If there is to be lasting peace in the country, it is vital that the peace process be properly settled—and soon. What this essentially means is that the remaining parts of the process—chiefly the formation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Commission on Enforced Disappearance (CED)—be done in a way that fosters broader reconciliation. We are clear on this. If the thrust of the twin commissions is on persecution and revenge-seeking, it could potentially unravel all the notable achievements of the peace process so far, the achievements that have been hailed the world over as ‘historic’. The way ahead, in our view, is pretty clear-cut. In the whole TRC debate, the most important voice, inarguably, is that of victims. Gauging by their reaction to Republica’s queries on TRC, most of them aren’t looking for personal revenge at all. What they rather want is adequate reparations to be able to properly look after their families, especially in the cases where the primary breadwinners either died or ‘disappeared’ during the conflict. Most of them also said that rather than an endless cycle of bloodletting, they would much prefer a final closure.
This voice must be heeded. Make no mistake. What we are demanding is not that every crime committed during the conflict be ‘forgiven and forgotten’. That would be a travesty of justice. What we would rather see is the most egregious crimes that are barred by both national and international laws punished. But the major focus, once again, has to be ensuring lasting peace, and whatever road takes us there must be pursued. A section of the human rights community and media are pushing for a tougher line against wartime crimes; and frankly, they do have some robust legal arguments to back their demand. Yet the irrefutable fact of the Nepali peace process is that it is fundamentally a political undertaking. The warring Maoists didn’t surrender before state forces. They rather signed a political agreement with the mainstream parties, which, among other things, established them as a credible democratic force. Now to try to individually follow through on handpicked war-time crimes—no matter how heinous they might be—and ask for redress through normal legal mechanisms would be a violation of the spirit of the ongoing peace and constitution process.
American Economist John Kenneth Galbraith famously said politics often resides in a choice between impalpable and disastrous. This view is quite relevant to Nepal’s current political situation. As the coalition stands on the strength of more than 75 percent members of Constituent Assembly, it is impalpable for the government to fail on its constitution writing goal. Conversely, if the government fails to cash in on such an opportune moment, there is a distinct possibility that Nepal will take a disastrous course. It could lead to the unbridled, chaotic and confused political situation.
After they declared the country republic in 2008, political parties had offered a great sense of hope to strengthen democracy, protect human rights and enhance rule of law under new constitution. This, we were told, would enable the Nepalis to enjoy peace and economic prosperity in “New Nepal.” But they failed to translate this promise into reality during the tenure of CA I— which was allowed to function for more than double its original two years time. Needless to say, the main reason for the failure was political leaders bickering over petty bargaining to advance their personal benefits instead of focusing on constitution making. They displayed no political will to write the new constitution. This dashed people’s hope for change and sent them into deep despair and distress. In the broader sphere, it gave rise to endemic corruption and created a disastrous economic situation.
In mid-October 2010, there were a growing number of diarrheal cases following the devastating January earthquake in Haiti. The outbreak immediately drew the attention of the world and hundreds of international humanitarian organizations poured into Haiti to tackle the health crisis. Vibrio cholera was identified as a cause of diarrhea.
While the whole world was assisting Haitian patients, there was a great concern about the origin of the cholera, particularly among the researchers because cholera had not been known for several decades prior to this particular outbreak in Haiti. Scientists pointed out to the South Asian origin of the strains based on their preliminary results.
Though T S Eliot’s long poem “The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock” was criticized as “senseless rambling of a confused mind,” it epitomizes modern people in general and Nepali politicians in particular. This poem is an exemplary piece of literature that justifies its relevance even now. Prufrock somehow represents Nepali politicians.
Prufrock repeats, “And indeed there will be time,” as if he has thousands of years to live but this sufficiency of time is not for doing something worthwhile but for delaying. The reflection of this delay syndrome is very common in our political context. We are eyewitnesses of the demise of the first Constituent Assembly (CA) after much dillydallying and several postponements. The finalized schedule for constitution drafting was amended 12 times, reflecting our leaders’ inefficiency.
It is natural for human beings to flee the place where they feel threatened or persecuted in search of more secure safe havens. But it is highly unusual for those who have fled a place as victims of exploitation and abuse to want to go back. Yet this is exactly what most of the 37 Nepali female migrant workers stranded in Beirut, Lebanon who were brought back to Kathmandu on Monday want. Most of them were fleeing either unbearable house owners who subjected them to constant physical and/or psychological torture, or equally commonly, paid far less than was initially promised. Interestingly, it was only in 2010 that the government lifted a 12-year-ban on employment of Nepali women in Gulf countries. But it was again forced into a rethink when incidents of physical and sexual exploitation of young Nepali women working abroad started to go up dramatically. It then settled on a novel idea: why not bar all Nepali women under 30 from working as domestic workers in destinations with bad records for protection of women’s rights like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and UAE? The hope was that older women would be less likely to be sexually exploited, and ‘mature’ women more amenable to making judicious employment decisions.
Yet the picture was far too complicated for the feasibility of such a seemingly straightforward solution. Women rights activists immediately started lobbying for lifting of the ‘arbitrary’ 30-year rule. They do have a strong point when they argue that most of the ‘underage’ women who want to work abroad do so anyway, by sneaking into India and from then to various Gulf destinations with the help of unscrupulous middlemen who charge high rates. Nor is it clear that imposing the age bar has had any kind of significant impact on lowering instances of sexual exploitation of Nepali women abroad. The age ban makes even less sense when one considers that the majority of birth dates mentioned in passports are faked anyway, arranged just so that the workers fall within the ideal age bracket of would-be employers. Moreover, there is a strong moral question too: if there are no restrictions on men, why shackle the equally capable women with onerous rules?