The political transition process of Nepal is still volatile and relation between the central government and regional Madhesi actors continues to be tense. Suppressed feelings of grief, anger and frustration from the violent past and persisting structural violence present a risk to sustainable peace. Violent outbreaks in the Terai show that the political development at the national level can easily spill over and lead to eruption of violence at community level. A major milestone has been reached when local elections – that were contested for 20 years – were now held in six of the seven newly formed federal provinces in May and June 2017. The high turnout in voting results of more than 80% shows people’s interest in deciding for their leaders. In the run-up to elections, Madhesi actors have been strongly repeating their demand for constitutional reforms and partly suggested boycotting the vote. In March 2017, 4 Madhesi protesters were shot by the Nepali police, and yet the circumstances have not been investigated. To avoid a repetition of violent escalation such as it happened in 2015, the government decided to postpone the elections of province number two to September 2017. National dialogue initiatives with the Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal (RJP-N), a new political party by several Madeshi parties joining together, have not been fruitful.
The national level transitional justice process to deal with crimes from the ten years of armed conflict is moving at a slow pace. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons and (CIEDP) have collected conflict-area related complaints in 2016 and are supposed to enter a phase of deeper investigation before publishing their results in 2017. However, the lacking political will seems to be a continuous obstacle to serious investigation. Concerns of conflict victims of potential broad amnesty and lacking justice for enforced disappearances, child soldier recruitment and other cases tend to be overseen.
The project “EnActing Dialogue” is a joint project of CSSP and Pro Public, a Nepali NGO working on mediation and dialogue. Pro Public has created networks of dialogue facilitators and small dialogue groups from 2012 to 2014. Here dialogue groups ex-combatants and so-called conflict victims started to break the silence about the armed conflict and shared their personal stories. Since 2015, CSSP is supporting the wider outreach of these dialogue initiatives at district and national level by promoting a bottom-up reconciliation approach. Theatre art has proven to work as a strong social connector in Nepali communities. CSSP created capacities to organize theatre-facilitated dialogue events that strengthen empathy and social cohesion across former conflict lines.
Theatre artists and dialogue facilitators receive training and coaching in `Playback Theatre’, a dialogue approach that combines public storytelling and improvisational theatre. Playback theatre has been called “Chautari Natak” in Nepali. The Chautari tree is a famous public spot in almost every Nepal village were people come to take rest, meet others and even to settle their conflicts. Chautari Theatre is now accepted and appreciated as an effective dialogue process that connects communities and provides space for sharing emotional experiences from the armed conflict as well as its root causes. Through theatre art, poetry and music the deeper layers of meaning behind the individual stories can be brought to the surface. The theatre-facilitated dialogue events results in deeper understanding as well as in the reduction of fear, stereotypes and prejudices in the communities. Audiences share that telling their story has brought them relief and that empathic listening recreates broken bondages in the community.
The selected communities are located in: Banke, Bardhiya, Dang, Rupandehi, Mahottari and Udayapur. In each district a team of 8 dialogue facilitators is actively engaged in organizing the Chautari theatre events. In 2015 and 2016 documentaries have been produced to show the process as well as the impacts of the dialogue work to a wider audience:
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