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House Declaration Ends The Shah Dynasty In Nepal

House Declaration [1] ends the Shah Dynasty in Nepal


By Siddhi B. Ranjitkar

On May 18, 2006, almost after a month from the day the king revived the House of Representatives [2] dissolved on May 22, 2006, the revived House of Representatives made Declaration effectively ending the 237-year old Shah Dynasty. Gyanendra’s ancestor Prithvi Narayan Shah started the royal dynasty conquering the Kathmandu valley in the mid 18th century. Bringing back the House of Representatives, the king surrendered all power to it and asked it for bearing the responsibility of taking the nation on the path to national unity and prosperity, while ensuring permanent peace and safeguarding multiparty democracy. Using all the power surrendered by the king, the House of Representatives declared itself a supreme power holder until further arrangement is made, removed the king from the parliament, turned His Majesty’s Government of Nepal into ‘Government of Nepal’, changed the name of the Nepal Royal Army to Nepali Army and brought it under the civilian control, terminated the position of the Supreme Commander of the army, a position held by the King, authorized the Council of Ministers to appoint the Chief of Army Staff, and dissolved the highly controversial Privy Council called Rajparishad.

The declaration was scheduled for Monday, May 15, 2006 but could not be made as the leaders of the seven-party alliance failed to settle some issues and agreed to get the declaration endorsed by the Council of Ministers before tabling it at the House of Representatives. The delay triggered spontaneous protests on Tuesday, May 16, 2006, and the protestors burnt down four government-owned vehicles in Kathmandu but the situation returned to normal after the Home Minister assured them of tabling the declaration at the House of Representatives on Thursday, May 18, 2006.

Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala got unanimous approval of the Council of Ministers and the seven-party alliance on the proposal for the Declaration to be made by the House of Representatives before presenting it to the House of Representatives.

Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala tabled the Declaration at the House of Representatives on May 18, 2006. He then asked Speaker Subash Chandra Nemwang to read out the Declaration, as he was unable to do so due to his ill health.

Presenting the Declaration, Prime Minister Koirala said the document reflected the people’s aspiration and each word in it was written with martyrs’ blood that laid the lives for democracy. In a warning note, Prime Minister Koirala said that if anybody daring to undermine the Declaration that had established people’s sovereignty would face grave consequences. He said, “If anyone tries to interfere and undervalue it, they will face grave consequences.”

Ambassadors of the USA, the UK, China, Russia, India, Sri Lanka, Norway and Finland who also represents the EU, the Resident Representatives of UNDP and UNCHR, a large number of media persons and other distinguish persons were present at the House session at the time of the presentation of the Declaration on May 18, 2006.

The House of Representatives after nearly one-and-half hour-long deliberation on the Declaration passed it unanimously. Even the royalist parties such as Rastriya Prajatantra Party and Rastriya Janashakti Party supported the Declaration without any reservations. They were not the constituents of the seven-party alliance.

Speaker Subash Chandra Nemwang called for a voice voting “yes” or “no”. All the members of the House of Representatives in one voice said, “yes”. When he called for “no” votes, the House remained dead silent. Then Speaker Subash Nemwang announced that the Declaration was passed unanimously.

People watched the live telecast of the proceedings of the reinstated House of Representatives from Singha Durbar on the state-run Nepal Television, Kantipur TV, Nepal-one TV, and listened to the live broadcast on a number of F. M. radio stations and the state-run Radio Nepal for immediately understanding the Declaration made by the House of Representatives on Thursday afternoon, May 18, 2006.

Hundreds of people gathered around the statue of late King Prithvi Narayan Shah at the main gate of the Government Secretariat building called Singha Durbar in Kathmandu at the time of the Declaration to be made by the House of Representatives in order to draw the attention of lawmakers to the people’s aspirations for the sovereignty of the people, true democracy and fundamental human rights despite the fresh ban imposed by the local administration on rallying, gathering, holding meetings and sit-in in that area. The irony is that the government set up by the people’s power immediately imposed the restrictions on gathering at the certain core areas in Kathmandu. This certainly goes against the people’s aspirations. The sovereign people would not tolerate such behavior of the government.

The crowd gathered at the main gate of the Signha Durbar cheered the news of Nepal declared as the secular state by the House of Representatives. A leader of the civil society movement, Malla K Sunder, announced the news for the gathered public at the main gate of the Singha Durbar.

