Nepali Times
Headline
Cut and cut cleanly

KUNDA DIXIT


Till Friday there was a feeling the political parties still hadn't been able to generate spontaneous public support for their pro-democracy agitation.

What a difference three days make. As we write this on Sunday noon, public anger is boiling over. This is a surprising uprising: even without the parties neighbourhoods have got together to set up road barricades, stoning police and pouring out into the streets to defy curfews.

Each day that passes, the pro-democracy chariot is picking up momentum. The extended curfews are spreading aggravation, food is running out and rage is rising. By new year's day 2063 this Friday who knows what kind of country we will be living in.

This is what happens when one man wants all or nothing. We should have known, and there were hints as far back as six months after his enthronement in October 2001 when King Gyanendra said he wasn't like his elder brother to stand idly by. He sure isn't.

Exactly 16 years ago today, his dai King Birendra gave up his absolute powers for a constitutional role to usher in multiparty democracy. Today, there is a feeling of d?j? vu among those who witnessed the Peoples' Movement in 1990. This is exactly how the anger on the streets escalated. This was how the last days of the Panchayat unfolded as the regime became increasingly afraid of its own shadow.

Then, the slogans on the streets were mostly aimed at Queen Aishwarya, this time they are directed at the king. Many of the slogans must be within earshot of Ratna Mandir in Pokhara where King Gyanendra has been ensconced for the past two months. Fearing protests against the killing by the army of a UML activist on Saturday, Pokhara is also under daytime curfew. Elsewhere, protesters have declared their own 'republics' in parts of Chitwan, Kirtipur, Patan and Bhaktapur setting up barricades to prevent the security forces from moving in. On Saturday, in a Tiananmen-like scene Kiritpur residents lay down on the road to stop an army APC. The international community has got its antennas out, they could be watching an unfolding state collapse. US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher warned during a visit to New Delhi Wednesday: "The path the king has taken leads to nowhere."

But all indications are that, like Frank Sinatra, the king is determined to do it his way. No matter what, he wants to stick it out. In chess, kings castle to save themselves when cornered. But buying time by appointing a prime minister won't work, in fact it may be getting too late even for a last-ditch compromise with the seven-party alliance for an interim government.

The time has come to cut and cut cleanly. Step down to a constitutional role to avoid more bloodshed or else there won't be a role at all.

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LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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