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A Chance for Peace

August 5, 2001

Nepal news


At last there is some good news. After the most terrible year in our history we have finally won a chance of peace and reconciliation. Of course there are many wounds to heal on both sides. But Premier Deuba and Comrade Prachanda have at least agreed to talk together. The Government has finally realised that armed force must be a final measure of desperation rather than a basic concept of policy. And although many of you might have preferred another election and an entirely new government, at least we have a leader who is responding to the message of the people.

One of the immediate results of recent events has been an increased interest from the international media. A BBC correspondent from London reported directly from Rolpa district last Wednesday where the Maoists were holding a massive gathering of local residents. More than 5,000 citizens trekked to Holeri village from the surrounding hills and listened to the local Maoist commander as he declared his administration of the district. In a peak time prestige radio broadcast, millions of British listeners were told by ordinary Nepalis how happy they were with the new Maoist regime. They spoke of the corruption and hunger they had suffered under Government administration and how things had now improved. And they described the oppression by local policemen before the successful rebel raid three weeks ago.

The Maoist commander was confident that the revolution would spread across Nepal. He even spoke of much wider revolution that might follow a National Maoist Government. Plainly those involved in the revolution have dreams of liberating oppressed citizens in many other developing nations across the world. They believe that the new Maoist philosophy expressed by Comrade Prachanda is relevant to many other cultures where capitalism has favoured the few but impoverished the majority. The BBC reported that the Maoists had not released the police prisoners taken in the raid but they also emphasised the political determination evident amongst the rebels.

As I have written for many months, the Maoist threat does not come from a small group of fanatics who are terrorising the population. The movement is extremely well organised and disciplined. It has the active support of millions of ordinary citizens. Many young Nepalis are leaving their tiny farms or their poorly paid jobs to join the cause simply because there seems to be no other future for them. Some have even told me that death is not a problem for them because they have no life anyway. This is not an issue that can be solved by force or increased security measures. There is a limit to what the poorer citizens can endure and the recent huge growth of wealth amongst the business and professional classes has brought them to it. Although many may never see the streets of Thamel, the stories of 60 Lakh Mercedes cars and houses full of servants will always reach them. There can be no effective censorship of the truth. It will always reach the surface eventually.

But Mr. Deuba is aware of this. He knows that his political future relies upon the successful outcome of these negotiations. Indeed the whole future of Nepal is resting upon them as well. But he should have no fear if he listens to the people before all others. In the final analysis that is his job. He is the representative of the people. The Prime Minister is a servant to the welfare of every Nepali and there can be no shame in expressing their wish for peace. Of course any settlement will require enormous statesmanship and skilled diplomacy. And it will require a new vision for the years ahead. But it can be achieved. Comrade Prachanda must realise that his support only exists because of bad government. If Mr. Deuba is able to change the direction of government and achieve radical improvements for the ordinary citizen the whole need for Maoism will be destroyed. And if he fails to achieve these goals, the cause of Maoism will march relentlessly forwards. That is a central reality that no government can ignore.

Now that peace talks seem to have finally become a reality I think it is time for me to rest a little from my writing. Over the past 34 weeks I have followed every event in Nepal with great intensity and my family insist that I have a short holiday from politics. They are certainly right. Perhaps we can all begin to get on with our daily lives and simply wish success for all those involved in the peace process. It will take many months and there will be many arguments. But the alternative to peace is war. And like Sri Lanka where a hundred thousand people have died over many decades of armed conflict, that is a much less attractive process. I shall return in a few weeks and tell you of my experiences in Europe where I am currently visiting my son. Hopefully there will be no further tragedies for Nepal in the meantime.

With my best wishes to you all,