Nepali Times
Guest Column
History foretold



"The most radical revolutionary will become a conservative the day after the revolution". There is consolation in Hannah Arendt's remark for those who seek peace. If true, the Maoists could relinquish arms and shed their extremist feathers once a corresponding process is simultaneously undertaken by the opposite side and their peaceful participation in the system is granted.

This doesn't mean the seven party alliance should lull itself into complacency. The direct aggression against the people by King Mahendra and his sons has not been forgotten. On the cold night of 15 December 1960 a treacherous king staged a royal coup Prime Minister B P Koirala and his cabinet colleagues, the speaker and I, the leader of the opposition were herded off to prison at gunpoint.

The political parties combined to fight back with single-minded determination. Our armed insurrection of 1961-2 was aborted because of the India-China war and the revolution of the 1970s under BP fell through because of the declaration of emergency in India, the land of our refuge. It took time, but the people themselves started a non- violent struggle against the oppressors.

The people's movement of 1990, almost as massive as the one this year, had all the ingredients to dislodge the monarchy. But we politicians failed to on build in the people's initiative and negotiated a dubious compromise in an unseemly haste to gain power. The king was permitted to retain the crown and even his control over the army. After he ascended the throne Gyanendra followed his father's footsteps as he conspired to dissolve the parliament and usurp absolute power.

People this summer acted with pent up rage. They didn't trust politicians and took centre-stage, and this put pressure on legislators to change the very character of the state into a secular state and Nepal's own Magna Carta was achieved in the spirit and resonance of the Cromwellian Revolution.

The most redeeming feature of the April uprising was the resilience with which people resisted the high-voltage pressure of the international community to defend the anachronistic and feudal order. India was quick to realise that its twin pillar doctrine of constitutional monarchy and multiparty democracy had lost its relevance and stated that it would abide by what the people decided. The only continuing voice of protest in the subcontinent is that of the saffron brigade in India which suddenly lost its only Hindu kingdom. Nepal survives and shall survive as a free and independent secular state.

Girija Prasad Koirala has re-emerged as the redeemer of the nation but he and his alliance can retain that authority only if they fully absorb the intensity of the streets. The monarchy, even a ceremonial one, is now unacceptable to the people. Kings are genetically programmed to self- replicate and palaces, even dilapidated ones, turn into hatching grounds for feudal conspirators. History is replete with examples of kings who turned into king cobras. And revolutions, as in Russia and France, do not need the sanctity of the constituent assembly to build a republic over the tomb of tyranny.

The Maoist movement has relevance in the success of People Power II. They deserve credit for keeping the movement peaceful and also for declaring a unilateral ceasefire and taking that initial step towards a peaceful solution. Even when Gyanendra's armed gangsters hounded nonviolent protesters in April, the Maoists did not retaliate in kind. By turning out in overwhelming numbers the people also reciprocated the sentiment and rejected the politics of violence.

This is a clear indication that the Nepali brand of Maoism has little to do with Mao Zedong. If our Maoists want to follow Prachanda Path so be it. The nation needs a non-conventional shakeup to rid itself of its feudal hangover.

Bharat SJB Rana is a former NC leader. He was the opposition leader of the Gorkha Parisad party during BP Koirala's government before King Mahendra staged a coup and started partyless panchayat governance system.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)