Thursday, December 07, 2006

Hopes for Peace in Nepal

Since the big changes occurred in Nepal this past summer, the longstanding conflict there between Maoist insurgents and the government has ceased, as a "Comprehensive Peace Agreement" (CPA) has been signed. The Maoists have agreed to lay down arms and stay in camps where they will be monitored by international observers. The system they've come up to ensure both parties abide by the agreement seems a little far-fetched, but perhaps workable:

Under a novel agreement with the government and the United Nations, they are to deposit their weapons in padlocked containers at each of the cantonments like this one. They will hold the keys, but their gun closets will be closely watched. Floodlights will shine each night. Surveillance cameras and burglar alarms will be installed.

For the sake of at least symbolic reciprocity, the Nepalese Army has promised to keep an equal number of its soldiers in their barracks.

An initial team of 35 United Nations monitors is expected to trickle in by the end of the year to oversee the Maoist and the army barracks alike, followed by an assessment team to determine the final size of the United Nations mission. (link)

This seems like an awfully fragile system. Though Nepal's 10 year old conflict is a little different from civil conflicts in other parts of the world -- as I understand it, it's not rooted in ethnic differences, so it may be easier to heal -- it seems hard to imagine this method working for very long. Will the symbolic deposition of the King and the advent of a permanent democratic government be enough of a change to bring the country back together after 10 years of civil war?

In the short run, ironically, the Maoists have lots of new recruits hanging around at the new camps. But it's unclear whether the new kids are there because they support the ideology, or because they hope the newly legitimized Maoists might have work for them:

Up the road in the village, among the old men sitting and soaking in the last of the day’s sun, the question of new recruits inspired churlish laughter. Of course these are new recruits, they said, and you can easily tell them from the old-timers. The new ones know nothing, one old man said. The new ones cannot tell the difference between where to defecate and where to bathe, another said. That inspired howls of laughter.

The troops who have gathered here for now rely on the hospitality of the local people. The old man, Ananda Gyawali, introduced one 19-year-old, Krishna Acharya, as a distant relative. The young man is illiterate and came a couple of weeks ago from a village far away to throw his lot in with the Maoists. He claimed to have joined the rebels a year ago.

The boy came only because he thought the Maoists would give him a job, he said, adding, “Poverty is to blame for this.” (link)

Meanwhile, many Royalists loyal to King Gyanendra have begun buying property in places like India and Singapore. A major garment factory in Kathmandu has shut down for reasons that seem linked to the changes. And there have even been some protests against the Maoists in the Kathmandu Valley, who seem more powerful than ever at this point.


gajadi said...


thanks for your interest in nepal!

most of we nepalis are hoping that the peace-accord will really puts an end to to the decade long insurgency.

the nepali conflict indeed is different as it was/is more of a ideological war compared to most others which are based on identity.

the ideological differences can be minimised whereas identiy/religion based differences are hardly surmountable.

3:39 PM  
Anonymous said...

The conflict in Nepal always had a strong ethnic component. Ethnicity was one of the major calling card of the movement and many Maoist recruits represented so called ethnicity based oppressed groups. Post conflict scenario is deeply caught in ethnicity/religion/linguistic divide. Check national newspapers for major trends that include - 1) Hindu and brahmin bashing 2) Rejection of the national history, including unification of Nepal - statue of the King Prithvi Narayan who unified Nepal can no more be exposed in the middle of the city 3)Separatist movement demanding separate state' for hill and Terain janjati (ethnic groups)4) Muslim (4% of pop)demands for minority reservation, including state protection for Islamic education (Madrassa) and Islamic personal laws 5)Pumping of money and intense activities by Christian missionaries for religious conversion – see churches springing up in towns and rural villages, recent TV sitcom by Haribansa-Madan Krishna, topmost artist-duo of Nepal openly making a case of religion conversion for the ‘untouchables’ 6)International agencies funding projects addressing pet issues such as caste and nationality, minority rights, decentralisation and federalism.
In these hot debates, nobody is asking what majority of Nepalese want – respite from back breaking conflicts and a wish to live in peace. Peace, tolerance and non-violence of easy-going, non-confrontational and spiritual Nepali way of life are at the peril. Nepal has invited all the ills that threaten rest of the world. Very sad.

12:05 AM  
gols said...


I happened to stumble upon your blog, while whizzing by, couldn’t help but comment. You seem to have a better perspective on Nepal than most of us, who are blinded by ideology and loyalty.

Yes, it is a little comical; method of bringing about peace—locking up arms in cantonments.

What they don’t understand is: it’s not the gun that kills; it’s the rage of centuries of injustice and inequality.

Cantonment, that’s what you get, when you hire a clueless foreign consultants on—conflict management.

10:22 AM  

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