DEATH OF A DEMOCRACY

- B. K. Rana

Introduction: Nepal’s current political upheaval is not the result of inefficient politicians’ greed for power only. There are a number of governing factors. The squabbling political parties and unstable governments, rampant corruption and poverty and by far the most the unrelenting Maoists insurgency have certainly induced a modestly ambitious King to take over this week. As soon as he ascended the throne following the infamous royal massacre of June 1, 2001 - Nepalese people had no doubt in mind that the king would take over one day and democracy would die out in Nepal. Now that democracy has died out and King’s rule has prevailed in Nepal – human rights such as right to expression and the likes have been curtailed enormously. The king, however, has reiterated in front of the Nepalese people that his administration would ‘revitalize’ multiparty democracy bringing in peace, prosperity to the people in the next three years’ time. The timeline of three years appears less and therefore a question pops up will he bring in peace and security amidst such a chaos in the country? If he did, he would be able to restore his integrity otherwise; Nepal could lose its sovereignty. It is therefore not a time to only blame a king for the royal coup d’état. There are lot more others who also are responsible for the recent political development in the country, however, a widespread speculation is that Maoist insurgents had once in the past some kind of relationship with the royalists. Growth of Communist Force: To nullify the democratic forces backed by neighboring India the king’s father Mahendra had dismissed the elected Prime Minister Bisheshowr Prasad Koirala in 1960, introduced party less Panchyat system and counter-produced communist force which has now created havoc and apparently become a radical political force to uproot the monarchy itself. The Maoist ideology essentially is that ‘enemy’ should be eliminated by utilizing its own resources by any means. The Monarch and the Maoists have offered an impression to the people that they are

now dead enemies. The communist force grew up in Nepal with a loving King Mahendra who thought it more important to lean on China than on India. During cold war era, the dissolved Soviet Union had also shown interest in Nepal, however, the US was already present there with some basic programs in the country. A rather underdeveloped small Himalayan kingdom could not fascinate those super powers; however, India never stopped keeping its keen eyes on it. The kings could never have a sound relationship with India. They thought to better rely on communist activists. It is therefore understandable why king Gyanendra has as many as four communist leaders and rest others the monarchists in his 10-member cabinet. In Nepal, the rightwing viewpoint is that the communists are progressive nationalist element and democratic forces - the antinationalist ones. A Foiled Democracy: A small backdrop might provide some insight into Nepal’s foiled democracy and the recent royal take over. The political parties of the land could never have consensus on some fundamental issues as: paving ways to social transformation and equal access to the national resources and eliminating corruption and disqualifying nepotism. Since the Rana regime, that ruled Nepal for 104 years until its elimination in 1951, a vast majority of peoples have been left behind uncared, disgraced and disadvantaged. After the restoration of democracy also the state never attempted to bring those peoples into the mainstream Nepalese life. The gap between haves and have-nots continues widening. This has been one of the major causes of Maoists uprising in the country. The largest political party of the country– the Nepali Congress Party chief, Girija Prasad Koirala, who virtually always portrays himself as the guardian of ‘Nepalese democracy’ has an unceasing lust for power. He asserts that Koirala family has sacrificed for Nepalese democracy and therefore, the family deserves all political privileges than others forgetting the fact a number of others have also sacrificed no lesser than the Koiralas. During the past 15 years of Nepalese democracy, Koirala has the honor of being a long serving prime minister who has also earned a fame of being the leader that promoted nepotism in Nepal, however, it is in existence since long. There are quite a lot more examples to his credit here. He did not hesitate to compel his colleague, the founding member of Nepali Congress Party and the freedom fighter Krishna Prasad Bhattrai to resign from the post of prime minister in 2000. After submitting his

resignation, Mr. Bhattrai wept bitterly in a rostrum of parliament, which was live telecast from state television. And, later on Mr. Koirala could not enjoy seeing Sher Bahadur Deuba become the prime minister of Nepal because Mr. Deuba is one of his lieutenants from the west – the most underdeveloped part of the country. A dismissed Mr. Deuba also had formed a jumbo 49-member cabinet to stabilize his government in 1997. His acts also helped foil democracy. Mr. Deuba has obtained an honor of being a puppet of the king and become very unfortunate getting dismissed twice by the latter. The Nepalese King by tradition keeps on reappointing his ministers time and again – this is how a king rules over his ‘subjects’ in a medieval style. He always enjoys being above the constitution – therefore the constitution of 1991 could not stop him dismissing an elected government in 2002. The democratic constitution could not preserve democracy. Now, the king has dismissed the government which he had unconstitutionally formed in June 2004. And, by tradition again, he is always the supreme commander of armed forces and it is therefore, he and his family members do not have to fear anybody to foil the democratic values in the country. King by Tradition: The kings of Nepal want to stick to traditions because rural populations take them as the incarnation of Vishnu – the preserver in the Hindu trinity. The country of Hindu majority by 80% percentile is predominantly orthodox in nature. The Vishnu factor provides Nepalese kings an enormous amount of will power to rule. During his visit to the eastern mountains in early sixties, peoples put on their forehead some dust from King Mahendra’s feet, believing that the dust would bring in prosperity to them. This is how the king resides in the heart of the rustic folks whose population is over 85% of the total population of 25.7 million in the country [2004]. The late king Birendra’s family photo could be seen hanging around a corner of almost every household in the rural areas. The Vishnu factor has an enormous effect in Nepalese socio-political life. Indian Security Concerns: Having the same languages and cultures, India and Nepal enjoy an age-old cultural relationship and share mostly the same social values. They have open borders. They do not need issuing passports to their citizens who want to visit any of the countries. After Nepal’s