Talking to Nepalnews after the declaration of the country as a secular state, one of the members of the indigenous communities, Dandu Sherpa said that the declaration was just a first step toward a democratic Nepal based on equality.

Nepalis representing various indigenous groups, unions, institutions and the civil society were present at the gathering held at the main gate of the Singh Durbar to caution the political parties against betraying the spirit of the people’s movement of 2006. The crowd was elated when they heard the House of Representatives made a Declaration with sweeping changes in the country’s state of affairs. [3]

Pursuant to the Article 5.1 of the “Declaration made by the House of Representatives of 2006 (2063)”, the House of Representatives could declare that Nepalis do not need a king anymore thus this Declaration has effectively ended the 237-years long history of the Shah dynasty. The Articles 5.3 and 5.4 of this Declaration have reduced the king to the status of an ordinary Nepali citizen. Now, the king is without the kingdom. The Nepalese king could take bicycle ride on the New Road. Nobody would take notice of him.

Speaking at the meeting of the House of Representatives before the voting on the Declaration presented by Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, and commenting on the Declaration, Communist Party of Nepal – United Marxist and Leninist (CPN-UML) General Secretary and Lawmaker, Madhav Kumar Nepal said, “Now, the history is not going to repeat; the country will only move forward. Any side going against this Declaration would face people’s uprising.” He further said the House’s Declaration has come to meet the aspirations of the people’s movement and has established that there is no power above the people and the constitution. “All sectors of the country should now adopt the concept of inclusive democracy,” he said. The Declaration has been tabled despite all kinds of rumors that the parties were lacking courage to bring it before the House. Backing the historical motion tabled earlier by Prime Minister Koirala, CPN-UML Lawmaker Madhav Kumar Nepal said the epoch-making manifesto has reflected the people’s aspirations to wipe out all the anomalies of the past. “Now, the sovereign people will have all rights to decide the fate of the country and their own,” he said. Cautioning against the possible threats, he said, “The history could not be unfastened and those who try to defy the changes have to face the people’s wrath.” Lawmaker Nepal said that the next step would be to democratize all the sectors in the country and to end the situation of impunity.

Speaking at the same meeting, Nepali Congress (NC) Lawmaker Shushil Koirala said that anyone who goes against the spirit of the people would be eliminated forever. He said that with the Declaration in place a new dawn has set in the country. “The people’s peaceful movement and victory over the autocracy will set a new example in the world and no despots will rise their head against the people’s will ever again in Nepal and elsewhere in the world,” Koirala said.

Commenting on the Declaration, overjoyed President of Nepali Congress – Democratic (NC-D) and former three-term Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba said, “Today is the happiest day for me in my life as I suffered a lot more than any others from the king.” He also re-emphasized that if anyone tried to ignore the achievements of the people, the person would be buried in the history. Former Prime Minister Deuba also promised to cooperate with Prime Minister Koirala in the days ahead. President of NC-D and Lawmaker Sher Bahadur Deuba said those going against the Declaration “will be digging their own grave”. He said the focus should be now on restoring peace in the country.

Chairman of Rastriya Prajatrantra Party (RPP) and Lawmaker Pashupati Shumsher Rana also expressed support for the historic Declaration made by the House of Representatives as well as for the proposed elections for a constituent assembly. Appreciating the role played by the 12-point understanding reached between the seven-party alliance (SPA) and the Maoists in bringing the current situation in the country, he urged the government to pay attention to establish a lasting peace in the country. Lawmaker Pashupati Shumsher Rana cautioned the SPA saying, “We will abide by the decisions taken by the people and the House of Representatives. The Maoists have been moving forward as planned but the SPA seems to be wavering.” He questioned, “If the SPA leaders have failed to consult the political forces outside the SPA for formulating the historical Declaration, can this be called an inclusive democracy?”

Chairman of Rastriya Janashakti Party and Lawmaker Surya Bahadur Thapa said that the changes in the past could not encompass the basic traits of the sovereign people but the current document tabled at the House of Representatives guaranteed all rights of the people. Lawmaker Thapa said, “It has encompassed the needs of the country, the future directions and a desire to restore political stability.” The Declaration came up as a result of “the situation dictated by the political change” and one could not do anything other than what has been done, he said. He also warned against undermining the situation. “If the problems were solved appropriately and justifiably then the contribution of the SPA would be written in golden letters as savior of the nation from the perilous situation,” Lawmaker Thapa said.

