Dr. Bishnu Pathak
Conflict Resolution Expert, Nepal
Dr. Bishnu Pathak, a PhD holder in Conflict management and Human Rights, is the President and Director of Conflict Study Center. He is the Convener of South Asia; TRANSCEND International and Board Member of TRANSCEND Peace University. Besides penning of the book entitled "Politics of People’s War and Human Rights in Nepal", he has published a number of research articles on issues related to Human Rights, UN, Security, Peace, Civil-Military Relations, Community Policing, and Federalism.
Sujit Mainali for The Telegraph Weekly and its online edition telegraphnepal.com approached and interviewed this scholar on several aspects of Nepali politics, ongoing peace process and security related issues.
Below the excerpts of this exclusive interview: Chief Editor.
TGQ1. The works related to the Peace Process (PP) has now come to a grinding halt due to the contending standpoints of major political parties of Nepal regarding the restructuring of State and form of governance to be incorporated in the new constitution. Dr. Pathak! Can you please suggest as to how the differences between the political parties of Nepal can be bridged and remaining works of the Peace Process can be accomplished?
Dr. Pathak: Thank you indeed. The Seven Political Parties (SPA) and the CPN (Maoist) singed a historic 12-point peace road map and the Comprehensive Peace Accord on November 21, 2005 expressing to carry out a progressive restructuring of the state to resolve the problems related to class, caste, gender, region including the its political, economic, social and cultural patterns. Without political transformation and economic enrichment, now the country is heading to resolve the socio-cultural patterns incorporating identities of limited groups in the forthcoming federal states.
In the course of winning confidence at time of the election, the pro-communist forces established NEFEN and later a separate organization called Akhil Nepal Janjati Sangh was developed in November 1994 under the convenorship of the Maoist leader Mr. Suresh Ale Magar. The 40-point demands put forward by Dr. Baburam Bhattarai to the then PM Deuba on February 2, 1996, advocated to install self-government for ethnic communities with autonomy.
The idea of regional and ethnic autonomous state was primarily initiated by Dr. Harka Gurung which was internationalized by Professor S.D. Muni and US scholars ( on its underneath foreign interest) during the tenure of PM Girija Prasad Koirala. Moreover, the issue was widely disseminated by the Maoists to attract the ethnicities on its course to proliferate the People's War. The right to self-determination, ethnic and regional autonomy, and secular nation were raised particularly by the Maoists, but now it has become prime agendas of all ethnic, regional, lingual, and cultural based groups in Nepal. None of the political parties in the CA have their clear understanding on ethnic and cultural and status of autonomous states except the Maoists. The Maoists proposal of autonomous notion is itself a minority concept. This is what I presume.
For instance, Limbuwan State comprises 27 per cent Limbus, who make up 1.58 per cent of the national population. There are just 24 Koch populations in Kochila State. Kirat State is also a minority federal state, 26 per cent of Rai and Limbu. The 5.5 per cent Newars are still in a minority with 35 per cent in their native Kathmandu valley. The rapid urbanization of Kathmandu may have reduced the Newars around 22 per cent. The Tamang comprises just 30 per cent of the population of the Maoist-proposed Tamang-Saling State. The Gurungs are in a minority (27 per cent) in the Tamuwan State. Magars with 7.1 per cent of the state’s population, are again in a minority with 28 per cent in Maoist-proposed Magrat state. There has been a separate state demands of Mithila, Bhojpura, and Awadh and 'One Madhes One Pradesh'. It is to be remarked that about 75 per cent of Mithila lies in India and about 78 per cent of Kochila in West Bengal. If they become autonomous states with right to self-determination, do Mithila and Kochila Rajya remain in Nepal? This million dollar worth question is has not yet been satisfactorily answered.
The announcement of federal state is the beginning of division and secession, but not the end. For example, Nigeria left federal constitutional rule despite a series of people’s movements for regional autonomy. When Nigeria attained independence in 1960 from British colony, its three earlier federal regions had already become autonomous, and when it declared itself a Federal Republic in 1963, its three regions had already become independent. It has now more than 36 federal states. Sudan, which had three ethno-federal states, now has been divided into 26 such states in 50 years time. India's federal states started from 16 in 1975 now into a Union of 7 with 29 States. India's 22 states are suffering from identity-based conflicts. Pakistan seceded from India in the name of religion and Bangladesh from Pakistan in the name of culture.
The Kusunda, for instance, consisting of 164 people in western Nepal, have asked for their own autonomous territory. Will Nepal be similar to Palau/Balau whose population is just 20,842 but is divided into 16 states?
