The Words of the Dhakal Family
New Delihi, India -- UN representatives, journalists, government officials, student leaders, and NGO envoys, numbering nearly 50, attended a half-day program at the prestigious Civil Services Officers' Institute in New Delihi on January 24. The theme was "India's Perspective on Nepal's Peace Process."
Two issues dominated this lively program. First, Hon. Ek Nath Dhakal, the Minister of Cooperatives and Poverty Alleviation from the Government of Nepal, outlined the role that the Universal Peace Federation has played in Nepal's seven-year peace process. (Minister Dhakal is president of UPF-Nepal.)
At critical junctures in the on-again, off-again dynamics of building trust among various players (i.e., former enemies), UPF-Nepal hosted programs to facilitate face-to-face dialogue among all stakeholders: the Maoists, the monarchy, and leaders of various democratic parties. With the help of Indian diplomat, Amb. K.V. Rajan, conferences focused on addressing roadblocks in the peace process.
Hon. Dhakal outlined a series of peace initiatives and then documented substantial outcomes that correlated to these programs as Nepal's peace process has inched forward. He concluded by noting substantial accomplishments: Nepal held peaceful elections, dismissed the 240-year-old monarchy (without shedding blood), disarmed more than 19,000 combatants, closed their cantonments, and integrated 1,400 Maoists into the Nepal army.
The second major concern addressed in this conference was violence against women -- an issue currently galvanizing Indians and much of the world with the death of the Indian student who was gang raped in a moving bus on December 16 and later died from her injuries.
Two Indian leaders, both women, voiced strong concerns about trafficking Nepalese girls across the open Indo-Nepal border. Hon. Mamta Sharma, Chair of the National Women's Commission in India, stressed upon the need to reduce the poverty among women of Nepal as a way of deterring trafficking. Since the girls and women who are taken to India as prostitutes are mainly from poor families, she urged Hon. Dhakal to take some initiatives through his Minstry of Poverty Alleviation to reduce the trafficking of women.
Adding to this, Mrs. Tara Gandhi Bhattacharjee, granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi, offered the full support of the two NGOs she chairs to deal with trafficking of girls. One of them, the Kasturba Gandhi Memorial Trust, named after Mahatma Gandhi's wife, has 25 regional offices and nearly 500 centers throughout India.
The program concluded with remarks from the floor. Three people spoke: Dr. Chuda Bahadur Shrestha, Conflict Specialist and Editor of the Universal Times in Nepal; Prof. Narayan Sharma Gajurel, Vice-President of UPF-Nepal, an educator, and former journalist; and Mr. Rishi Dhamala, President of the Reporters Club of Nepal. They applauded UPF's unique role in Nepal's peace process and India's encouragement for Nepal to seek internal solutions to the current political deadlock to bring peace to the Himalayan nation.