Communist Leader of People’s Front Nepal and Lawmaker Chitra Bahadur KC expressed his views that the feudal autocratic rule has now become the history after the House’s Declaration. He said that the Declaration has a lineage with the past when the Nepalis had started revolting against the oligarchy. He urged the House to concentrate on institutionalizing the achievements of the people’s movement and to initiate peace talks. The Maoists should also come to the political mainstream.

Leader of Nepal Sadbhawana Party, Yagyajit Shah said all sorts of doubts have been cleared off and the shackle of slavery has been broken with the Declaration made by the House of Representatives.

Leader of Nepal Sadbhawana Party – Anandidevi, Hridayesh Tripathi said that the popular movement had unified the Nepalis emotionally, and the Declaration has given permanency to it. He said that peace is the integral part of the Declaration, and expressed his hope that a lasting peace would be restored soon.

Leader of People’s Front Nepal and Lawmaker, Pari Thapa said that the Declaration tried to transform the state authority and state mechanism in a democratic way.

Chairman of Nepal Workers’ and Peasants’ Party, Narayan Man Bijukchhe, also gave his views in support of the Declaration and stressed the ‘total democracy’ through elections for a constituent assembly. He said that the historical Declaration reflected the aspirations of the people. “Those terming it unlawful have not understood the demand of time,” he said.

After the completion of the speeches of all leaders of the political parties represented in the House of Representatives, and after the passage of the Declaration by the House of Representatives, Speaker Subash Nemwang adjourned the House of Representatives. [4]

Addressing the 13th memorial meeting held in honor of CPN-UML leaders late Madan Bhandari and Jiv Raj Ashrit by the ANNFSU central committee in Dasdhunga, Chitwan on Wednesday, May 17, 2006, CPN-UML Standing Committee Member, Bam Dev Gautam claimed that the monarchy in Nepal would end within a year. He predicted that earlier the elections for a constituent assembly were held sooner would be the end of the monarchy. The country would enter into the democratic republic system after the House Declaration. [5]

Issuing a statement Maoists’ Supreme Leader Prachanda welcomed the Declaration made by the House of Representatives and said, “Our party welcomes it and supports the Declaration as a victory of the 12-point understanding and the Nepali people’s historical movement.” He said the party feels “glorified” that some of the demands raised by his party have been addressed. “But the Declaration has attempted to address the people’s will of ending monarchy by politically limiting it as a ceremonial one,” Prachanda said. He further said it was silent on the issues of growing foreign interference, restructuring the state, self-determination, regional and ethnic autonomy and federal system, revolutionary land reforms and fundamental rights to education, health and employment. He also said that the Declaration has given birth to “serious suspicion” as it has maintained a “surprised silence” on finding solution to the issues of the insurgency and impending talks with the Maoists. He also expressed doubt about whether the Declaration would put the issues such as peace talks, elections for a constituent assembly under a shadow. He added that the Declaration had tried to give credit only to the seven-party alliance by not mentioning the significance of the 12-point understanding reached between the seven-party alliance and the Maoists. [6]

People injured during the recent 'jana andolan' (people’s movement) say the 'historic' Declaration made by the reinstated House of Representatives on Thursday, May 18, 2006 was satisfactory, but not adequate. For example, Rajendra Lama injured during the pro-democracy demonstrations in Banepa on April 19, 2006 said he was happy to hear the House of Representatives’ Declaration to drastically curtail the powers of the king. "But I suspect the royalists might hatch conspiracies against this Declaration or the leaders might fear to implement what they professed today," he added.

Krishna Pokhrel injured when police charged demonstrators with batons at Banasthali in Kathmandu on April 21, 2006 said most of the people's aspirations were addressed by the Declaration. "I am happy with it. Since the leaders did not dare to remove the king, the only way to do so was through elections for a constituent assembly,“ he added. Pokhrel was still angry at monarchy. "If leaders, by any means, try to save the monarchy, we will start armed struggle," he warned. "I am ready to die for the country." Pokhrel said he felt proud of being one of the pro-democracy activists since the 'jana andolan' (people’s movement) forced the king to accept that people were sovereign and that alone has right to rule the country.

