On Thursday, the raw energy of slogan-shouting demonstrations attracted three-year-old Arambha of Kuleswor. He insisted to be taken to the andolan. And off he went to the curfew carnival on the shoulders of his proud cousin. When he came back, he was all excitement. "I saw fire, I saw an uprising," shouted the little boy. Nepal's future leaders better beware of Arambha in 15 year's time. Those who see the flames of uprising firsthand never forget its intensity.
When King Birendra bowed down to People's Movement and announced restoration of the multi-party system on the night of 9 April 1990, firecrackers went off in every neighbourhood. Spontaneously people lit candles and earthen lamps to greet a democratic dawn in the dead of the night. Conch shells boomed and temple bells rang when King Gyanendra admitted on Monday night that his autocratic adventures had come unstuck and an unconditional acceptance of the roadmap prepared by the seven-party alliance was his last chance to save the institution of monarchy.
Restoration of democracy was certainly the rallying cry of People's Movement II, but the motive force of the uprising was the hope of the resolution of the Maoist insurgency. Peace-building has to be the primary agenda of the transitional parliament reconvening on Friday afternoon in Singha Darbar.
Resolving longstanding conflicts in countries torn asunder by armed insurgency and ruthless counter-insurgency is challenging even in normal times, and these are not normal times for Nepal. Four years of royal rule have all but destroyed the national economy. The diplomatic debacle suffered by palace propagandists has sullied the image of the country in the community of nations. Rapid militarisation has sapped the morale of the police force. Rampant politicisation has crippled civil administration and society stands deeply divided, dangerously polarised.
The shady reputation of some of the lawmakers sitting in the reconvened parliament makes their task doubly difficult: they will be considered guilty until proven innocent as they pave the way to elections for a constituent assembly. During the transition, MPs have to ensure that an all-party government does all it can to deliver development and peace through good governance.
Parliament must hit the ground running, and mainstreaming the Maoists tops the national agenda. It will not be possible to write a new constitution without bringing the insurgents on board. No less important is the task of democratising parliamentary parties. If main parties continue with their waywardness, Maoists will sweep the constituent assembly polls even if the arms of the security forces and rebels are taken care of under the terms of a reliable international guarantee.
Formation of a high-level commission for truth and reconciliation is another important task. The excesses of some of the officers of security forces upon peaceful protesters made their own former officers hang their heads in shame. The constitution has no provision for forced exile or capital punishment, but some form of prosecution is necessary to deter responsible officers of the state from descending into lawlessness in future.
The palace secretariat, the Raj Parishad and the Royal Nepali Army will now have to be kept under intense public scrutiny. Since the Narayanhiti Massacre, these institutions haven't exactly covered themselves with glory. The secretariat may have to be reduced and the Raj Parishad dissolved forthwith. But the RNA will have an even more important role to play in a functioning democracy and it needs to be thoroughly overhauled and reformed for a different kind of function: security and service of the people rather than the royal family.
These are staggering responsibilities for a frail octogenarian thrust upon by destiny to correct the course of a careening country. But Girija Prasad Koirala must succeed if he is to redeem himself and find a place in the history that the children of Arambha's generation will write and read. In the agora of time, Koirala is all set to enter what may prove to be his last show: a barefoot walk on the embers of an autocratic monarchy. Four generations of Nepalis are watching. He must not fail this time.
Insurgency of intelligentsia
Left extremism has put inclusive democracy in jeopardy
WEB EXCLUSIVE | Posted on 21 April 2006
It\'s yesterday once more, but much more intense. There are more people on the streets of Kathmandu than in People\'s Movement of 1990. Many more professionals have come out against the monarchy. Slogans against king are nastier than ever before and the clamour for his ouster is shrill. But unlike his slain brother who had Marichman Singh to take the flak, King Gyanendra is his own lightning rod.
Even though King Birendra was no less involved in routine administration of the country, he took care never to take responsibility for the failure of his family, sycophants, relatives or retainers. However, there are no escape clauses in takeover pronouncements of 4 October, 2002 and 1 February, 2005. If King Gyanendra fails the people won\'t blame anyone else and it is it\'s monarchy that pays the price.
Ironically, as in 1980 and 1990 it is leftwing extremism that may come to monarchy\'s rescue. Fear-mongers of Maoist takeover have begun to prevail upon the king and the political parties to patch up.
The more things change, the more they remain the same. The very word \'revolution\' stands for one more movement along the circumference. Flying out of the country hanging on to the nose wheel of a Super Puma are exaggerated. The palace in fact seems all set to save its centrality in Nepali politics once again. Prachanda and Baburam have nobody to blame but their own militants. Had they heeded the voices of moderation and accepted the primacy of parliamentary parties, the Indo-American axis wouldn\'t have succeeded in forcing a compromise down the throats of reluctant leaders of the movement.
Since we never learn anything from history, it keeps repeating itself. In 1980, BP Koirala had to meekly accept the outcome a doctored plebiscite in favour of Panchayat when the fear of Afghanistan disease was instilled in him by scheming western diplomats. A decade after his leader\'s debacle, Ganeshman Singh agreed to an audience with the king in Narayanhiti Palace against his own good sense at the insistence of certain ambassadors paranoid about communist infiltration of the democratic movement. The international community is once again alarmed and Girija Prasad Koirala can do nothing about it.
Meddlers in Nepali politics judge Maobadis by their ideology, leadership, actions, and promises. The insurgents have been found wanting on all counts. The onus of clearing the confusion too rests with them.
Maoist ideology has no success story. Ruthless class wars have been discredited beyond redemption wherever it has been tried. China itself has all but dropped the once-great helmsman from its twenty-first century agenda. Prachanda was too late in revising his political agenda and erred irredeemably by naming the ideology too close to Shining Path for the comfort of Nepal\'s biggest donors and loaners.
Astute leadership has always been the real strength of Nepali leftists. Madan Bhandari created something out of nothing by cleverly exploiting the contradiction between the beliefs and agenda of Nepali Congress. Prachanda prevailed by pitting parliamentary parties and the palace against each other. Inside his own party, he has played political philosopher Baburam Bhattarai and military strategist Ram Bahadur Thapa against each other.
It\'s in actions that Maoists have been found most wanting. Despite their repeated commitments to universal declaration of human rights, armed cadres in the countryside breach it more often than can be carefully recorded. There is no place for taking hostage in any international humanitarian law, but Prachanda\'s henchmen are doing just that by keeping innocent officials in their custody.
There is a widespread belief in Kathmandu that Maoists have fallen victim to congenital disease of all armed insurgencies: its military division has begun to dominate the political wing. That\'s the reason even the joint statements of Prachanda and Baburam fail to inspire confidence. Strategic analysts are wary of promises made from safe havens, especially when their soldiers on the ground appear to be itching for further battles.
Perceptions are sometimes stronger than reality. People\'s Movement II has very little to do with the agenda of seven party alliance. It\'s even less attached to Prachanda\'s grand designs. In essence, the April Uprising seems to be an insurgency of the intelligentsia.
Just look at the faces and names of those who have been killed, injured and arrested during the ongoing movement. They may have sympathies for this or that political party, but it\'s unlikely that they would put their lives on the line for any of the present corps of leaders. They are there to fight for their own rights. Sadly, like the wrongs of the political right in the country, the left extremism too has put the possibility of sustainable and inclusive democracy in jeopardy.
An urgent course correction is necessary to keep the Maoist insurgency relevant. If that doesn\'t happen soon, many more Raymajhis and Mainalis will continue to be manufactured by Maoists to extend Narayanhiti\'s staying power. And the fires of rebellion will die out as fast as it spread.