styles and be­tray­ing their sac­ri­fices.

Nepal’s frac­tious coali­tion pol­i­tics how­ever meant that Maoist chief Pushpa Ka­mal Da­hal, bet­ter known by his nom de guerre Prachanda or “the fierce one”, se­cured a sec­ond chance at be­ing prime min­is­ter in Au­gust af­ter win­ning the sup­port of other par­ties.

Prachanda has since promised to re­solve dis­agree­ments over the new con­sti­tu­tion, which was fi­nally adopted in Septem­ber last year-rushed through par­lia­ment four months af­ter a mas­sive earth­quake dev­as­tated the coun­try and claimed nearly 9,000 lives.

But the pass­ing of the long-awaited char­ter-meant to usher in a new era of peace and sta­bil­ity for war-torn Nepal­was marred by deadly clashes be­tween po­lice and eth­nic mi­nor­ity pro­test­ers, who say the con­sti­tu­tion has left them marginal­ized. “If we as­sess the peace deal af­ter a decade we find that it lim­ited it­self to end­ing the con­flict but failed on re­struc­tur­ing (the coun­try) to es­tab­lish po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity through equal­ity and pro­gres­sive agen­das,” said Kath­mandu-based po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor CK Lal. “It gets a pass mark, but big­ger is­sues re­main to be ad­dressed,” Lal added.

‘Di­luted, lost, ig­nored’

The first sign of trou­ble emerged when mem­bers of the his­tor­i­cally side­lined Mad­hesi mi­nor­ity, who live in the densely-pop­u­lated Terai plains bor­der­ing In­dia, com­plained that new in­ter­nal bor­ders laid out in the draft char­ter would leave them un­der-rep­re­sented at the bal­lot box and in the na­tional par­lia­ment. The Mad­he­sis-who make up a sig­nif­i­cant pro­por­tion of the Terai pop­u­la­tion-have long com­plained of dis­crim­i­na­tion, with many en­coun­ter­ing prej­u­dice due to their close cultural, lin­guis­tic and fam­ily ties to In­di­ans liv­ing across the bor­der. Their de­mands went un­heard and days af­ter the con­sti­tu­tion was adopted, pro­test­ers kicked off a months-long bor­der block­ade that led to a crip­pling short­age of goods across Nepal. “If you look at the early doc­u­ments of the Maoists and the peace process there is an agree­ment on so­cioe­co­nomic trans­for­ma­tion on both sides. But it has been hugely di­luted, lost or ig­nored,” said Akhilesh Upad­hyay, ed­i­tor of The Kath­mandu Post.

Da­hal has promised amend­ments to the con­sti­tu­tion by the end of Novem­ber, hop­ing to stave off another show­down with Mad­hesi demon­stra­tors who are threat­en­ing a fresh round of protests if their de­mands are not met.

Shop­keeper Saroj Mishra, 35, was among thou­sands of Mad­he­sis who protested against the char­ter last year. Beaten by po­lice dur­ing the demon­stra­tions, Mishra said he was fed up of wait­ing for the gov­ern­ment to lis­ten to cit­i­zens like him. “The gov­ern­ment seems to think Nepal is (only) Kath­mandu,” he said. “So many years have passed af­ter the peace deal, but here we are still forced to fight.”—AFP

KATH­MANDU, Nepal: In this pho­to­graph taken on Novem­ber 11, 2016, Bablu Lama, (R) ar­rested and tor­tured by mem­bers of the Nepalese army dur­ing Nepal’s decade-long war, speaks to AFP in an in­ter­view. —AFP

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