Similarly, 15-year-old Nawaraj Parajuli also injured during the demonstrations, said, "The Declaration is inadequate since we can't have "loktantra" (democracy) as long as the king is there." Parajuli – who still has bullet in his leg—blamed the king for ordering the security forces to kill people who were taking part in the peaceful demonstrations."

Sagar Gurung shot at his stomach in the western town of Butwal on April 9, 2006 said though the news of the Declaration was inspiring to hear, it was not complete. "It gave me much satisfaction," he added. "However, the people's movement had empowered the House of Representatives to remove the king from Nepal, the leaders did not do so," he said, "It is a betrayal."

People in the street looked excited and were discussing the implications of the 'historic' Declaration. But, pro-democracy fighters undergoing treatment at the Model hospital—which was in the forefront of treating the injured—still have bitterness in their mind and a strong sense of hatred of the erstwhile regime. [7]

Nepalis took out “victory rallies” in various parts of the country welcoming the “historic” Declaration passed by the House of Representatives. People came out to the streets, congratulated each other on the victory of the people, and chanted pro-democracy slogans.

The divine rule of Nepal’s King Gyanendra, the world’s last Hindu monarch, has abruptly ended after the Nepal’s parliament passed a Declaration. Gyanendra now looks set to be the last of his line to directly rule the Himalayan country of 27 million people. The Declaration allows taxes on royal income and property for the first time. The royal family owns at least eight lavish palaces across the impoverished nation whose tourist-reliant economy has been battered by mass street protests and a Maoist insurgency. “It’s democracy in action, and we are glad to see the parliament functioning,” said a senior British diplomat on condition of anonymity. The new parliament convened after a four-year gap, shied away from abolishing the monarchy, a key demand of the Maoist rebels. The interim government however has previously said it would use a planned constitutional review to determine whether the 237-year-old monarchy should stay in the nation. [8]

On Friday, May 19, 2006, leaders of the seven-party alliance said that the King could remain a "respected citizen of the country" provided he was ready to "abdicate the throne" and cooperate with the peaceful transition of the country to a democratic republic. Addressing the mass gathered at the open theatre in Kathmandu on Friday, May 19, 2006 to celebrate the Thursday's Declaration made by the revived House of Representatives, Nepali Congress Central Working Committee Member Narahari Acharya said, "If the king is ready to abdicate the throne, he can happily live in the country as a respected citizen and he does not need to flee." Acharya further said that the Declaration gave the king an opportunity that he might not need to flee the country if he was ready to cooperate with the people's aspiration for the peaceful transition from the old regime to a democratic republic. "The Declaration is the first step toward achieving its goal of elections for a constituent assembly, and it has also severed ties with the old regime," Acharya said, adding that all should be alert and should remain active to create new Nepal through the elections for a constituent assembly. Addressing the same gathering, Standing Committee Member of the Communist Party Nepal-United Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML), Ishwor Pokharel said the monarchy will not be completely defeated unless the nation heads for the elections for a constituent assembly, which will create a democratic polity without the monarchy. "Beacon of the movement must keep on lighting until a new constitution is made through the constituent assembly," Pokharel said, adding that they will make public the misdeeds of the monarchy. Himlal Puri of the Janamorcha Nepal said the future of monarchy would be decided by the elections for a constituent assembly. [9]

This week’s developments in Nepal should serve as a warning to all tyrants that they cannot subvert the people’s aspiration, and get away with. If the Nepal’s parliament and people have moved to clip King Gyanendra’s wings, stripping him of all his powers — especially his control over the 100,000-strong army — and reducing him to a ceremonial figurehead, the monarch has no one to blame but himself. Gyanendra lost no time in losing the considerable goodwill the monarchy enjoyed in the Himalayan kingdom despite the tragic circumstances in which he had inherited the throne from his brother. Doubtless, the constitutional and political reforms initiated by the caretaker government of Prime Minister Koirala are a truly path-breaking step for democracy and good governance in Nepal. The new act of parliament not only makes the world’s only Hindu kingdom a secular democracy, but it actually puts Nepal’s long disenfranchised people, rather than the king, in charge. This is genuine democracy in action. The path ahead for Nepal’s leaders is not rosy though. All this while, the king had been seen and indeed was the source of most of the country’s problems. But now that a new government is in charge, responsibility rests with it. If things do not improve now and soon, the people wouldn’t blame king Gyanendra, but the Koirala government. Prime Minister Koirala just can’t afford to fail Nepal. [10]