entering the United Nations in 1955, India has begun treating Nepal as an independent country. But, Nepalese feel their independence bothers India or in other words India does not want Nepal act as an independent country particularly on security concerns. India always persuades Nepal not to have intimate relationship with China. Contrarily, China does not hesitate to provide some support to Nepal. King Mahendra had great respect for the Chinese. India also argues Nepal allows Pakistanis or some other Islamic radicals to act against Indian interest from Nepalese soil. Nepal always denies Indian allegations. Big Brother Factor: It is a fact that India is an emerging economic power in South Asia. There is no denying that in India’s economic development, other neighboring countries will also prosper. This fact prompts India to pose itself as ‘the big brother’ among seven South Asian countries. But, none of the neighboring countries accepts the big brother posture of India. This kind of big brother factor creates tensions among the South Asian countries. The problem in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Kashmir and Nepal are the results of India’s ‘big brother’ posture. In the event of terrorist attacks in different parts of India including her parliament, Indian government also doubts Nepal as the playground of ISI [Pakistani Spy Agency] agents and other terrorist networks, which Nepal does not accept. The RAW [Indian Spy Agency] agents shot dead Mirza Dilshad Beg, a serving member of Nepalese parliament, in one of the streets of Kathmandu. Mr. Dilshad Beg, as India believed, was an agent to Dawood Ibrahim. Nepal protested the event. In reciprocity, India has offered shelters to the Maoist leaders. All Maoist leaders are underground in India. Elite Nepalese believe India supplies arms and ammunitions to the Maoists rebels. But the other fact is that India also suffers from Naxalite movement in some of its provinces. Those Naxalites and Nepalese Maoists have working relationships which India fully understands. Parallel Governments: Nepal is almost paralyzed by current conflicts. No Nepalese government agency could be found functioning in rural communities. The Maoists have seized rural communities. The existence of Nepalese government may be realized in district headquarters, cities and Kathmandu - the capital city only. Apparently, there are two parallel

governments: Nepal Government in cities, district headquarters and capital and Maoist Government in rural areas. The helpless people are trapped in between these two ‘parallel governments’. The Maoists want to abolish monarchy and establish radical communist government in Nepal. The king wants to contain the Maoists. He formed four different governments in his four years of rule. But, all of the governments failed to negotiate with the Maoists. Conclusion: The king cannot abandon the throne. In his address to the nation, he did not miss out to provide some glimpses of his fighter forefather King Prithivi Narayan Shah, who is credited to have unified Nepal in 1768. King Prithivi, as historians hold, was a cruel ruler. King Gyanendra wants to preserve the tradition laid by Prithivi Narayan Shah and his father Mahendra. The recent closure of Dalai Lama’s offices in Kathmandu provides some instance that Nepal will endeavor to obtain support from China. But it may be unwise to depend on this formula to secure peace in the country. Obviously, there will be more bloodshed and gross human rights violation in coming days in Nepal. The victims would mostly be the rural folks who are allured by the Maoists propaganda. The international community has reportedly condemned the take over. It may have served the purpose of ‘supporting democracy and opposing autocracy’ for the time being only. The condemnation will eventually fade out. The king appears confident that the international community will have no choice to back him in his fight against Maoist insurgents. But, will the king become able to restore peace in the country? On the other hand will the Maoists become able to work together with Koirala, Deuba or other communist leaders to abolish the monarchy? Or, will the Maoists dramatically alter their strategies and shake hands with the king? Virtually, the answer could be that the Vishnu factor will work out for sometime, there will be more bloodshed in the country in the days ahead and the country may lose sovereignty.

Email:rana1616@yahoo.com Cambridge MA, USA. February 5, 2005

Peace Journalism
http://peacejournalism.com/ReadArticle.asp?ArticleID=1229

Nepal Research
http://www.nepalresearch.org/politics/coup_2005/rana_bk_050207.pdf