National Seminar on Building Bridges
for Peace in Nepal
Organised by Centre for Economic
and Technical Studies (CETS)
6-7 October 2009, Kathmand
Nepal achieved significant mileage in restoring
peace following the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement
(CPA) between the Government of Nepal (GON) and the CPN (Maoist)
on 21 November 2006. In the absence of CPA, it would not have
been possible to hold Constituent Assembly (CA) election, abolish
the monarchy and form the successive governments thereafter
However, conflict is not yet over. It is still
going in several parts of the country, particularly in the Terai.
Many of the armed groups in the Terai are engaged in criminal
activities like abductions, extortions and killings. Because
of the impunity, the culprits go scot free.
Of late, the GON has taken initiatives to
resume dialogue with the armed groups. But the progress is too
slow. The conflict is getting intensified and the situation
is being aggravated each successive day. The growing pace of
anarchical situation has been affecting the economic development,
peace and prosperity in the country. In order to help the government
to restore peace and support it in its initiative of conflict
mediation, the national seminar on "Building Bridges for
Peace in Nepal" was organized on 6 and 7 October, 2009
The basic objective of the seminar was to
support the democratic process in Nepal by helping the government
and other stakeholders in building bridges for peace in Nepal.
The specific objectives of the seminar were to:
1. Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of
Nepalese peace process;
2. Estimate the role of religion in conflict
3. Analyze the relationship between federalism
and economic development;
4. Discuss the constitution making as a mechanism
5. Identify the role of media in conflict
6. Analyze the challenges faced by Nepalese
journalists in conflict mediation.
The two-day seminar was organized on 6 &
7 October, 2009 at the prestigious institution - Centre for
Constitutional Dialogue (CCD), Buddha Nagar, Kathmandu. Major
participants of the seminar were intellectuals, including CA
members, academicians, political activists, journalists, Janajatis,
Dalits and women from Madhesh and different other parts of Nepal.
Important electronic media including Headlines & Music FM
97.2 Mhz and Nepal One covered news of
the seminar. Similarly, Gorkhapatra national daily, the Telegraph
Weekly and Visleshan Fortnightly also covered news of the seminar.
The Inaugural function
of the two-day seminar on "Building Bridges for Peace"
started in the morning at 9:00 on 6 October 2009. Hari Bansh
Jha, Executive Director of CETS presided over the function.
The noted spiritual saint and philosopher of Nepal, Swami Chandresh
was the Chief Guest on this occasion.
Welcoming the guests and participants, Man
B. K., National Manager, CCD highlighted the importance of the
seminar. He expressed hope that the seminar would contribute
positively in restoring peace in the country.
Speaking on the occasion, Sarita Giri, President
of Nepal Sadbhavana Party (Anandi Devi) and Constituent Assembly
member said that conflict hardly occurred in the democratic
and undemocratic system. It has a tendency to grow in the semi-democratic
system. She added that the major political challenge in Nepal
was that the larger parties were not open as they made decisions
behind the door. As a result, such parties had little interest
in addressing serious national issues such as federalism. It
was, therefore, doubtful if there would be buyer of the constitution
even if it was approved by two-thirds majority of CA members.
In his remarks, Dev Raj Dahal, FES representative
in Nepal revealed that the political dead-lock as seen in the
country was not the outcome of politics, but anti-politics.
Unfortunately, the politics in Nepal was based on fear psychosis
in which spiritual energy was missing. Peace policy required
a coalition of peace promoters in which media, civil society,
international community and civic groups needed to serve as
In his inaugural address, Swami Chandresh
remarked that Nepal was still one of the peaceful countries
in the world. However, he said peace in itself was not enough.
He classified peace into four categories such as tamoguni peace,
rajoguni peace, satoguni peace and eternal peace. He added that
there prevailed only tamoguni peace in the country until recently,
which was of lower nature. People in such a state largely lived
in slumber. On the other hand, under the influence of rajoguni
peace, people are more involved in constructive activities such
as building health, education, development and infrastructural
facilities to make their life more comfortable. In the state
of satoguni peace, innovative ideas are generated for the welfare
of the people. And finally, in the state of eternal peace, people
enjoy the fruits of peace living in eternity. He said that the
resent leadership in Nepal had little love left for the people.
So what was needed most in the country was to build the character
of the people.
Hari Bansh Jha, Executive Director of Centre
for Economic and Technical Studies (CETS) and co-ordinator of
the seminar stated that the two-day seminar would be able to
generate ideas that would be useful to the concerned bodies
to restore peace in the country. He thanked Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung
(FES) for supporting the seminar and also to CCD for certain
logistic support. Besides, he also expressed heartfelt thanks
to the paper writers, guests and above all the participants
for their support to make the seminar successful.
There were six sessions in the two-day seminar.