A wary India is watching with some nervousness the fast political developments in Nepal. The government of India has not reacted to the sweeping changes announced by the Nepalese House of Representatives on Thursday yet. There is serious concern about stability in the neighboring country, as it has security implications for India. India's endeavor is to ensure a smooth transition of Nepal's political structure from a monarch-centric system to the parliamentary system. However despite the King been divested of his divinity, the path of political stability has a number of roadblocks. "The first is to ensure that the political parties remain united. Squabbles among them will encourage the Monarchists to take full advantage of the contradictions to strike back,'' an Indian official, remaining unidentified said. The old mantra in South Block for Nepal "multi-party democracy and constitutional monarchy,’’ has now replaced with "political stability and economic development" as the twin pillars for stability in Nepal. Delhi is ready with a substantial economic package but does not want to announce it, before Kathmandu asks for it. For India as well as for the international community it is imperative that the Maoists renounce violence and join in the political mainstream. The question now is how this can be started as quickly as possible. India is discreetly urging Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala to initiate a dialogue with the Maoists. In fact Prime Minister Koirala wanted to make a quick trip to Delhi, but has been advised to first begin talks with the Maoists, expand his cabinet and put the nation on track before flying in to confer with Indian leaders. For Delhi, unsure of the Maoists sensibilities about India's intent, it is essential to remain discreet and out of the public eye. There is much talk of involving the UN in bringing stability to Nepal. Privately, India is not opposed to the UN, but Delhi believes that the UN should step in much later for demobilization of the Maoists. "It is too early to give the UN a larger role in Nepal. First the government must lay the groundwork for talks,'' said a senior Indian official. Though India no longer says it publicly there is reservations about the Maoists intent. Delhi is hoping that the peace talks get underway and the Maoists join in the political process and give in their weapons. [11]

In a press release, different organizations welcomed and supported the Declaration made by the reinstated House of Representatives that established the supremacy of the Nepali people, and the source of all state authority is the Nepali people. For example, Nepal Ready-made Garments Industries Association has in a statement stressed the sincere implementation of the historic Declaration. The Association has also stressed the initiation of meaningful dialogue between the government and the Maoists to establish a lasting peace as aspired by the people. It believes that meaningful talks between the government and the Maoists would create an environment wherein the country would get rid of terror and violence, and the industries can operate in a smooth manner thereby prospering the economy.

Similarly, in a press release, the Association of the Victims of the Maoists has delighted at the establishment of the supremacy of the people by the Declaration made by the House of Representatives. The Association hoped that the House of Representatives would also deal with the problems of all the displaced persons through similar declarations in future.

Likewise, issuing a press statement, the National Dalit [12] Federation stressed the need for the political forces to take the responsibility entrusted to them by the people to move on to peace, equality, independence and progress with determination. Calling upon all sides to work for mutual interest, show respect for co-existence and carry out works for the interest of the people and the country, the statement said the Federation would defend the Declaration against any kind of plots to undermine it. [13]

At a talk program on “Women’s role in the meaningful participation of women in the constituent assembly” held by the Women Rehabilitation Center in Kathmandu on May 19, 2006, the participants called on all to cooperate in putting the Declaration in practice. They stressed the need for annulment of discriminatory laws on women and to increase women’s participation in the constituent assembly. CPN-UML leader and Lawmaker, Pradip Gyawali said the women’s role was very important in making the success of democratic movement. The Chairperson of the Women Rehabilitation Center, Dr. Renu Rajbhandari called for raising voices for the women’s participation in the constituent assembly. [14]

General Federation of Nepal Trade Union (GEFONT) expressed its full support for the “Declaration made by the House of Representatives of 2006 (2063)” that has established the sovereignty of people. GEFONT drew the attention of seven-party alliance to steer ahead with a common agenda and goal by further consolidating the alliance. It also made a demand for punishing the authorities responsible for suppressing the people’s movement indiscriminately and brutally. GEFONT appealed to the seven-party alliance and the Maoists for working together to consolidate democracy and restore peace in the country. [15]

In a press release, the Human Rights and Peace Society welcomed the Historical Declaration made by the House of Representatives saying the Declaration has made Nepalis free and sovereign, and expressed gratitude to all the people, the House of Representatives, Council of Ministers and political parties. Stating that the Declaration has proved that no force is more powerful than peaceful civil conscience, the Society appealed to the CPN-Maoist for giving up arms and for involving in the mainstream politics. [16]

