Peace overturesPolitical developments in Nepal never cease to be interesting. The past decade saw the Second People’s Movement after King Gyanendra’s royal coup, which paved the way for the signing of a landmark Comprehensive Peace Accord that ended the decade-long Maoist insurgency.
Political developments in Nepal never cease to be interesting. The past decade saw the Second People’s Movement after King Gyanendra’s royal coup, which paved the way for the signing of a landmark Comprehensive Peace Accord that ended the decade-long Maoist insurgency. Soon after, the Madhes uprising brought the focus of politics to the southern plains. The run-up to the Constituent Assembly elections and promulgation of the constitution saw the making and breaking of political alliances and active political engagement of the erstwhile marginalised, thereby forcing political actors to reckon voices from all sections of the society. Last year, the erstwhile CPN (UML) and the Maoist Centre came together to form a left alliance, surprising many in the domestic as well as international political sphere.
Last week’s political development was no less dramatic. Nepali politics took yet another thespian turn when an 11-point agreement was signed between Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa and CK Raut, a ‘Free Madhes’ campaigner and coordinator of the Alliance for Independent Madhes. The mainstay of the agreement, signed in the presence of Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, was that Raut would cease his demands for a “free” Madhes and enter mainstream politics while the government would withdraw cases against him and his cadre.
Raut had for the last six years been actively demanding an independent Madhes for ‘liberation’ of the Madhesi people. He and his colleagues were arrested multiple times for the “secessionist” demands. But on Friday, while speaking at the joint press conference at the City Hall, Raut committed to honour the sovereignty, territorial integrity and dignity of the country. This marked a significant change in his politics. While the agreement gave a ‘safe-landing’ opportunity to Raut, it also helped Oli gain political mileage. A win-win situation for both.
But there is much to be cautious about.
For starters, differing interpretations of the agreement from both parties have started surfacing. The phrase “Jana Abhimat” which loosely translates into “people’s opinion” is one bone of contention. Raut was quick to post on social media, saying that the government had agreed to a referendum but politicians from the ruling party have contested Raut’s claim.
Could this be part of Raut’s long-term design to further his demand for a free Madhes by joining mainstream politics? It is too early to judge, but Raut’s intentions seem to be unclear going by the social media posts in the immediate aftermath of the agreement.
Moreover, his ideology and roadmap for his political engagement seem yet unclear, but that is for him to decide. For now, both parties would do well to abide by the agreement and sort out differences over interpretation of the contentious clauses. The spirit of the deal was to resolve issues through dialogue. To further this achievement both the parties should exercise caution and refrain from interpretations that contravene the ethos of the agreement.