With the handing over of the arms, combatants and cantonments of the Maoist PLA to the Nepal Army on Chaitra 28, the illusion that the Maoists will eventually opt for a people’s revolt for ‘power of the poor’ has come to an end. Maoist Chairman Prachanda’s ‘bold’ step and the subsequent decision of the Army Integration Special Committee have shattered the hope of those ‘people in tattered clothes’ and the apprehension of those ‘people in sleek clothes.’ The Maoists have made the ultimate sacrifice for peace and the constitution by ending the history of - what Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai said in his address to the nation on Chaitra 30 - ‘the group that has made the highest contribution in ushering in a republican set up’ in the country.
Even after entering the peace process following the Comprehensive Peace Accord in 2006, the Maoists had been emphasizing on a people’s revolt while at the same time citing that conspiracies were rife to sabotage the historic tasks of peace and the constitution. The Maoist party even staged a rehearsal of a people’s revolt in 2010 when it called an indefinite general strike. Although the party withdrew the largely peaceful strike in six days owing to public pressure, the strike gave the impression that the party that had fought with arms for more than a decade would never give up its desire to establish a socialist state through a revolt. This image of the party lingered on even when a year ago it clarified that at the moment it had no objective other than to conclude the ongoing peace and constitution writing process.
All along, the issue of army integration was getting tough as top leaders of the non-Maoist parties were saying that there could be no integration as such whereas the Maoist leaders were saying that all the PLA members verified by the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) had to be integrated into the Nepal Army. Although the leaders were engaged in behind the scene negotiations and making some progress in the dispute, the positions they took before the public gave the impression that a common ground for them would be a far cry. The situation had developed in such a negative way that people were losing confidence in the leaders.
Although the 7-point agreement of November 1 last year had given some hope, the continued dispute over army integration and some core issues of the constitution were undermining the people’s optimism that the peace and constitution-writing process would be complete by May 27. Against this backdrop, the AISC decision to deploy the NA in the PLA cantonments and then carry out the remaining task of integration was surprising. As the Maoist party was arguing that rank determination, training duration and standard norms needed to be fixed before initiating the integration process, it was hard to guess that it would so abruptly allow the NA to control the PLA. However, the Maoists’ decision was a product of the lately developing dissatisfaction among the PLA members and the subsequent tension in the cantonments.
With the AISC decision on April 14 and the 7-point agreement among the parties on the same day for completing the integration, the toughest issues related to the peace process has been resolved. The bills on formation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Commission on Inquiry of the Disappeared are the only two issues to be settled. Even on these, the parties are close to agreement.
Following these latest developments, hope has run high that the constitution would be promulgated in time. These developments have deprived the leaders of any excuses for failing to deliver the new constitution on time.
Both the Maoist and non-Maoist parties will have to focus on the constitution. The Maoists have fulfilled the demands of the non-Maoist parties that the peace process should be completed before writing the constitution. Now, it is the turn of the non-Maoist parties like the Nepali Congress and CPN-UML to address the demands of the Maoists that the new constitution should be people-oriented. Although the Maoist party has not explained in clear terms what a pro-people constitution is, the other parties have to address its concerns.
The Maoists have put a moral and political obligation on the NC and UML to concentrate on addressing the Maoist issues. Given the agreement on almost all of the issues, except on the form of governance, judiciary, citizenship, names, numbers and boundaries of the provinces, one can conjecture what type of constitution is in the offing. The new constitution will not be socialist or communist as such.
The Maoist party has clarified that the new constitution would be democratic, a document of compromise. If that is the case, why should there be delay in reaching an agreement and assuring the people that the constitution will be delivered on time? What the Maoists should understand is that form of governance, electoral system and judiciary are not the core content of a constitution that will pave the way to socialism. Since the party is ready to embrace a constitution that is democratic, why the delay in reaching an agreement? By the same token, when the Maoists are ready to adopt a democratic polity, why should the NC and UML not be ready to accept the Maoists’ positions on the remaining disputed issues of the constitution?