Welcoming the historic Declaration made by the House of Representatives of 2006 (2063), the annual general assembly of Nepal Bar Association (NBA) has emphasized on its successful implementation. "The Jana andolan-II (People’s movement – II) uniquely demonstrated to the whole world that a peaceful movement can also bring a historic revolution," the NBA’ 17-point Janakpur Declaration issued at the end of the annual general assembly said. The assembly also vowed to stand for the Declaration made by the House of Representatives. The NBA also stressed on the implementation of the 12-point understanding reached between the seven-party alliance and the Maoists. The NBA also urged the concerned authorities to take strict actions against those involved in suppression of the people's movement, and engaged in support of the then royal regime. [17]

Legal experts stressed on the need for an interim constitution to legalize the recent achievements of the movement and the Declaration made by the House of Representatives. Speaking at an interaction in the capital on Friday, May 19, 2006 Constitutional Law Expert, Purna Man Shakya urged the government to promulgate a new constitution to give legal validity to the Declaration and to make arrangements for preventing the constitutional vacuum. Constitutional Law Expert Shakya said political decisions would not always be applicable unless they are transformed into laws and no one can question the Declaration made by the House if it is given the shape of a legal document. Former Supreme Court Justice, Laxman Prasad Aryal said the process to promulgate a new constitution has already started with the Declaration. "Since the House passed a resolution to promulgate a new constitution, the Constitution of 1990 is no more in force," he added. Advocate Bhimarjun Acharya seriously questioned the supremacy of the House as declared on Thursday, May 18, 2006. Acharya also said it is not good to make the Supreme Court under the House of Representatives by strapping the apex court of its power of judicial review. "The Declaration intends to escape from the elections for a constituent assembly," said advocate Mukti Pradhan. [18]

Women lawmakers demanded the women's equal representation in a constituent assembly. They said that the new constitution would not be inclusive if women did not have equal representation in the constituent assembly. Speaking at a program held by Sundar Nepal, CPN-UML Lawmaker Bidhya Devi Bhandari said inclusive democracy was not possible without equal participation of women in it. She said she will raise the issue of equal participation in her party and also urged all women lawmakers to raise their voice to defeat the feudal mentality present within their party. Another CPN-UML Lawmaker Urmila Aryal stressed on the need for equal participation of women in all sectors including political parties, diplomatic missions, administrative and security machinery. Nepali Congress Lawmaker Sabitri Bogati said women lawmakers should launch a struggle within their parties for equal representation of women in the constituent assembly. Lawmaker Renu Yadav of Rastriya Prajatantra Party stressed on the proportional representation in the constituent assembly. Other women lawmakers including Tirtha Gautam and Kashi Poudel said that separate constituency should be announced for women. [19]

Saying the Declaration made by the House of Representatives as historic, the United States welcomed it, and assured the Nepal government of its support for restoring and strengthening democracy in the country. Testified on developments in Nepal before the Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday, May 18, 2006, US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Richard A. Boucher said, “Nepal’s future is in the hands of its people and its political leaders must take steps to meet the people’s aspirations. We have no interest in prescribing the architecture of their democracy. The United States stands behind the people’s right to make that choice themselves through a free and fair political process, and will stand against any who attempt to deny them the freedom that is their right,” said Boucher, according to a statement issued by the US embassy in Kathmandu on Friday, May 19, 2006. [20]

The EU also welcomed the historic Declaration made by the House of Representatives and expressed its eagerness to work with the new government in Nepal. A press statement issued by the Foreign Ministry of the Government of Nepal said the Charge d’ Affairs and Acting Head of Delegation of the European Commission (EU) in Kathmandu, Eduardo Lechuga Jimenez expressed this commitment during his meeting with Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister K.P. Sharma Oli on Friday, May 19, 2006. He informed that a high-level delegation from the EU would be visiting Nepal in the beginning of June this year to express support for the political change in Nepal. He further said that the high-level visit would provide an opportunity to have detailed discussion on the EC’s future co-operation strategy in Nepal. He also expressed the hope that the EU will provide enhanced level of assistance to Nepal in meeting long-term development challenges as well as the immediate challenges of reconstruction and rehabilitation. [21]

The House of Representatives declaring Nepal as a secular state has evoked a mixed response from the majority Hindu groups. "The Declaration of the so-called Parliament has hurt the faith of the 900 million Hindu populace across the globe and brought about possibilities of a religious crusade in Nepal," Shiv Sena (organization of Hindu fundamentalists) Nepal President Arun Subedi said. The House should not have been afraid of preserving the only Hindu Kingdom in a world where 52 countries are Christians and 46 Muslims, the outfit said. Arjun Lamichhane of the Bishwo Hindu Youth Federation said the issue of secularism should not be raised in a country where religious tolerance has always prevailed.

