Well I was prepared to keep an open mind and to expect the unexpected, but after a grueling series of flights I was less than thrilled to find that my checked bag had failed to materialize in Delhi. From the start I had reservations about my scheduled overnight stay in Delhi, and these premonitions proved to be accurate. As I was scheduled to fly out the next morning to Kathmandu, this development threatened to throw a kink in my travel plans. However, the travel gods seemed to be with me, and the next morning after a fascinating lesson in Delhi airport bureaucracy, I was finally reunited with my bag thirty minutes before my flight was scheduled to take off. Now I am safely in Kathmandu where I am combating jetlag and beginning to settle in.
On the flight to Kathmandu I had an interesting conversation with a Nepali doctor who was returning to Nepal after a sightseeing holiday in Europe. Our conversation turned to the current political situation in Nepal, and I was struck by his cynicism regarding the role of civil society in Nepalese politics. In his view, “human rights” is a merely a term that is used by political factions in order to give an air of legitimacy to their demands. He felt that human rights violations by the government were excessively reported and that the Maoists’ own activities and human rights abuses had been glossed over in the name of stability. In his mind, some people are terrorists and sometimes you must use force (excessively if need be) to protect society from their actions.
I don’t agree with him on this point but it does raise the issue of trading accountability for political stability. While the Maoists are currently included in the political process, at some point Nepalese society will have to come to terms with the abuses committed by all parties to the conflict in order to create the conditions for a lasting peace. In order to combat the notion that the promotion of “human rights” is somehow tied to a specific political ideology, it seems to me that equal attention must be given to human rights violations regardless of the perpetrator.
I am very interested to find out how the COCAP staff and volunteers view the current peace agreement, and how they perceive the role of their organization in relationship to it. The political situation seems so complex that it is hard for me in my ignorance to interpret political developments from the lens of human rights and social justice. Thus I am curious to hear how well-informed activists on the ground view things, and to learn what their hopes and expectations are for the future. While Nepal is no longer currently in a state of war, it is definitely far from being in a state of peace.
This grey area in between is perhaps the most disconcerting because nobody is sure what will happen next, and there is the real possibility that the positive developments of recent past could be reversed. From my uninformed perspective, it seems there is much to be pessimistic about. There has been an increase in the number of radical splinter groups who rely upon the threat of violence to back up their political demands, and strikes by various factions continue to regularly bring the country to a standstill. At the same time, civil society in Nepal seems to be taken very seriously by the political factions (perhaps much more than in America unfortunately) and it is clear that organizations such as COCAP can have a very positive impact. I am eager to learn more about COCAP in the coming days, and most of all, to finally arrive in the heat of Mahendranagar.
Posted By Jeff Yarborough
Posted Jun 7th, 2007