The historic movement in Nepal sought to restore Parliament for the democratic process to continue and to initiate a peace process for the end of a ten-year long armed conflict. Hence, there would be a Constituent Assembly (CA) election that would pave the way for an inclusive state which was responsive to social diversity and would deliver sustainable peace.
At the third time of asking the Nepal Government declared the election date for the Constituent Assembly and the election was successfully held on 10th April 2008 as a result of the third amendment of Interim Constitution of Nepal 2007 and everyone across Nepal considered this momentous day would ensure peace. The Maoist party had put down their arms and Peoples Liberation Army (according to peace agreement and integration process) were beginning the process being integrated into the Nepali army which was a key policy of the Arms Management Agreement. However in practice the Maoist cadres were still seen walking with the arms in many parts of the country. At the same time as the Maoists remained armed there was more than 8 other armed force groups were emerging in the Tarai region. These groups included: Jwala singh group, Madhesi jana Adhikar forum,Kobra Samuha, Gohit Samuha. In the Tarai region there was easy accessibility to arms through the arms trafficking that took place across the Border areas between India and Nepal. In the Border areas, many people were carrying arms. Armed police were arresting many people with arms in the Tarai. In such situations it was thought that if the election happened many people would not be able to cast their vote freely as the armed forces could disrupt the election process and the people would not be assured of their safety as set out in the Arms Management Agreement.
In such a situation there was a need to address the problems and to consider running awareness raising campaigns through the mass education of the people through the media so that a peaceful nation could be created and the election of Constituent Assembly in 2008 could go ahead. It was important to make the people aware of the issues and to provide them with assurance that the “Ballot is strong than the bullet”. It was not easy to work in such a difficult situation in the Tarai. Madheshi and Tarain people were being threatened and there were strong objections against free speech and advocacy for a free election. There were many concerns over the question of security not only for the voters, but also for the workers who also needed to be and feel secure during the election process.
In such a situation it was IHRICON who began to campaign and contribute for the safe position of the working people within the Tarai areas. It began to adapt an awareness programme it had already delivered along with the support of Saferworld. IHRICON was seen at that time by many as an organization which was renowned across the country as an impartial Human Rights organization as well as on one which was working in all kinds of difficult situations (i.e. the emergency imposed period in different parts of the country). It was recognised that IHRICON was experienced in working with the security forces and Maoists together during a very risky period. During the post conflict situation it had gained many good experiences on reconciliation and had dedicated community people who were working in every difficult situation to protect and promote peoples rights. IHRICON were also working with media people in all parts of country including Madheshi, Tharus as well as other ethnic groups within Nepal. It was always a IHRICON policy to involve local tribal people in the work that they did in trying to resolve such difficult situations.
To respond to the need to highlight the problems IHRICON organized a “Ballot without Bullet” campaign against the use of firearms along with the support of Saferworld. The campaign was intended to raise public awareness during the Constituent Assembly election in Nepal to make sure that there was high levels of participation on Election Day without any fear of intimidation. The main objective of the “Ballot without the Bullet” Campaign was to reduce the use of small arms through the use of various campaign materials during the election process that culminated in the ballot on 10th April 2008. The Campaign was run for one month in 21 Districts of Nepal between 15th March 2008 and the 15th April, 2008. The Districts were: Jhapa, Morang, Sunsari, Siraha, Saptari, Dhanusa, Mahottari, Sarlahi, Rautahat, Bara, Parsa, Chitwan, Nawalparasi, Rupandehi, Kapilbastu, Dang, Banke, Bardia, Kailali, Kanchanpur and Kathmandu.
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