Nepali Times
State Of The State
Purple rhodoendron revolution


Perplexed by the intensity and impact of the Second People's Movement Nepal's international minders have been lining up to visit Nepal. They may still be uneasy with the six-point roadmap of the seven party alliance and their 12-point understanding with the Maoists but the parties have for now been given the benefit of doubt. After the success of the Kathmandu Spring dips and donors grudgingly accept that the insufferable parliamentary party leadership do a saving grace.

Contrary to the fears of widespread violence, the civil disobedience movement was characteristically peaceful. And despite doubts about their ability to guide and control the agitation, party leaders were able to withdraw the movement in an orderly manner as soon as their main demand, reinstatement of lower house of parliament, was met by a reluctant monarch.

The movement may have looked unplanned but it wasn't as chaotic as everyone feared. Nearly everyday, millions poured out into the streets all over the country for three weeks but not a single shop-window was broken by agitators anywhere even though some government buildings were vandalised. Protestors faced batons, tear-gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition but not a shot was fired in self-defence from the streets. Studies in urban uprisings show that crowds of over 50,000 inevitably descend into lawlessness resulting in arson, looting and brutal killings.

In Kathmandu, more than half-a-million protestors marched past army barricades defying shoot-to-kill curfews but the multitude maintained restraint in the face of provocation. This was the first-of-its-kind political upheaval involving widest possible cross-section of population. Is this the way oppositional politics will unfold in the twenty-first century? It seems the world wants to know and is willing to see Nepal without Cold War blinkers for the first time since the Maoist insurgency began a decade ago.

Even hard-boiled Marxist firebreathers in India seem to be fascinated by the success of Nepal's Purple Rhododendron Revolution. CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury graced the VIP visitor's box of the inaugural session of the reinstated parliament. Richard Boucher, United States Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, paid a much-publicised visit soon after. Norwegian Minister for Development Erik Solheim was here this week.

Apart from high-profile visitors, hordes of policy wonks and highbrow journalists have been camping in the city to know more about the chemistry between Maoists and the parties, their usual refrain being: will the fragile bilateral ceasefire hold? Nobody knows for sure, but we hope that it does. This country has tried several alternatives over the decade of insurgency. A partnership for peace and democracy just might succeed in mainstreaming Maoists.

Since the parliament has already committed itself to an election for the constituent assembly by a voice vote, the paranoia about a political alliance between parliamentary parties and insurgents has now become superfluous. In whatever way the constituent assembly is formed, it is sure to have the mandate to decide, among other things, the fate of the monarchy.

With one of their key demands thus being turned into a common national agenda, Maoists should be celebrating. But they are suspicious and perhaps rightly so, of the real intentions of donors thinking aloud about resuming military supplies to RNA.

The real understandings between some influential RNA generals and Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala are whispered in private but never spelt out in detail. It is said that Ram Sharan Mahat has been awarded a cabinet berth despite his lacklustre performance during the movement primarily because he functioned as a back channel link between parties and the palace. That he happens to be the donors' darling too is his additional qualification. But with Mahat of Nepali Congress and Khadga Oli of UML holding key portfolios in the Koirala cabinet, it does look like a status quo team.

The reinstated parliament must keep its promise of transforming the RNA into a Nepal National Army before accepting any international assistance. The RNA's ambitious expansion plans spelt out by warhorse Satchit Shamsher need to be shelved forthwith to create conditions for disbandment of Maoist guerrillas. In any case, we don't need an army that we can't afford to pay for from our own treasury.

Meanwhile, the government needs all the help it can get to transform the ceasefire into sustainable peace. That's the message that all international interlocutors must take back home.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)