The paper writers presented their papers and the commentators
made their observations on the main theme of the papers in free,
frank and fearless manner without any prejudice.
The first session of the seminar started in
the morning at 11 on 6 October 2009, which was presided over
by Chitralekha Yadav, Former Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives,
Nepal. Uma Shankar Prasad, Lecturer in Economics, CEDA, T.U.
made his presentation on "Constitution as a Mechanism for
Peace Building in Nepal."
While presenting his paper, Uma Shankar Prasad
said that all the constitutions made in Nepal in the past including
the Interim Constitution 2007 failed to follow the basic principles
required for successful constitution making as they excluded
the roles and participation of marginalized groups. Therefore,
he wanted the new constitution to have provision and scope for
the inclusion of all marginalized communities in the decision-making
process of the country.
From the floor, Akhileshwor Prasad Singh remarked
that the new constitution needed to follow the principles of
Dambar Narayan Yadav pointed out that the
major political actors in the country were not serious about
making constitution. They were, rather, serious about grabbing
Sambhu S. Rana asked as to what would be the
worst case scenario in Nepal if constitution was not made till
due date in 2010.
Gajanand Agrawal wanted the constitution to
address the problem of hundreds of thousands of Madheshis who
were still deprived of citizenship certificates in Terai.
Narayan Prasad Mishra said that discrimination
with the people of Karnali or Madhesh was done by the rulers.
Kunjilal Yadav said that the concept of federalism
as developed by major political parties was of Panchayat style.
Pushpa Thakur commented that the reservation
for certain groups of people should not be made on the basis
Lalbabu Yadav said that peace returned to
certain countries like in Mozambique after the constitution
was made, but it was not so in other countries. He further added
that constitution making was the work of the experts. The CA
members should just discuss the issues related to constitution
and make amendments, wherever needed. Statesmanship was needed
to make constitution, which, however was lacking in Nepal. In
the emerging situation, if we go by federalism, constitution
cannot be be made. And if we go by constitution, federalism
cannot be made.
Keshab Kumar Jha asked how peace can be maintained
in Nepal when the armed groups in Terai are mushrooming. Grabbing
power and not making constitution is the main objective of the
politicians. The paper does not refer anything that would help
make constitution and contribute towards peace, he added.
Shailendra Kumar Upadhyaya said that peace
would be elusive, if constitution was not made. Federalism gives
ownership in state. Language and ethnicity should be the basis
for the formation of federal states.
Shanti Mishra asked how the political parties would bring an
end to intra-party conflict. If they cannot do it within the
parties, how can they address peace issue at the national level?
Shushil Kant Jha commented that there was
serious mistake in CA towards making constitution. Its very
purpose was defeated as the people could not understand questionnaires
that were sent to them to collect their opinions. Besides, no
one knew how the report was made based on such faulty questionnaires.
Commenting on the paper, Sarita Giri said that the paper needed
to address the challenges of constitution making.
Binit Kumar Jha said that since the intention
of making constitution was questionable, it was likely that
the constitution would not serve much of the purpose.
Prakash A. Raj said that Nepali was not the
language of only Brahmins and Chhetris, but it was also the
language of other communities in Nepal.
Uma Shankar Prasad addressed all the queries
raised from the floor satisfactorily. In her remarks as chairperson
of the session, Chitralekha Yadav said that the foremost job
of CA was to make constitution. However, the major political
actors were interested just in falling and forming the governments.
Until CA members were committed, constitution would not be made.
Therefore, the Nepalese constitution should incorporate the
feelings of people from all the regions, religions, age groups,
and for this we needed to have honest and committed political
actors, she said.
During the second session of the seminar,
Keshab Prasad Chaulagain made is presentation on "Conflict
Transformation into Peace through Religion." Chuda Bahadur
Shrestha presided over this session.
In his paper, Keshab Prasad Chaulagain said
that each religion, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Jain, Christianity
and Islam focused on peace. The religious community in Nepal
could make contribution by pursuing the people to attain higher
level of welfare of the state. They needed to do so as per the
maxim Janani Najma Bhumischa Swargad Api Gariyesi meaning that
the mother and the birth place are lovelier than the paradise.
Besides, the religious community might create pressure by forging
solidarity among the followers of different religious groups
in Nepal for peace. They might also prepare a religious calendar
and give a call for stopping violence on festive day. Since
each month in a year has festive days, there should be no day
left for violence.
While making comments on the paper, Narayan
Prasad Dhakal stated that Nepal should again be declared a Hindu
state as secularism would not work in the country.
Prakash A. Raj said that people from legal background should
be nominated in yet to be constituted Truth and Reconciliation
Quoting certain survey report, Lalbabu Yadav
said that 80% of the Hindus are in favour of Hindu state and
90% Janajatis are in favour of secularism.
Bhakta Bahadur Balayar wanted that Hindu organizations
needed to be rejuvenated and strengthened as people from other
faiths had been attacking Hinduism aggressively.
