Peaceful politics good enough, armed outfits now feel
KATHMANDU , SEP 23 -
The government move to hold talks with various armed groups seems to be paying dividends, with members of the outfits accepting the fact that peaceful politics is the only way out.
Since April 2007, when the Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction (MoPR) was established, the government has held talks with 16 groups, most of them Tarai-based, and all the talks have resulted in breakthroughs, major and minor.
"Ultimately it is peaceful politics that one turns to, even after waging an armed struggle. Nepal's recent history is witness to this," said Rajiv Jha, the joint-coordinator of Samyukta Krantikari Tarai Madhes Mukti Morcha. The group has held two rounds of talks with the government, between April 18 and August 21.
A host of reasons seems to be behind the armed groups' move. Among them, the success of many Madhes-based parties in the Constituent Assembly elections in 2008 seems to have made these groups believe that getting into the system gives them larger legitimacy.
Analyst Dipendra Jha says, "Those involved with armed groups saw that their engagement in peaceful politics was not only giving them larger legitimacy in the eyes of the public but also enhancing their prospects in their political career."
Another reason could be access to state mechanisms and resources as some of them who joined mainstream politics have been able to secure political appointments.
The third factor seems to be the change in attitude towards the Madhesi community in Kathmandu. For the past few years, following the Madhes movement in 2007, there has been a shift in the attitude of Kathmandu towards the community. "The changed attitude of Kathmandu is however both substantive as well as cosmetic," says journalist Chandrakishor, who writes on Madhes issues. "Madhesi issues have found considerable space in the national media and major parties also have taken up the issues, which has attracted armed outfit s to mainstream politics."
Government officials also concede that the success in elections of Madhesi parties and some individuals who had resorted to arms in the past may have convinced these groups. "The possibility of greater legitimacy may be a reason for the groups' proclivity to mainstream politics," says the chief of the Conflict Management Division of the MoPR, Bharat Poudel.
Another MoPR official involved in the negotiations said the electoral success of individuals like Baban Singh, who was involved in armed activities in the past, has motivated these groups to opt for peaceful politics.
Poudel claims that the purpose of holding talks is to "mainstream these groups" in addition to improving the law and order situation. There has been a significant reduction in cases of extortion and kidnapping in local levels, Poudel says.
However, Rajiv Jha laments that the government has not been prompt in making good its promises. "At times, the only intention of the government seems to be creating an environment where we lay down our weapons," he says.
According to Jha, his talks team has handed over to the government a list of 56 members of his group for making them public. He further claims that around 50 of his friends are languishing in jail and that the government, during talks, had promised to release them.
Poudel blames the legal process involved in the delay in the outfit members' release. He says sorting things out after talks takes time. "If crimes of serious nature are committed by any person, s/he cannot be given a clean chit merely because his/her group has held talks with the government," he says.
Posted on: 2012-09-23 03:00