NEW DELHI - The alma mater of Baburam Bhattarai is the epicenter of Indian Marxism in all its hues. Named after an illustrious Fabian, the Jawarharlal Nehru University (JNU) continues to offer safe sinecures to all shades of crimson. Limo liberals and champagne socialists grace its faculties, seminar rooms resound with echoes of Lenin. Mao is masticated in the mess halls.
Students gather in hostel canteens after a state-subsidised dinner and discuss the revolution that is just around the corner. They have been doing so for the past 40 years. But as soon as they graduate, the students go on to rule the country, they dominate the powerful bureaucracy, including South Block's babudom.
The guru of many of them is Professor SD Muni and they still consult him on South Asian affairs, especially Nepal and Pakistan. The campus rumour is that he briefed Indian Foreign Secretary Shashank on the eve of his departure for Kathmandu. Muni is a cordon bleu republican and doesn't hide his fascination for another JNU almunus, Baburam Bhattarai. Muni feels the atrocities attributed to Maobadis in Nepal are government propaganda. No surprise, then, that Bhattarai himself still believes the Khmer Rouge's genocide was exaggerated.
Bhattarai never studied under Muni, but their views about the Nepal monarchy are identical. At a meeting on 15 February in New Delhi to introduce a new avatar of the Maobadi front proscribed by the Indian government, Muni was one of the speakers. He is all praise for Ram Raja Prasad Singh, blissfully unaware that the former terrorist who sabotaged the Nepali Congress' Satygraha Movement by random bombings of soft targets in 1985 in Kathmandu is now a spent force in Nepal.
The other two Nepal 'experts' of Indian academia are Prof Dharmadasani of Banaras Hindu University and Prof Parmananda of Delhi University. Both have little hope for the future of democracy in the country that they have spent their lives studying. The contrast between the despondency of these royalist professors and the upbeat mood of the republican Muni is mystifying.
Even so, the royalists seem to be more representative of the popular pessimism about Nepal in the Indian capital these days. Indian businessmen, politicians and tourists are all in deep gloom about Nepal. A telecom executive who had ambitious investment plans in Nepal commented ruefully: "Granted that the Maoists are in a time-warp, but what are other political parties doing? What is the king doing?" India is shining and Nepal seems to be turning into Somalia.
It is another marriage season in India, but honeymooners are not flocking to Kathmandu and Pokhara these days, and there are no takers for $10 a night suites. The just marrieds are off to the Maldives and Mauritius, paying 10 times more.
New Delhi has a large population of Nepalis and it is increasing. Most have been driven into exile by the excesses of Maobadi militia and the monarchist military. If political parties could get their act together, this is a large constituency waiting to be built. At JNU itself, there are 25 Nepali students. They have dreams for a New Nepal, but the lack of leadership to transform those dreams into hopes is felt acutely.
For the present, the Indian establishment under US tutelage is solidly behind a constructive monarchy. Academics who want to turn Nepal into a political science laboratory to test their utopian theories are supporting the Maoist experiment. But the common people of north India who remember Indira Gandhi's emergency empathise with what the Nepalis are going through. They themselves are victims of the People's War Group and feel the pain of the relatives of Ganesh Chiluwal.
The challenge for the Nepali Congress and the UML is to channel this tacit support of the silent majority to resurrect democracy. But the message from India after the Shashank visit is: stability in Nepal at all cost, even if democracy has to be postponed.