Gajadhar Sunar said that untouchability had
its roots in religious sector. As such, the Dalits were having
more degraded life than even the dogs.
Shailendra K. Upadhyaya stated that in Nepal
many people converted to other religious faiths due to poverty.
Mahesh Kumar Upadhyaya stated that the youth
force was fleeing the country as we could not restore value
system. While we preached Sarbdharm Samanwya meaning co-existence
of all religions, extremism was also growing like Talibanism
in the country. Religious conversion was promoted partly due
to petro-dollar and partly due to green dollar of the affluent
society of the West.
Other participants in the seminar including
Narayan Prasad Mishra, Priyanka Pandey, Ram Kumar Khatri, Kunjilal
Yadav, Trilok S. Thapa, Birendra Prasad Mishra, Binit Kumar
Jha, Punya Prasad Dangal and Keshab Prasad Chaulagain also made
comments on the paper, which the author responded satisfactorily.
In his remarks as Chairman of the session, Chuda Bahadur Shrestha
emphasized the role of religion in transforming conflict into
The third session of the seminar opened up
with the presentation made by Hari Bansh Jha on "Federalism
and Economic Development in Terai." Sakuntala Kadirgamar
Rajasingham, Research Fellow, Centre for Nepal and Asian Studies,
T.U. and Dambar Narayan Yadav presided over the session.
In his paper, Hari Bansh Jha mentioned that
the great majority of the Nepalese population, including the
disadvantaged groups like the Madheshis have developed a feeling
that only federalism would empower them. Many of these people
have perceived federalism as recognition of their religious,
linguistic and ethnic diversity. However federalism should not
be taken as panacea of all the ills. It does not guarantee overall
development and prosperity of a country. What it merely does
is that it creates conducive environment of self-rule whereby
development opportunities tend to get generated. In Nepalese
context, the federal units need to be made on the solid ground
of geography and economy. Complications might arise if ethnic,
linguistic and other such factors are considered in the process
of restructuring of the states. It would be worthwhile if only
three states are established in the country on the basis of
geo-economic structure like the Terai State, the Hill State
and the Himalayan State. The economy and ecology based comparative
advantage of the three belts can be harvested if the states
are organized horizontally from east to west Nepal.
During the floor discussion, Pushpa Thakur,
Dwarika Dhungel, Shankar Malla, Mahesh Kumar Upadhyaya, Bhakta
Bahadur Balayar, Shailendra Kumar Upadhyaya, Keshab Raj Panthee,
Uma Shankar Prasad, Sushil Kant Jha, Ram Kumar Khatri, Binit
Kumar Jha, Trilok S. Thapa and Narayan Prasad Dhakal made comments
and suggestions on the paper.
Meena Acharya commented that she was very
much for federalism because it would give more power to local
people to manage their own affairs all over the country. But
federation should be built on the basis of mutual respect among
various groups of the population and not on acrimony. Grievances
must be addressed, but these must be based on real situation
and not politics for politics sake.
The author responded the queries from the
floor. Finally, in their remarks as co-chairpersons of the session
Sakuntala Kadirgamar Rajasingham and Dambar Narayan Yadav dwelt
on how the Nepalese could contribute towards restructuring the
The fourth session of the seminar began at
9:00 a.m. on 7 October 2009. It was presided over by Mohan Prasad
Lohani, Former Ambassador. In this session, Aditya Man Shrestha,
Journalist presented his paper on "Role of media in conflict
resolution in Nepal."
In his paper, Aditya Man Shrestha observed
that during the armed conflict in Nepal the media was sandwiched
between the conflicting parties. It could not play proper role
because some parts of the media were far from independent. Therefore,
it would be imperative that the media remain free and independent
from the conflicting parties. A free, credible and unbiased
media not only mitigates the conflict but also goes a long way
in resolving it, he added.
During the floor discussion, Shambhu S. Rama
stated that it was unfortunate that the media had also been
involved in creating conflict. Managing media is a problem in
Nepal, he added.
Mahabir Prasad Singh told that there has been
urbanization of journalism. It gives space to news such as on
Prachanda or Girija Koirala, but it hardly focuses on serious
national issues such as migration of population, poverty and
other such aspects.
Chuda Bahadur Shrestha added that the Nepalese
constitution making process was costlier than even writing constitution
Keshab Kumar Jha observed that the journalists
could not play the role that it was expected in conflict time.
The journalists must write truth. This is the main responsibility
of the journalists. However, 95% of the media in Nepal are biased
against Madhesh and Madheshis.
Dambar Narayan Yadav noted that the media
had the same characteristics as that of nation, which is largely
influenced by power and money.
Kailash Deo stated that time had come to assess
if the Nepalese media brought about conflict in the country
or it intensified conflict.
