Democracy’s Dance Of Death In Nepal
Democracy’s Dance Of Death In Nepal
By Krishna Singh Bam
Those of us who considered the Seven-Party Alliance (SPA)’s growing proximity to the Maoist rebels as part of an Indian conspiracy against Nepal are being forced to watch our worst fears being played out. The sudden inflow of Indian banknotes and the unusual dialects of those raising the most strident slogans against the monarchy say it all.
The 12-point agreement between the SPA and the Maoists, signed in New Delhi last November through active Indian mediation, was merely an extension of New Delhi’s strategy of perpetuating instability in Nepal. New Delhi felt it had to act before King Gyanendra took Nepal irretrievably out of India’s strategic stranglehold.
Unfortunately, SPA leaders proclaiming the deepest commitment to multiparty democracy have chosen to ignore the Maoists’ atrocious record and rhetoric while embracing them as partners. It turns out Nepal’s mainstream opposition leaders are so beholden to their Indian patrons that they are willing to go along with New Delhi’s strategy of weakening the very people they say they are committed to empowering.
The real key to national reconciliation has long been apparent to any sane Nepali. Instead of vilifying King Gyanendra as the principal obstacle to democracy, the mainstream parties could have chosen to reactivate the democratic process by participating in new elections to the House of Representatives. The monarch himself has conceded the unpleasantness and temporariness of his takeover. The parties’ questioning of the wisdom and validity of the monarch’s actions should not have stood in the way of their participation in rectifying the situation.
The monarch has repeatedly called for reconciliation, but the parties have rebuffed each overture. Instead, they have chosen to join hands with a group of murderous marauders they themselves had designated as terrorists and had mobilized the military against.
Those who want the king to acknowledge the “error” of his assuming full executive powers could have bolstered their case by acknowledging their own role in triggering and fanning Maoist terrorism. The SPA’s hope of strengthening the democratic system through such an unnatural alliance with the Maoists would have been hilarious had the implications not been so tragic.
The reality is plain and simple – the Maoists are not for democracy and multiparty politics. In unleashing their “people’s war” ten years ago, the Maoists may have made the monarchy their principal target. The fact remains that they rose up against the multiparty system lock stock and barrel. Even on the question of the monarchy, their record is dubious; they did acknowledge “working unity” with late King Birendra after the monarch was no longer alive to respond.
If the Maoist leadership has had a sudden change of heart vis-à-vis the multiparty parliamentary system, shouldn’t they have first apologized to the Nepalese people for having unleashed such a massive scale of death and destruction in their fallacious pursuit?
Forget parties like the CPN-UML and other communist factions within the SPA; they are ideologically wedded to the creation of a communist state. At least the Nepali Congress and its offshoot, Nepali Congress (Democratic), which advocate moderation and tolerance in the pursuit of Nepal’s welfare, should have recognized the grave implications of joining hands with the Maoists.
Nepali Congress president Girija Prasad Koirala today seems convinced of the Maoists’ conversion. Has he forgotten the mercilessness with which the Maoists treated him in the weeks before and after the royal palace massacre? Has he forgotten the haste with which the Maoists approached the palace with a ceasefire in early 2003 to secure a settlement bypassing the mainstream parties?
Maoist leader Dr. Baburam Bhattarai had gone to the extent of claiming that the prospects for peace were brighter amid the marginalization of the political parties since they had subverted the first peace talks. The palace-appointed government clearly saw through the Maoists’ stratagem and rebuffed the notion of achieving peace at any cost.
Nepali Congress (Democratic) president Sher Bahadur Deuba has good reason to be angry with King Gyanendra. The monarch dismissed Deuba twice on charges of incompetence. What about the Maoists? They may have helped Deuba become prime minister in 2001; but that was only because they were more anxious to see Koirala out of power. And how long did Deuba’s camaraderie with the Maoists last anyway? Four months. Once they used the ceasefire to rearm and regroup, the Maoists turned against the prime minister rebel leader Prachanda had called a “brave man.”
King Gyanendra’s regime jailed Deuba on charges subsequently thrown out by the Supreme Court. That’s what’s called rule of law. Has Deuba forgotten how close the Maoists were to killing him close to his home constituency? There surely must be a distinction.
There is only one way of testing whether the Maoists are ready for multiparty democratic politics. Both factions of the Nepali Congress and all non-communist forces – at the minimum -- should participate in the elections. The new elected government can then begin putting pressure on the Maoists to renounce violence and voice their grievances by joining the political mainstream. Regardless of whether the Maoists pass or fail that test, democracy will certainly win.