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Dipta Shah: The Choice Nepalese Must Make

Moving Forward: The Aftermath of the February 1 Proclamation and the Choice Nepalese Must Make

By Dipta Shah

The time has come for all Nepalese to make a fundamental choice, a choice that cannot be permitted to be made on Nepal's behalf. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and each Nepali must set priorities and make the best choices with the information available. The cycle of radicalization initiated by the Maoists has reached full circle; and for better or worse, the Maoists have succeeded in dividing us.

The time to act is now, and there is no room left for error. Now is the time to decide whether the struggle should be to re-instate the likes of Girja Prasad Koirala and Khum Bahadur Khadka, or to confront the Maoists on their turf on Nepal's terms.

There are some who cite history to highlight the fact that a dysfunctional democracy is still preferable to any semblance of autocratic rule. This is certainly the case when a credible alternative (i.e. responsible political leaders) exists. Unfortunately for Nepal, such is clearly not the case, thus emergency rule in time of emergency.

While the prospect of strict authoritarian rule is repulsive, one must take into account what the alternative is – the Maoists. And hoping for the miraculous emergence of an option is not an alternative. "Hope is not a method," goes the saying: We do not have the luxury of time on our hands when scores of our brethren are dying on a daily basis.

It is high time that people stop fanaticizing about the possibility of a stable, democratic polity when every fundamental element required for a democratic setting has been systematically eroded by the Maoists and our flawed politicians. The sooner we come to terms with this reality, the more coherent decisions we can collectively make.

Fighting three different battles on three different fronts is simply not a tenable proposition. If the coming struggle is to be fought in the name of Nepal and the majority of Nepal's people, it would be prudent for all to mobilize intellectual capital, economic resources, and collective will to force the Maoists to see reason.

Had the King not taken the measures that he did, the next move on the political parties' agenda was to force the re-instatement of parliament, and Heaven only knows where that would have left us. Had Deuba declared elections (amidst disagreement with his coalitions partners), the legitimacy of the elections would forever have been contested, thus opening up yet another front in the war. Alternatively, the King could have fired Deuba and forwarded another candidate. This would have accomplished absolutely nothing.

Aside from our corrupt and ineffective politicians, who have given up their chances at redemption, the Maoists are the gravest threat to Nepal's sovereignty. We have an opportunity now to deal with them on our terms, not theirs, and hopefully to deal with this insurgency once and for all.

The choice every Nepali is faced with today, is clear – it's either the King (with the plan for a gradual reversion to democracy later), or it's the Maoists (and history has shown us where this path leads).

The genuine desire for the establishment of a multi-party system of democratic governance in Nepal is championed by all of Nepal's well-wishers. There is no ambiguity or ulterior motive where this demand is concerned. The time to forward this agenda aggressively will undoubtedly come and will be accomplished with the unanimous support of the international community.

However, that time is not now. And lobbying the international community to force the King to reverse his decision, to cut off all foreign aid to Nepal, and to alienate the new government -- is certainly not the manner in which to ensure democracy for Nepal. Following that path guarantees only one thing – the irreversible loss of Nepal's sovereignty.

If the King is willing to gamble his life and the continuity of his lineage on his actions, the least we can do is give him the benefit of the doubt. We are simply out of options at this point and cannot afford to have another generation of Nepali children grow up in the midst of an insurgency- racked, war-torn nation.

If we as Nepalis cannot unite at such a critical juncture in our history to face the Maoist challenge, to seek the welfare of our impoverished majority, and to guarantee the sovereign integrity of our nation, there is no honor, no pride in calling ourselves Nepalis. If we are unable to put aside our personal preferences now and align for the common good, we as individuals are no better than the politicians we abhor.


Dipta Shah is a Nepali citizen and a recent graduate from Columbia University's School of International Affairs (SIPA).

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