Minority ethnic groups have welcomed the Declaration. "With this Declaration, the nation has moved toward ensuring social justice and harmony," Pasang Sherpa, General Secretary of Confederation of Indigenous and Ethnic Groups of Nepal, said. "We welcome the Declaration as minorities are exploited in a state that rules on the basis of a certain religion," he said. Chairman of All Nepal Ethnic Convention, K B Gurung said: "Imposing one religion in this religiously diverse population created friction and now the state is on the course of addressing this friction."

The provision for a Hindu state was the underlying cause of Brahmin hegemony for the last 237 years, said Dr Krishna Bhattachan. "One state religion means the dominance of one culture, a few castes, one language, and even one gender," said Bhattachan. "The Declaration meets one of the main demands of indigenous and ethnic groups," he added. Dr. Bhattachan, however, said other major demands of the groups -- the right to self-determination and ethnic, religious and regional autonomy -- are yet to be met. He however noted that with secularism, the road to these had become less bumpy. "Therefore, the Declaration is very welcome."

Buddhist leader Bimal Nanda Mahasthavir also welcomed the Declaration. He, however, noted that religious minorities had to put pressure on the House of Representatives until the last moment to ensure the Declaration of a secular state is effectively implemented.

Muslim Ittehad Sangh, Tharu Students' Society, Nepal Christian Society, National Council of Churches of Nepal, Shree Bouddha Tamang Kalyan Guthi, the Council House of Tamu, and the Seventh-Day Adventist Church also welcomed the Declaration issuing separate statements.

It is not yet clear whether cow slaughter will be allowed in Nepal or not after it turned into a secular state. Until now it has been a punishable offence. [22]

India’s Main Opposition Party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BPJ) has ‘regretted’ the transformation of Nepal from the world’s only Hindu nation into a secular state. BJP Leader Jaswant Singh told the Rajya Sabha, the lower chamber of the Indian parliament, on Friday, May 19, 2006 that he “feels diminished” to see the death of the Hindu Kingdom and called the transformation “unfortunate”, official news agency PTI said. PTI quoted another BJP leader V.K. Malhotra as saying, “While it is for the people of Nepal to decide the kind of government they want. What was the need to scrap the word Hindu from its name?” “Nepal's Hindu identity has nothing to do with the monarchy. The Nepalese Parliament should not have omitted that word. There are over 50 countries in the world that proudly call themselves as Islamic Republic," Malhotra insisted while addressing a press briefing. The Indian opposition party’s reaction comes at a time when the parliamentary proclamation declaring Nepal as a security state is welcomed by all sides including the international community. The BJP supported by various semi-political fundamentalist Hindu religious groups, is the only prominent Indian political party to officially criticize the Nepalese House of Representatives’ Declaration of turning Nepal into a secular state on Thursday, May 18, 2006. [24]

Some Hindu groups took to the streets in the southern town of Birgunj in Nepal on Monday, May 22, 2006 denouncing the Declaration made by the House of Representatives to turn the world's only Hindu kingdom into a secular state. They demanded that the country be declared a Hindu kingdom once again. Talking to Nepalnews, Principal of Hindu Vidyapeeth — Nepal (HVP-N), Chintamani Yogi said that the need of the hour is to ensure the safe landing of the Maoist insurgency. We should not extend support to the King unnecessarily in the name of 'Hindu rastra' (Hindu nation) but he cautioned that the Declaration of a secular state could give chances of uniting the regressive forces under the banner of Hinduism.

Hindu leaders are furious at the Declaration of a secular state, and blame the SPA for betraying the country. Chairman of World Hindu Federation (WHF), Bharat Keshar Simha said that the decision taken by a handful of people was illegal and a conspiracy against the country, and would not acceptable to all the Nepalis. Chairman Simha further said that the WHF would hold various protests against the decision and would also take to the street to protests against what he called the "unconstitutional declaration" made by the House of Representatives. Chairman Simha had advocated an active role of the monarchy in the state affairs, and even claimed that the Hindu King was above the law.

