Civil War in Nepal - Civil War Essay Example

Civil War in Nepal

Introduction

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The small South Asian nation, Nepal is located in the Great Himalayan mountains range. Traditionally, Nepal has been a peace-loving country and maintained a cordial relation with its neighbours. Another major South Asian country India has been supportive to Nepal both financially and politically. India and Nepal share a strong cultural bonding for centuries. Nepal had a tough time in maintaining a perfect balance between India and China who are rivals and do not see eye to eye. Nepal always contributed positively towards world peace. However, it failed to restore peace and harmony in its own country. Political turmoil in Nepal eventually led to a civil-war like situation with the emergence of Maoist rebels who resorted to violence and subversive activities.

Conflict in Nepal

“The conflict in Nepal began when King Mahendra assumed power after dismissing the first popular elected government of the Nepali Congress in 1960”. He moved to centralise power and tightened his control over the military. The King mainly focused on bringing the civil and military administration into the control of monarchy”[1].  That laid the foundation of an uncontrolled conflict, which evolved in the past decades.

Violent conflicts have now integrated with the development of the Nepalese social and political system. The inability of political parties to reconcile to the changes, have resulted in a civil war in which thousands of people have died so far. A tense atmosphere has been created among the masses with some sections of the society struggling for power and resources. Political establishments competed with each other to claim that they represent democracy, nationalism and the state. The Maoist rebels have taken the advantage of the situation to continue their subversive activities.

Internal Factors Responsible for the Civil War in Nepal

1) Political Struggle

The major players in the political conflict in Nepal are the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and the government appointed by King Gyanendra. The Communist Party of Nepal is a grand alliance of seven political parties. “In February 2005, King Gyanendra dismissed his own government and promulgated personal rule. His action was based on the argument that politicians in the country failed to end the Maoist insurgency. King Gyanendra argued he would take effective steps to restore peace in the country. He also promised that he would start fresh negotiations with the Maoist guerrillas. However, his promise proved to be false when he ordered his troops to drag out the rebels from their jungle hideouts”[2].

The major political parties never appreciated King’s policies. They were disappointed with the turn around of events and called for holding a Constituent Assembly, which was a direct challenge to the King’s authority. What followed after that was a blot on the democracy of Nepal. King Gyanendra also ordered arrest of prominent politicians in the country.

There are fear and unrest all over Nepal. “People believe that the King’s regime intended to crush all civil and political liberties that were gained by Nepalese people in 1991”[3]. Students and common citizens also disapprove the policies of the current regime. The worst came in the form of restrictions on the freedom of the press and TV channels.

2) Insurgency in Nepal

Maoist rebels have successfully capitalised on the growing resentment in the country. Earlier, only the Maoist rebels fought against the political regimes and military administrations. Now the students and common people are out on the streets to protest against the King’s regime.

“The armed insurgency in Nepal began in 1996 by CPN (Maoist). It has now taken a shape of civil war with the rebels emerging stronger with the help of outside forces. Counter-insurgency operations by the state resulted in the death of over 15,000 people. It displaced over 200,000 people and brought a halt to the public life”[4]. Peace and harmony in the Himalayan state are in tatters now.

“The counter-insurgency operations led to serious human rights violations with both the men and women suffering from the trauma of torture, harassment, rape and illegal detention. While the government committed itself to maintain the law and order of the state, widespread violence hindered the social and economic growth of the country”[5]. Poverty and unemployment made it difficult for the political regimes to satisfy the people. Large scale migration of Nepalese people to the neighbouring countries portrays a horrible picture of Nepal’s future.

Insurgency activities and counter-insurgency operations disrupted the social life in Nepal to a great extent. Disruption in social life has also affected the supply of food and essential items to people living in remote areas. Education and development are taking the backstage and people continue to lose trust in the political, civil and military administrations of the country.

3) Neglect of Midwest Hills

“After dismissing the elected government, King Mahedra established a party-less Panchayat system in 1960. During the Panchayat regime (1960-1990), a few influential families dominated the politics of the mid-western hill districts of Rukum and Rolpa. After the democratic changes in 1991, local elites joined the ruling Nepalese Congress. However, common people found little difference between the Panchayat regime and the democratic government as the same political establishments dominated both the regimes. That alienated local people from the mainstream politics”[6]. Inequality in the political, economic and social arena raised the discontent among people.

