Chapter 13 - Peace is Given a Chance

The Prime Minister of Tawa – 13

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Horan Samiban had called up Mash to tell him about the announcement made by the Seeda Freedom Front, or SFF as it liked to call itself, a few hours ago. The SFF had announced a unilateral ceasefire which was to stay in place for three months after the elections.  This according to Horan Samiban was very good news since everyone knew that it was Mash’s arrival which had forced Hanoleeyan to declare the ceasefire. The SFF did not trust the PDA at all since it was a creation of General Naranin. No, the declaration did not specifically say that they were making the declaration on account of Mash’s arrival. That would have been asking for too much. According to Horan, someone had called up the offices of Beemava, the Government run TV channel, the Hepara Herald, the only English language newspaper in Tawa and a couple of Keenda newspapers to make this announcement. Since elections were due, the SFF was unilaterally declaring a ceasefire as a gesture of goodwill to the Keendas, with whom the SFF had no quarrel. The ceasefire would be in vogue for three months after the election results were declared. The SFF hoped that whoever won the elections would make all efforts to meet the aspirations of the Seedas, who had suffered a lot during General Naranin’s rule and even under the current regime.

‘So, what do we do now?’ Mash asked Horan. He detested himself for asking this question rather than be the one with all the answers.

‘I’m going to ask the security forces to exercise restraint. Why should the SFF gain a PR advantage?’ Horan informed Mash in a smug voice.

‘Good idea,’ Mash concurred. ‘I’m all for peace.’

‘Maheshdas-raan, once you are in power, you will have three months to enter into a peace treaty with Hanoleeyan. Hanoleeyan will be under pressure to stop fighting. The Seedas are really weary of this insurgency. It has been going on for so long. They know that they have practically no chance of winning a separate homeland. As long as we offer them something face saving, Hanoleeyan will have to accept.’

‘So why didn’t you enter into a peace treaty all this while?’

‘You know, we were doing our best to come up with a solution that would be acceptable to the Seedas. So, we offered them total autonomy over the Central Hill District. We offered to set up an autonomous council that would govern the hill district. The SFF could run the council for a year after which elections would be held to allow the Seedas to choose their democratic representatives to the autonomous council. The only thing common to the Seeda ruled Central Hill District and the rest of the country would be a foreign policy, a common army, a common flag, a common currency etc. That was just a year after I took over. But Hanoleeyan kept asking for more. You see, he did not want a deal. He thought we were tired and would give out. So, he asked that Tawa should be a confederation on the lines of the United Arab Emirates. He wanted the ruler of Seedaland to be called its President. No guesses who the President of Seedaland would be. And he wanted the King to abdicate power. Both the constituents of the confederation would have to be republics, according to Hanoleeyan. If we had agreed to a deal like that, our people, the Keendas, would have roasted us alive. More importantly, there was a chance the army would have staged another coup. They really hate the Seedas you know.’

‘Why aren’t there more Seedas in the army? Mash wanted to ask. Instead he asked ‘do you think Hanoleeyan will ask for a confederation once again?’

‘Well, the one-eyed bastard would ideally like total freedom. If he can get his people to put up with the hardship until he wins, he will not settle for anything else. The man was an idealist – once – ages ago. Now he is just as power hungry as, as, as any of us politicians. Ha Ha. But it is true. That’s what he is. Thankfully, the Seedas are not so tolerant. Some of his own people are so tired of him that last year, one of his lieutenants tried to bump him off with a bomb left under the hood of his jeep. Unfortunately, the bomb went off prematurely.’

‘I know. I know. I did read about it.’ The incident had made it to a small corner of the Times and the Guardian. ‘So, I may get a peace deal?’

‘Maheshdas-raan, if our Guardian Akbar wills it, you will have a peace deal with Hanoleeyan and the SFF very soon after you become Prime Minister.’

‘Will they keep harping on abolishing the monarchy?’

‘I think so Maheshdas-raan.’

Mash sighed. The Seedas especially loathed the King and the Royal House of Moshee.  It was not just because the Moshees were Keendas. The Seedas had never really owed any allegiance at any time to the Royal House of Moshee. The Royal House of Moshee had nominally ruled over the whole island, but the Seedas had never considered anyone other than their tribal chiefs as their rulers. The Keendas and the Seedas had lived their independent lives without much interaction or intercourse or even quarrel since time immemorial. It was only with the departure of the British that the Moshees obtained real sovereignty over the Seedas. On the other hand, the House of Moshee was venerated by the Keendas universally. Abolishing the monarchy would be almost as unacceptable to the Keendas as splitting up the country. If it were up to Mash, he would cheerfully tear up the monarchy, even if the Seedas didn’t demand it. Even his father did not like the monarchy all the much. A royal family is the most useless extravagance possible for a newly independent nation, he would say, shaking his head sadly. Maybe he could do something about it. Take away the royal family’s sheen, discredit them in some way so that people didn’t care about it anymore, make them look stupid and silly and nasty, and then dismantle the monarchy as a soap to the Seedas?

‘So, is there anything else we can offer to Hanoleeyan to get him to agree to a permanent peace treaty?’

Horan sighed. ‘I don’t know Maheshdas-raan. You see, you cannot offer them too much. If you do, the army will be unhappy. I am not saying they will stage another coup – the people won’t stand that at this stage, but they could cause difficulties.’

‘So, we need to strike a balance. Hmm. I see.  But, what if I …’

‘Maheshdas-raan, don’t worry about this too much at this stage. We have a ceasefire and that works in our favour. Let’s win the elections first. We can worry about everything else later.’

Horan was right. It was too early to worry about implementing his promise to bring peace to Tawa. One thing at a time, Mash told himself. Win the election first. Everything else could come later.

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More by :  Vinod Joseph

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