Focused Solutions of the Armed
Dev Raj Dahal
The great Greek historian Herodotus
said, "in peace, children bury their parents; war violates
the order of nature and causes parents to bury their children."
Violent conflict constitutes a clash of
hostile interest causing civic and moral breakdown and punishing
the entire community, majority of members are women, children
and deprived. Violent conflict is the manifestation of the
biological instinct of human nature. Its solution lies in
the application of social and spiritual norms. Violence
against women involves murder, widowhood, rape, sexual slavery,
forced sterilization, displacement, destruction of family
connection, problem of citizenship of the child of raped
women, etc. They play key roles in maintaining livelihood
in times of uncertainty. Women's perspective on conflict
resolution, therefore, goes to the roots of violence. But,
their participation in negotiation hardly receives priority.
The tendency to employ violence as a tool for coping with
conflict is learned through early childhood socialization.
Hence, it is essential to mainstream gender perspective
into relevant policies and programs regarding peace action.
Changing the causes of conflict can change the nature and
dynamics of conflict.
The political life in Nepal presents a
pattern of social movements, political agitations and violent
conflicts producing prolonged political and constitutional
deadlock and increasing decay of public and political institutions.
The often changing constellation of political equation has
further defied the structural stability of the state and
its legitimate monopoly on power, taxation and loyalty of
citizens. These conditions have stalled the productive life
of society, upset the equilibrium between the state-society
relations and weakened the connection between national security
and democracy. Problem occurred when politics got frozen
into inflexibility, disengaged from the society and the
state, lost commitment in public sector and clogged the
prospects for peaceful change. In such a context, how focused
solution is sought?
Any focused solution of conflict largely
rests on three conditions: political pressure of diverse
people which is able to contain selfish tendencies of leadership
within legitimate, constitutional bounds; condition of society
creating "social contract" which tends to address
the root causes of conflict arising out of poverty, inequality,
injustice and alienation; and finally, an ethical climate
which allows people to expect a balance between a modicum
of order and social justice. What sorts of social thought
and political action are needed to address these conditions?
How can they help resolve conflicts in Nepal?
Condition one: Political pressures exerted
through human rights organizations, women's associations,
conflict victims, school children and religious organization
and their peace campaigns continue to represent the aspirations
of cross-section of people for peace. These pressures are
useful for shaping public opinion. Still, in terms of behavioral
change, they have not gone beyond the level of pious exhortation.
The resistance to violence by high leverage actors such
as FNCCI, political parties and several interest groups
of society has not been able to underline a common interest
in peace and alter the behavior of major contestants. The
magnitude of Maoist problem has become overwhelming but
the solution tends to be either "inaction," or
"perfunctory action" or even "wrong action."
Discontinuity and breakdown in the government-Maoist negotiations
clearly illustrate this fact. Lack of orderly political
engagements in the peace process means there is a void in
the political space which is being filled by the irrational
tendencies of non-political and anti-political forces who
hope to get more by conflict than by a negotiated settlement.
Peace movement of civil society in Nepal centers on mobilizing
public opinion, conflict reporting, civil peace action by
rehabilitation of conflict victim widows, displaced journalists
and children, movement against the violation of human rights,
attempt to release innocent from detention, reporting about
extra-judicial killings, demonstration against the violation
of women's rights, etc. These activities have not been able
to adequately sensitize the behavior of political actors
and hence become a part of the political process. Each political
actor has prepared "road map" and "political
agenda," for peace but due to a lack of trust among
them they remained inoperative. Civil society groups have
been formed to articulate peace agenda. Trade unions have
also begun to discuss about conflict-sensitive project.
These activities do suggest that public pressure for peace
is mounting. The only problem is it has not reached a critical
threshold to effect conflict transformation.
Condition two: Due to the heterogeneous
character of Nepalese society where none of the social group
can claim majority it is not difficult to attain political
equilibrium if political power is made truly representative
of social pluralism. Multiplicity of social groups also
provides certain deterrence against non-political conflicts.
As women and girls remain vulnerable to violence during
conflict, their perspective tends to offer non-violent resolution
of conflict. Democratization of political parties can minimize
the personal ambition of political leaders to stay in power
life-long and bring their relatives to succeed them. Empowerment
of people, their growing social competence and critical
discourse, make them cooperative citizens and enable them
to understand common aspiration for peace through collective
action. Inner party debates undergoing in Nepal tend to
focus on the principles and policies regarding gender justice,
democratization and peace.