Trilok S. Thapa stated that there was monopoly
of big house in media sector. It was feared if such media houses
would help intensify conflict. They gave focus to Kathmandu,
but did not collect news on Madhesh, Janajatis, etc. Ethics
should govern them.
Damodar Gautam said that the Nepalese media
was under the influence of national and international money.
Narayan Prasad Dhakal observed that the journalists
should think in long run perspective for the nation.
Gajanand Agrawal noted that nationalism spoiled
the nation. He noted that certain journalists were responsible
for the pitiable condition of the country.
Pushpa Thakur, Keshab Prasad Chaulagain, Narayan
Prasad Mishra, Prakash A. Raj, Ram Kumar Khatri, Shanti Mishra,
Ganga Thapa and Hemanta Jha made some important observations
on the paper.
Aditya Man Shrestha replied all the queries
from the floor. In his remarks as chairperson of the session,
Mohan Prasad Lohani expressed satisfaction for the active participation
made by the participants.
During the fifth session of the seminar, Birendra
Prasad Mishra made his presentation on "Strengths and Weaknesses
of Nepalese Peace Process." Senior leader of CPN-UML, Ram
Chandra Jha, presided over the session.
In his paper, Birendra Prasad Mishra mentioned
the background of the People's war of CPN (M) that began in
1996. In the decade-long war, 16,278 people were killed. In
order to restore peace in the country, the first negotiation
between the government and the rebel groups took place on 25
July 2001 followed by second negotiation on 27 April 2003 and
third negotiation on 17 August 2003. However, the armed conflict
took a decisive turn with the signing of the 12-point understanding
on 22 November 2005 by the Seven-party Alliance (SPA). Since
insurgency had affected political, social and economic conditions
of the common people, the peace process succeeded in providing
great relief to the peace-craving people. However, the lack
of interest in monitoring, non-implementation of the provisions
of CPA, non-execution of agreements signed, failure in law and
order situation and failure in owning the peace process were
found to be the major weaknesses of the peace process.
During the floor discussion, Pushpa Thakur
observed that in the negotiations with the armed groups, the
women should also be included. They can do better. However,
this does not mean that incapable women should be there.
Binit Kumar Jha questioned if Nepal was heading
towards the line of Afghanistan?
Man Bahadur Sirpali wanted to know what needed
to be done for the rehabilitation of disqualified Maoist combatants.
Ganga Bahadur Thapa wanted to know about the
nature of external form of peace process in the Nepalese context.
Ram Dayal Rakesh questioned about the role
of Special Security in peace process?
Other participants who raised certain queries
on the main theme of the paper included Prakash A. Raj, Ram
Kumar Khatri, J. P. Kenung, Shanti Mishra, Keshab Prasad Chaulagain,
Chuda Bahadur Shrestha, Shambhu S. Rana, Narayan Prasad Mishra,
Shailendra Kumar Upadhyaya, Dambar Narayan Yadav and Sushil
Birendra Prasad Mishra tried to satisfy all
the queries raised from the floor. In his remarks as chairperson
of the session, Ram Chandra Jha stated that there was transition
period in the country. Under such a situation, it was difficult
for any person to say how the conflict would be transformed
into peace. However, many of the developments had been moving
towards consensus in the country. PLA was of course important.
But more important was the issue of restructuring of the state,
During the sixth session of the seminar, Suraj
Bhattarai presented the paper "Challenges of Journalists
in Conflict Resolution" on behalf of Dharmendra Jha, President
of Federation of Nepali Journalists. Noted economist and journalist,
Bhavani Prasad Dhungana chaired the session.
In his paper, Dharmendra Jha had pointed out
that the journalists and the media institutions became the victims
of various attacks. Attacking media houses, vandalizing vehicles,
torching newspapers, smashing media equipments and stopping
newspaper publications were some of the incidents worth to be
noted. In the past few years, professional journalism in Mid
Madhesh and eastern hills had faced serious crisis due to impunity,
insecurity and self censorship. The women journalists were targeted
most in the eastern Terai region. It was, however, not yet known
why it was so. Under such a situation, the press right was not
possible unless the citizen's rights were first secured. Hence,
the press had always supported civil movements. Press movement,
which was directly associated with the civil movement, focused
on ensuring professionalism and commercial security.
During the floor discussion, Narayan Prasad
Dhakal stated that the Nepalese media did not cover important
events, but it talks so much of minor events.
Pushpa Thakur added that the media published
social evils a lot. But it did not cover many of the issues
related to violence against women or exploitation of women in
Anjala Jha told that there was no system of
punishing those who published wrong news.
In his remarks as chairperson of the session,
Bhawani Dhungana said that there had been major development
in media sector in Nepal over the past years. However, the media
was largely responsible for dramatizing and fuelling conflict
in Nepal. The conflict situation was there but it was not as
fearful as it was projected by the media.