Transitional Justice in Nepal: Perspectives of Nepalis Affected by Conflict as Children
It has been ten years since Nepal emerged from a decade-long internal armed conflict, during which at least 13,000 people were killed. Following the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2006, measures under the framework of transitional justice (TJ) have been implemented to redress human rights violations. Processes of TJ, which consist of judicial and non-judicial mechanisms, seek to facilitate justice and reconciliation typically during a political transition from an authoritarian regime towards a liberal democratic future (Hinton 2010:2). While Hinton (2010) argues that “local justice,” or the ways in which justice is perceived, experienced, produced, and conceptualized on the ground, must be taken seriously if TJ is to be successful, existing research has emphasized how the conceptualization of the “local” during processes of TJ often reflects elite interests while excluding marginalized groups and perspectives (Pasipanodya 2008; Robins 2011, 2012). Experiences of TJ in Nepal are not homogenous, demonstrating the need for attention to a “dynamic local” rather than a static and unchanging local based on notions of fixed cultural and religious ideologies (Sajjad 2013). My research, therefore, interrogates which “local” is being heard or silenced and contributes to scholarship that challenges the assumptions of “post-conflict” as an analytical and political category (Snellenger and Shneiderman 2014). This paper examines the perceptions of Nepalis affected by conflict regarding TJ mechanisms in Nepal and questions how differences in social distinctions affect perspectives on the Nepali government, justice, reconciliation, and the ongoing peace process in Nepal. The research on which this paper is based included observation and participant observation within organizations involved in TJ in Nepal and among Nepalis targeted for TJ mechanisms. Further, semi-structured interviews with national and local politicians, staff from United Nations agencies, Non-Governmental Organizations, and International Non-Governmental Organizations were conducted to investigate if current TJ mechanisms are evaluated as “effective or ineffective.” In addition, archival research, including the analysis of primary documents, were analyzed to supplement interview data, participant observation, and observation. This paper, based on eight months of ethnographic research in Kathmandu and Bardiya, will contribute to scholarship on how violence is experienced in concrete and culturally meaningful ways, the anthropology of transitional justice, and post-conflict studies.