Condition three: Order and justice spring
from the ties of the state with society and ethical laws
and policies followed. Realpolitik thinkers believe that
problem of order can be solved by the distribution of power
between contestants, but it does not guarantee long-term
peace. Nepal's experience in 1950 and 1990 illustrates that
distribution of power among powerful actors alone could
neither achieve political stability nor satisfy popular
aspiration. Idealpolitik thinkers like Lord Buddha found
stability in the Golden Mean, that is, the end of peace
should be accompanied by peaceful means and the process
of peace should nurture life-enhancing values and institutions.
This theory holds that peace is essentially a question of
nurturing democratic values and culture. The role of women
in humanitarian service in the midst of conflict and post-conflict
scenario cannot be underestimated.
Political problem cannot be solved by
non-political or anti-political means. It is, therefore,
important to make the position of various actors politically
reasonable to transform their mutually exclusive position
into a cooperative game. How to establish common ground
of rationality? Solution must be sought in the light of
reason and ethics. An absolute satisfaction of a particular
party or a class or gender prevents their collaboration
for mutual advantage. Nepalese political actors offer a
number of formulas but they have not agreed on as to how
they want to be governed by mutually agreed goals, rules
Peace through national security: The fundamental
rationality of national security rests on the civil-military
synergy. But a lack of trust between them has left their
rational potential for cooperation unrealized. While the
army seeks its role in defending the "reasons of the
state," and remove the "state of nature,"
political parties fear that they might be subordinated or
sidelined in the negotiation of social contract. If conflict
is embedded in the basic structures of the society, economy
and polity, solution lies in the structural transformation
of public sphere. A careful management of the nation's delicate
geopolitics is equally central to pull the loyalty of centrifugal
forces of society towards the consolidation of statehood
and beef up its role in governance. Peace, stability, democracy
and development cannot be organized in a security vacuum.
Peace through law and order: Conservative
political forces of Nepal do favor constitutional status
quo as a means to settle conflicts. Leaders socialized on
the patrimonial governance fear from the egalitarian consequences
of democracy and the concept of checks and balances of power
and, therefore, resort to culture and power as a means to
resolve conflict. Two main political parties-- Nepali Congress
(NC) and Communist Party of Nepal Unified Marxist-Leninist
(CPN-UML) fear the risk of losing the achievement of 1990
if a new constitution is prepared in the future.
Peace through constitutional reforms/
amendments: The position of Nepali Congress (NC), NC (Democratic),
Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP), Nepal Sadbhavana Party
(NSP) rests on this formula. While NC is interested more
in limiting the king's power and civilian control of army,
RPP lays stress on proportional representation of social
groups and women in politics and the state. The CPN-UML
is caught between constitutional status quo and a demand
for opening debates for constituent assembly. NSP is seeking
solution in the territorial federalization of the state
and devolution of power.
Peace through Constituent Assembly: Communist
Party of Nepal-Maoist, Nepal Workers and Peasants Party
(NeWPP), Jana Morcha Nepal and many left parties prefer
a new constitution drafted by a constituent assembly to
resolve the crisis faced by the nation. The constitutional
issue has to be settled immediately before election because
it has become a bone of contention since 1950s.
When the interests and positions
of political actors are so different can a positive peace
be achievable? Certainly, it is if face saving options are
provided to contesting forces and intermediaries facilitate
communication among them for creative political engagement.
The government has started consultation for the formation
of all-party government that can facilitate dialogue with
the Maoists. The responsibility of civil society and the
scientific community lies in understanding the nature of
this problem and discovering "reason" and the
"rationality" of political action with the hope
of seeking a solution. Positive peace is a condition in
which there is no existence of latent, manifest or even
structural violence and a well-functioning democratic framework
is in place to ensure the supply of adequate common good
for the satisfaction of peoples' spiritual, social and material
needs. Positive peace does not mean the continuation of
things as they are. Peace talks aimed at a negotiated settlement
represent the best solution to the conflict. A durable peace
also relies on the appropriate accommodation of diverse
societal interests in the framework of political power and
their participation in governance that is both legitimate