Denial of basic needs and equal opportunities motivated people in mid-western hills to form a group in order to struggle for their rights. Maoists took advantage of the situation and persuaded ethnic groups, women and suppressed people to join hands. Unemployed and disadvantaged youth were also encouraged to join the Maoists with the goal of autonomy and self-determination.  “The Nepalese Congress regime considered the Maoist insurgency as a major law and order problem and began retaliating through police and army. That widened the gap between the local people and the government. The conflict, which began in the mid-western hills, spread to other parts of the country. The low-intensity conflict became a high-intensity conflict, which forced people lose faith in the peace process”[7].

In the initial phase, Maoists recruited the youths who had been subjected to police atrocities. People in that region became increasing dissatisfied with the government and the administration. Instances of human rights violation further increased their grievances.

The police action also spread a message of distrust across the community and inflamed the passion of people. The difficult geographical location of the area and the local support for the Maoist rebels always made the task of the government much difficult. The government’s role was completely minimised in the mid-western hills and the region became a breeding place for Maoist guerrillas.

4) Social and Political Discrimination

“After the democratic changes in 1991, several progressive laws have been promulgated to bring equality in the society. However, the social discrimination against some sections of the society continues unabated. The tribes, ethnic minorities, women and the downtrodden people always have been subjected to neglect and injustice”[8]. The CPN (Maoist) exploited such people to bring them into its fold. The exploitive rule of the political administration had distanced the poor and lower middle class from the mainstream. The Maoists groomed these people to revolt against the policies and laws enforced by the ruling regime.

Role of External Factors

India has always shown interest in Nepal because of the geographical and cultural proximity. “Being the largest democracy in the world, India has been advocating peace and democracy in the South Asian region. South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is a major step in this regard to which Nepal is a party. Although India maintained a policy of non-interference towards its neighbours, it was forced to take tough postures on Nepal because of the growth of terrorism, arm-smuggling and drug-trafficking on the Nepalese soil”[9].

“Reports of Pakistan’s ISI-sponsored terrorism from Nepalese soil disturbed India. India’s fear came true in the event of the involvement of a Pakistani Embassy official in Nepal in the 1999 plane hijack case. Besides the criminal activities, India was also concerned over the growing number of immigration from Nepal”[10]. Hence, it decided to join hands with the Nepalese government in handling these problems. As a largest beneficiary of India’s financial and military aid, subsequent regimes in Nepal provided all possible assistance to India. However, it does not go well with people of Nepal who view it as India’s hegemony in the South Asian region.

“Maoist rebels also consider India as a danger to their revolution movement. It has been noticed that Maoist insurgents in north-eastern part of India have close links with the Maoist rebels in Nepal. Hence, India has always offered all possible support to Nepal in order to crush the Maoist rebels. India also launched crackdown on the Maoist rebels hiding on its soil. There were instances when governments in Nepal urged India to provide military power to suppress the Maoist rebels”[11]. India’s interference in Nepal is a major factor for the growing resentment among people.

Western world is equally interested in the present situation in Nepal. The United States and the European Union always advocated democracy across the globe. The civil war in Nepal has become a matter of concern for most countries in the world. “The European Commission has developed a strategy, which integrates EC development projects, peace process and human rights issues with the political profile”[12]. The main objective of the mission is to restore peace and contain civil disturbances in Nepal.

“The United States does not support the King’s regime. It wants a democratically elected government to assume power in Nepal, which will resolve all the problems internally. It is leading the pack of countries such as India, China and others to persuade the King to hold general elections in the country at the earliest. Although it is building pressure on King Gyanendra to take effective steps to uphold the democratic values and avoid a large scale civil war, it ruled out any direct intervention to resolve the issue”[13].

