Nepali Times
Level the playing field

The king has been sent packing in a uniquely Nepali way. Unlike the revolutions in Tehran, Addis Ababa or Bucharest, the Narayanhiti Palace was also mobbed-but by journalists. In the end, the king drove off quietly. Now the real work begins to make democracy deliver development.

History repeats itself as farce. We have voted to power a utopian ideology that the rest of the world paid for with the death of tens of millions. One could never accuse Nepali politicians of being ahead of the times, but we had never realised till now just what a bunch of dinosaurs they are.

There were socio-political reasons for the Maoist victory, of course. Perhaps contributing to it also was our collective blind spot for history and the deliberate airbrushing of atrocities in the past century.

But live with it we must as Pushpa Kamal Dahal becomes prime minister, and as the largest party forms the government in the coming week. That is as it should be. But there is a nagging worry that he is going to Singha Darbar without completely giving up his guerrilla ways, without disbanding his private army, without reining in the men in YCL tracksuits, and while keeping his options open for a violent takeover.

Recent opinions in Maoist mouthpieces and the speeches of their leaders haven't helped allay concerns. These are unreformed revolutionaries, in fact the very word 'reform' is a bad word in their lexicon. Words that the world thought had been consigned to the dustbins of history are now staple fare in the Maoist-controlled state media. At times the statements contradict each other, but there is a consistent message: the end goal of a totalitarian people's republic hasn't changed.

Our Maoists justify the Khmer Rouge genocide, saying it was "western propaganda". Every Maoist mass meeting has, among the portraits of international communists, the picture of Stalin, the man responsible for millions of deaths in the gulags. Political indoctrination of Nepal's Maoists includes the glorification of the Cultural Revolution, forgetting that tens of millions of Chinese died in Red Guard purges and from starvation.

The international community should know that unrepentant revolutionaries who refuse to learn from history are bound to repeat it, but there isn't much they can do if Nepal does turn totalitarian. Regimes like North Korea and Burma survive and continue to oppress their people in this day and age, despite international sanctions and the appointment of UN Special Envoys.

India, too, is not going to stick its neck out for the protection of democracy when energy imports or hydropower are at stake. It is eager to do business with the Myanmar military and Bhutan's ethnic cleansers.

The protection of our democracy, pluralism and the defence of civil space rests with us Nepalis alone. In this, we have no option but to support entities that espouse these values even though they may have not fared well in the polls.

The political parties must have a level playing field: one can't be a closet militant group that idolises Stalin while the others are emasculated by their belief in non-violence.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)