Asia West Pacific – March 2019 

Creating Cultures of Peace in Nepal: Takes Time to Institutionalize the Practice

by Subhash Chandra, AWP – Nepal Coordinator 

In the rally, there were traditional and cultural groups with music and dance too. March 11, 2019. Photo- Sristi, CSRC

National Land Rights Forum (NLRF) Nepal is the largest nonviolent social movement for justice in Nepal for more than fifteen years. It is a people’s movement comprised of over a hundred thousand members. Land rights activists Nari Ram Lohar and Kalpana Karki from this movement participated in the International Peace Training in Peace Place Indonesia in 2017 and 2018 respectively. They wanted to bring that experience back to their movement. As a result, NLRF was one of the hosts of Creating Cultures of Peace training for its core leadership in Thimura, Chitawan in November 2018.

Recently, NLRF organized its fifth national conference in Pokhara on 11-13 March 2019. I was invited to participate in and support this event. Thank you to FPT-AWP for making it possible for me to be part of such a historical event.

The event began with a huge mass rally. More than five thousand landless people and activists from across the country participated in this noticeably peaceful and disciplined rally for about three hours across the city and government offices. A few of the slogans chanted in the rally were:

“Half man, half woman; equal rights over land”
“Safe settlements for all, agricultural land for farmers”
“Land, forest and rivers, should be of people’s”
Then Maoist Supremo Ex-Prime Minister and Chair of the ruling party Mr. Pushpa Kamal Dahal inaugurated the opening session of the conference. 

Activists eat lunch. They carried rice, vegetables and lentils from their village and cooked during the conference

Peaceful rally participated by over five thousand people in Pokhara on March 11, 2019. Photo- Sristi, CSRC

Kalpana and I prepared a draft of Cooperative Agreements to be shared with the group of volunteers appointed for the conference. It was hoped that this would better prepare them to practice peace while volunteering in the conference, starting from managing the rally on the first day. This exemplifies how serious NLRF and CSRC are about bringing the practices of peace into the masses gradually.

On the second day of the conference, Kalpana and I prepared a Cooperative Agreement and shared it with the mass of over five hundred participants in the conference hall. We also shared in public about the history of Creating Culture of Peace (CCP) training in Thimura last November and how the NLRF central leadership has affirmed that experience for the betterment of their personal and movement life. It was highlighted that a member of a nonviolent movement needs to be practicing peace and nonviolence in his/her personal life too.

Subhash congratulating Ms. Saraswati Subba as she got elected as the Chairperson of National Land Rights Forum (NLRF) Nepal, March 13, 2019

This has been a wonderful opportunity to introduce CCP and the need for Cooperative Agreements in practicing cultures of peace. The new chair of NLRF is Ms. Saraswati Subba, one of the participants in CCP training in Thimura in 2018. She is now looking forward to bringing this practice into newly elected leadership.

The conference ended up on the third day issuing a ‘Pokhara Declaration.’ Among several points in the declaration, one point says, “reviewing the existing culture and working style of the organization’s leadership, we will seek to practice a new culture.”

Yes, it takes a few years to get an idea and practice into ears, minds and hearts of the larger population. Institutional practice of peace also takes time. This conference has been an opportunity to bring the terms and ideas of Creating Cultures of Peace to the ears of masses. The central leadership certainly seems willing to begin institutional and personal practice to be an example. Kalpana, I and the Nepal team looks forward to practicing peace together with the NLRF team and beyond!