Apart from India, the US, the UK and China, several other countries such as Pakistan, Japan, Russia and South Korea are supporting the initiative taken by the Communist Party of Nepal to restore democracy and peace in the country. It often seems that third party mediation is necessary to resolve the current impasse. However, political parties in Nepal are divided on this issue. “Political parties like Nepalese Congress and RPP chose to negotiate the peace process themselves. However, Communist Party of Nepal and civil society groups have called for international mediation either by the UN or any neutral country”[14].

Eventually, neither the seven-party alliance nor the government appointed by the King has supported international mediation as they were not sure of the consequences. “India, China and the US have always opposed to any international mediation in Nepal because of their own political compulsions”[15].

Conclusion

The civil war in Nepal has not only taken thousands of lives, but also it badly hit the economy. The political regimes never tried to take initiatives to restore peace and resolve the problems of common people. Although King Gyanendra promised to provide good governance and security to the citizens, he completely failed in doing so. A peaceful solution to the crisis needs to be achieved in Nepal as soon as possible. It is the responsibility of all political parties to think about people and the nation first. They should not forget that they are the representatives of people and owe a lot to them.

Bibliography

Thapa, Manjushree. Forget Kathmandu: An Elegy for Democracy. New Delhi, Penguin, 2005, ix, 260 p.

Himalayan ‘people’s war’: Nepal’s Maoist rebellion. Edited by Michael Hutt. London: C. Hurst, 2004.

Bhattarai, Baburam. Monarchy vs. Democracy: The Epic Fight in Nepal. New Delhi, Samkaleen Teesari Duniya, 2005, xvi, 180 p.

Basnyat, Prem Singh. New Paradigm in Global Security: Civil-Military Relation in Nepal. Kathmandu, Bhrikuti Academic Pub., 2004, xvi, 158 p.

Shaha, Rishikesh. Modern Nepal: A Political History.  Manohar Publishers and Distributors, 2001.

[1] Rishikesh Shaha, Modern Nepal: A Political History, Manohar Publishers and Distributors, 2001.
[2] Baburam Bhattarai, Monarchy vs. Democracy: The Epic Fight in Nepal, New Delhi, Samkaleen Teesari Duniya, 2005, xvi, 180 p.
[3] Manjushree Thapa, Forget Kathmandu: An Elegy for Democracy, New Delhi, Penguin, 2005, ix, 260 p.
[4] Himalayan ‘people’s war’: Nepal’s Maoist rebellion, edited by Michael Hutt, London: C. Hurst, 2004.
[5] Manjushree Thapa, Forget Kathmandu: An Elegy for Democracy, New Delhi, Penguin, 2005, ix, 260 p.
[6] Himalayan ‘people’s war’: Nepal’s Maoist rebellion, edited by Michael Hutt, London: C. Hurst, 2004.
[7] Prem Singh Basnyat, New Paradigm in Global Security: Civil-Military Relation in Nepal, Kathmandu, Bhrikuti Academic Pub., 2004, xvi, 158 p.
[8] Rishikesh Shaha, Modern Nepal: A Political History, Manohar Publishers and Distributors, 2001.
[9] Manjushree Thapa, Forget Kathmandu: An Elegy for Democracy, New Delhi, Penguin, 2005, ix, 260 p.
[10] Prem Singh Basnyat, New Paradigm in Global Security: Civil-Military Relation in Nepal, Kathmandu, Bhrikuti Academic Pub., 2004, xvi, 158 p.
[11] Himalayan ‘people’s war’: Nepal’s Maoist rebellion, edited by Michael Hutt, London: C. Hurst, 2004.
[12] Manjushree Thapa, Forget Kathmandu: An Elegy for Democracy, New Delhi, Penguin, 2005, ix, 260 p.
[13] Baburam Bhattarai, Monarchy vs. Democracy: The Epic Fight in Nepal, New Delhi, Samkaleen Teesari Duniya, 2005, xvi, 180 p.
[14] Manjushree Thapa, Forget Kathmandu: An Elegy for Democracy, New Delhi, Penguin, 2005, ix, 260 p.
[15] Baburam Bhattarai, Monarchy vs. Democracy: The Epic Fight in Nepal, New Delhi, Samkaleen Teesari Duniya, 2005, xvi, 180 p.

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