The major problem of Nepal is not caste and ethnicity, but a "class" dominant. Brahmin and Chhetri are as equal poor and vulnerable as other ethnicities and cultural groups too. For instance, I am from a Brahmin family where my parents Dhanapati (85-year old) and Ambika (86-year old) who have been living with me in Kathmandu, are uneducated ones only because of poverty. I studied and reached at this stage struggling a lot with poverty, without any support from the Government. Even though, I am trying to make good history of Nepal in the world, why should I be victimized in the name of being a Brahmin?
It is notable that 40 percent of the world population in 30 countries live under the rule of a federal state. Both federal (Argentina, Australia, Canada, Germany, India, Switzerland, the USA,) states and unitary (China, France, Denmark, Finland, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan, North Korea, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, United Kingdom, etc.) states are equally developed and poor in the world. Besides, both unitary and federal states face violent conflict in the world. Thus, development (right to food and freedom) does not depend upon unitary or federal system of governance, instead it depends upon the vision, mission, morality and discipline of the leaders.
Nine-member State Restructuring Commission (SRC) has been formed to recommend the CA a best possible model for a federate Republic of Nepal. Except a few, neither of the member of SRC do have expertise in this subject. They can do nothing remarkable than putting parties stamp on the blueprint for federalism rather than focusing to the need, desire and benefit of the people and the nation at large.
There is no other option to big parties to forge a compromise on such contentious issue. The CA should decide to slice the country with majority votes. The best way to protect long term national sovereignty and integrity is to carve the province north border with Tibet (China) and South to India considering the identity, geography and available resource potentialities. If right decision could not be taken up, the country shall experience dreadful communal, cultural and regional violence than the protracted People's War in the past.
TGQ2. A section of analysts in Nepal still believe that the Unified Maoists is not sincere towards the democratic system of governance and they are using the ongoing peace process only as a tool to capture the state and eventually to install a totalitarian communist regime in this Himalayan nation. Your comment on this line of thought please?
Dr. Pathak: The present political stalemate of transitional Nepal shall be observed from three angles, ie. Intraparty, interparty, and South-West interests. There are sharp differences in between the major political parties of Nepal on the issues related to drafting of pro-people constitution, integration and rehabilitation of the Maoist Combatants into the security apparatus and society in a dignified and honorable manner and directly elected presidential system of governance to be included in the new constitution.
Maoist party is now suffering from serious internal rift. Immediately after the CA elections, Maoist party dipped into conflict on rightist-revisionist, shaky-centrist and leftist-revolutionary lines of thoughts. Second, the differences in them divided leaders and cadres into "A", "B" and "C" categories much similar to what the Rana rulers had. The lavish lifestyle of the leaders and the gap which has been noticed among the cadres bring to surface this category of "A", with moderate lifestyle in "B" and poor in the "C" echelon. The anti-communist international forces applies the similar theory, ("NGOization", commission, construction, etc.) to the Maoists what they have applied to the UML to crush their pro-people and progressive ideology. Third, the foreign forces namely Indo-US axis has started maneuvering inside the Maoists party by producing their agent within the Maoist party (rank and file). Its main purpose is to split the party and make the Maoists weaker in national and international arena. The foreign forces somehow succeeded to bring about a wedge among the Maoists leadership which has heightened the personal clash, leaving behind the politico-ideology, strategy and tactics. Fourth, as the Maoists dipped into the parliamentary quagmire, they could not dare go to the people and expose the grand design of encirclement. Lastly, the differences among the echelon leadership and the Maoist decision to discharge the minors and unqualified ones without state respect/honor and financial support, discouraged the morale of the Maoist Army. It is also remarkable that there is the mere influence of rightist-opportunist in the Maoist Army, YCL and cadres as many mid-and-lower level Maoists still believe on the very urgency of people's revolt.
Besides, most of the constitutional and statutory bodies are occupied by non-or-anti-Maoists wings namely, the Nepali Congress and UML. Both Nepali Congress and UML are trying to humiliate the Maoists in the name to democratizing them. One month ago, UML leader Jhalanath Khanal publicly said, "Maoists leaders come to learn politics from us". The NC blind folded the truth '10,000 Janamukti Sena recruited/converted into Rakshadal under Mohan SJ Rana', continuously disrespecting the integration to retaliate the Maoist Army. The Maoists could not implement the accord and agreements fully, but the NC and UML try hard to expose them defaming internationally, "the Maoists are trying to capture the state power." Neither the Maoists were able to convince UML and NC about their difficulties. Whatever the UML and NC said, "not to extend the tenure of the UNMIN, not to integrate desired numbers of the Maoist Army into the Nepal Army, not to keep the 'People's War' word in the preamble of the draft constitution, not to put the ceiling on land, and so forth", they succeeded, but the Maoist failed. Nepali Congress, UML and Madhesi/Terai parties are heavily influenced by Indo-US politics and properties (cash and kind). Two powerful but opposing forces, India and US, came closer after nuclear deal both signed on February 2, 2009. Rather to produce hydropower, the deal is to see South Asia including Nepal through the eyes of India and India keeps quiet whatever USA does in international affairs including South Asia. The vested interest of both, US and India, is to stop China (seceding Tibet by 2025 is the target ) being super power in the world. Therefore, unstable Nepal is Indo-US zest and zeal both.
