Nepali Times
State Of The State
No time for games


Despite spring, hopelessness hangs in the air like a shroud of blue cremation smoke over the banks of the Bagmati. Isn't this the state the terrorists want us to be in? By giving into passive mourning, we end up capitulating unwittingly. So far, the terrorists have succeeded exceedingly well in undermining the political will to fight the worst menace facing this country since the demise of the Khukuri Dal in the 1950s.

The mayhem in Mangalsen and the slaughter in Salyan last week revealed the deadly determination of the Maoists. The barbaric burning of innocent passengers on a night bus to Birgunj showed that for the Maobadi, the end justifies the means. And what exactly are these ends? Nothing less than subverting democracy. Worse, it may be to undermine the very existence of this state.
A challenge of this magnitude requires that the political class face it with a sense of purpose. This should be the time to shelve little differences that inevitably exist in every democratic polity. Some of us in the media had unrealistic expectations of the Royal Nepal Army. We scoffed at the doubts of more perceptive analysts. An army that had virtually no experience in fighting an insurgency was doing so in a terrain designed to favour guerrillas.

Now that we know better, we are reconciled to the fact that this is a messy war. We have to be prepared for the long haul. There is no magic wand any more. When it comes to facing a rebel group as ruthless and crafty as the Maobadi, the Royal Nepal Army is as vulnerable as the much-maligned Nepal Police. This is a sobering realisation that should prompt our political leadership to rethink its strategy to counter the insurgency.

To channel scarce resources in the right direction, the state must begin by identifying its real enemies. Poverty, unemployment, lack of governance, and corruption are some of the fashionable causes that holier-than-thou analysts brandish about with reckless naivet?. Sure, these are socio-economic diseases that need to be treated for the political health of the country. The point is, how do you do that when you have a gun to your head, a knife at your back, and a bomb beneath your feet?

By incessantly harping on the terminal diseases that afflict our state, we make the insurgents look like mercy-killers. The time for moralising is now over. Even wars have certain rules of engagement. Terrorists observe no such codes, and have no hesitation in defiling corpses and setting innocent people on fire.
Not that Messrs Koirala, Nepal, Thapa or Deuba are paragons of virtue, but to compare them unfavourably with those who storm police posts, raze military barracks, kill innocents by the hundreds, and burn bus passengers is not just ignorance, it reflects the complicity that the Kathmandu cabal with a Panchayat-era past has with the enemies of democracy. A sizeable section of the traditional elite has not reconciled itself to the reality of popular rule enshrined in the Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal 1990, and is bent upon giving democracy a bad name. This is the enemy within, subverting the rule of law by shouting itself hoarse that laws are not being observed.

Take the most glaring recent example. Have any of the legions of incorrigible Koirala-knockers been able to prove in what way his expulsion from Singha Darbar has helped Nepal? Do we have less corruption, more good governance, a higher level of democracy and more investment in poverty alleviation under Deuba than what we had under Koirala? Let me extend this logic a little further: what is the guarantee that whoever replaces Deuba will have a more competent and incorruptible set of ministers than the one we have at present?

A concerted effort to undermine the legitimacy of a democratically elected and constitutionally formed government is on. A psy-war to sabotage the government's will to fight the insurgency is being waged by an influential section of Nepali buddhijibis (This word has no exact equal in English. "Intelligentsia" lacks the menacing undertones inherent in the Nepali term.) The help they extend to the insurgents is too generous to be entirely coincidental. If it isn't a conspiracy, the capital's "opinion leaders" are morons incapable of seeing the harm they do to the Nepali state.

Kautilya's Arthashastra, believed to have been compiled between 321-296 BCE, lists four dangers to the state and declares, "... that which is of internal origin and internal abatement" is the most dangerous. Nepal's democracy, economics, society and nation are faced with exactly this danger, and it can mean the end of its independent identity. This is no time to prove one's intellectual prowess by picking holes in the "democratic alliance" that has been proposed by the ruling party's president. It is the classic TINA option of politics-There Is No Alternative. Forces that believe in nationalism and democracy have to come together and defend the gains of the People's Movement of 1990.

Krishna Prasad Bhattarai is dead right: this is not the time to play power games. Constitutional amendments can wait. What needs to be done right away is collect our collective wits and face a ruthless enemy staring us in the face.

The last word must go to Sun Tzu, almost a contemporary of Kautilya: victory comes from cold-blooded tactics, not vague warnings. If you want to win, first think your strategy out. No one is going to come immediately to save Nepal from the Maobadi. After all, the world just watched while the Taleban had a free run of Afghanistan. By the time help arrives-assuming that it does-it is often too late. The state must sort this mess out all by itself. The least the buddhijibis can do is stop being such a nuisance

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)