Militant groups now see entry into the democratic process as a better way to promote their causes.
Rajiv Jha, head of an armed group that has been active on Nepal's border with India, says he no longer believes violence and coercion are the right ways to achieve his goals.
"We now realise that the changes we want in our society can be achieved not through arms but through peaceful means," Jha, who plans to participate in open politics by giving up all weapons, told Khabar South Asia.
Last week (August 13th), he and another key militant, Ram Brikshya Mahato, met with an undersecretary at the Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction, Devraj Dhakal, to lay the groundwork for another round of peace talks, building on a previous session in April.
Jha's Madhesh Rastriya Janatantrik Party-Revolutionary (MRJP-R) is one of 18 armed groups that have announced a ceasefire in order to create a positive environment for talks with the government. Most of these groups sprang up in the eastern hills of Nepal and the Terai region following the end of Nepal's civil war in 2006, taking advantage of the subsequent transitional phase.
"We've been holding peace talks with the armed groups in recent years so as to bring them into mainstream politics," Dhruba Sharma, secretary at the Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction, confirmed to Khabar.
Ministry of Home Affairs deputy spokesperson Ek Mani Koirala said the government estimates there are over 100 such armed groups but no official data is available.
The dialogue is part of a two-prong approach to fostering stability in the affected regions, he indicated. "On one hand, the government has held peace talks with those who want to come to the political mainstream, on the other the government has adopted special security in the restive regions," Koirala said.
Manoj Yadav, a 23-year old student from Siraha, a restive Tarai district, said the armed groups posed a serious threat until 2009 when the government adopted a special security plan, boosting the number of patrols and setting up posts in areas of unrest.
"The armed groups are not as active as they were in 2008 and 2009," Yadav said. "We are now living in an improved law and order situation in my home district."
Koirala the home ministry official, said the government's strategies – special security plan and peace talks – have forced the armed groups to either give up arms or become inactive.
According to the Peace and Reconstruction Ministry, four armed groups have handed over their arms to the government while others have also promised to follow suit as peace talks progress.
The government held negotiations August 2nd with Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha (Bhagat Singh faction), which is believed to be the largest armed group active in Terai. At the end of the talks, the groups handed over four arms in a symbolic gesture and promised to hand over 156 more as peace talks progressed, according to Sharma.
Jha said other armed groups are also ready to join peace talks if the government takes earnest efforts.
"I'm in touch with other groups. They now want peace," Jha said.