If a new Constitution could not be proclaimed by May 2012, the people's revolt is likely to initiate to fulfill the Maoists' purpose.
TGQ3. In the current geopolitical circumstances and the internal and external security dimensions of our country, what could be the role of Nepal Army (NA)?
Some security experts are advocating for reducing the size of NA whereas some other extremist analysts are even suggesting dissolving the NA? Dr. Pathak, can you please let our august readers know what you think about the relevance of NA?
Dr. Pathak: While Nepal is sandwiched between the two giant rocks, Nepal Army may not provide security if external insecurity prevails. Even though, Nepal needs the NA on the course to ensure internal security or to meet security threat within the nation. The NA may help to preserve national parks, assist during natural calamities, construction of development works, and so forth. Besides, NA is the only disciplined institution in Nepal as most of others are politicized to meet their temporary requirements.
I think the right sizing of the NA shall be public debate. If need be, the size of the NA shall subsequently be reduced by halting recruitment for certain period of time. However, competent NA with modern arms and ammunition is today's urgency.
TGQ4. We have come to know that you are keenly watching the peace process of several third world countries. The involvement of western countries in the peace process of the third world occasionally comes under sharp criticisms, as we have seen in the case of Sri Lanka some years ago. Can you please shed some light on the interests and roles of the western countries in the peace process of the countries of third world?
Dr. Pathak: There has been the need of third country assistance either for peacekeeping or peacemaking and peace building in any post conflict or during conflict period in the world. The UN shall play better role for both political and security missions compared to many other peace and security institutions. In the more than 6 decades since the United Nations establishment, Peacekeeping and Political Missions have been conducted in 66 countries where six countries such as Colombia, Haiti are in Americas, 15 countries in Asia, nine countries in the Middle East, 11 in Europe and 25 in Africa. However, most of UN missions have failed to restore peace. It is once again notable that the first UN Peacekeeping Mission was established in 1948 to monitor various Truces in Arab-Israeli wars and the second was established in 1949 during Indo-Pakistan War to monitor Truce in Kashmir which is still working. It means peace has not been restored yet.
A very few missions such as Aceh (Indonesia), Mozambique, South Africa, East Timor, etc. were succeeded to restore peace. In the case of Aceh, 3,000 combatants out of 6,000 were integrated into state-security forces downsizing the state army from 40,000 to 15,000. Out of 90,000, 63 percent state army and 57 percent out of 22,000 rebel forces were integrated to make a new South Africa National Defense Army. In Mozambique, equal number of armies 15,000 each from Government (downsizing from 67,000) and rebel (out of 25,000) were integrated. These countries have succeeded in restoring law and order now.
However, in the case of Nepal, the UNMIN withdrew itself with full humiliation leaving Nepal's peace process in a limbo. First, the political mission had invited providing a little authority. Second, India had not been happy since its inception as it had been looking for greater role in Nepal since 12-point understanding. Third, the UNMIN recruited immature local staffs. Fourth, it started to work putting itself in high profile. Fifth, the then Chief of UNMIN, Ian Martin, never followed protocol. It means most of the time he met PM, senior political leaders and so forth, but not to foreign minister and secretary. This raised the credibility issue of UNMIN as the more than 2,500 Maoist Army were absent during second verification, conducted at the end of 2011.
TGQ5. It is widely accused that the donor agencies give priority to the NGOs and Civil Societies of Nepal with communist background while providing funds. Why is this special love for communists? Dr. Pathak, what say you about this issue?
Dr. Pathak: Most of the donation in Nepal comes from the West, particularly who either adopts capitalism or traditional democracy. The word "communist" itself is burden for them. Rather than to uplift the poverty, democratization, human rights, such donors intentionally focus to crush the communist ideology. And it is possible if we make them to adopt the habit of luxuries. They have a firm believe that once the men/women use their facilities, they never give it up. It means they renounce violence. Similarly communists are generally clear, energetic and hard workers as well. I think this is the main reason of the love of donor agencies.
Telegraph Weekly/telegraphnepal.com exclusive