Swami Dhruba disclosed that various Hindu groups were currently holding meetings and were in direct touch with Hindu religious leaders of India to chart out future strategies. "We will not remain silent and continue to expose the policy of appeasement," he warned. [25]

In his book, "Towards a Democratic Nepal" published last year, scholar Mahendra Lawoti argues that the Constitution of Nepal of 1990 has contradictory provisions. For examples, the Articles 11.2 and 11.3 of the Constitution are against discrimination based on religion, yet, Article 4 explicitly declares Nepal as a Hindu state. The Declaration of the state as Hindu provides sustenance and support to the discriminating traditions and values and contributes to the continuation of the social and legal discriminations. Lawoti wrote. [26] The Declaration of Nepal as a secular state made by the House of Representatives has effectively ended the contradictory provision in the Constitution of 1990, and the social and religious discrimination.

The regressive forces have not been totally dead. They might make troubles to the government of the seven-party alliance. The disabled king might be hoping to stage a comeback standing on the shoulders of the Hindu fanatics and fundamentalists. However, Nepal has undergone a drastic transformation since the people’s movement in 1990, and the people’s movement in 2006 completed the political changes not completed by the people’s movement in 1990. The young generation Nepalis have been so strong that everything would be, as they want, not what politicians or fanatics want.

Footnotes

[1] The House of Representatives’ Declaration of 2006 (2063)

Highly honoring the Nepalese people’s sacrifices of all sorts including their lives, and their participation in the people's peaceful joint movement; and in view of the state power of independent and sovereign Nepal is vested in the Nepalese people, and of the people’s peaceful joint movement that took place some time ago through which the people demonstrated the strong aspiration for proving the truth of the sole source of the sovereignty and the state power is only the people;

Committing to implement the people’s mandate given by the people’s peaceful joint movement for establishing a lasting peace, democracy and for restructuring the state into an inclusive democratic state by formulating a new constitution through the Constituent Assembly set up by elections, following the roadmap of the seven-party alliance and the 12-point understanding reached between the seven-party alliance and the CPN-Maoist;

Bearing the great responsibility of the sovereign Nepali people to strengthen the national unity, indivisibility and integrity of the country;

In view of on April 24, 2006, the king declaring “Convinced that the source of State Authority and Sovereignty of the Kingdom of Nepal is inherent in the people of Nepal and cognizant of the spirit of the ongoing people’s movement as well as to resolve the ongoing violent conflict and other problems facing the country according to the roadmap of the agitating Seven Party Alliance” accepted the House of Representatives reinstated under the pressure of the people’s movement is the sovereign authority;

For bearing the responsibility to safeguard the achievements of the people’s movement of 1990, institutionalize the achievements of the current people’s movement, exercise all the rights to end the autocratic kingship, and move on to the establishment of the full-fledged democracy, until another constitutional arrangement is made, the House of Representatives declares itself a sovereign authority, and makes the following declaration of using the state power through this House of Representatives:

1. Legislative

1.1 The House of Representatives shall exercise all the rights concerning the legislative body of Nepal. The procedures for formulating laws shall be as prescribed by the House of Representatives.

1.2 The House of Representatives shall set the procedures as required for moving on to the Constituent Assembly.

1.3 Calling and adjourning the session of the House of Representatives shall be as follows:

(a) The Prime Minister shall call the session of the House of Representatives; and the Speaker shall adjourn the session on the recommendation of the Prime Minister;

(b) While the House of Representative is in recess if one fourth of the total incumbent members of the House of Representatives at that point of time requests the Speaker for calling the session of the House of Representatives then the Speaker shall set the date and time for the session to be held within 15 days.

1.4 The House of Representatives shall formulate and implement the rules and regulations of the House of Representatives.

2. Executive

2.1 All the executive power of the state of Nepal shall be vested in the Council of Ministers. “His Majesty's Government” shall be called as “Government of Nepal” from now on.

2.2 Non-members of the House of Representatives can also be nominated to the Council of Ministers.

2.3 The Council of Ministers shall be accountable to the House of Representatives. The Council of Ministers and the ministers collectively shall be accountable to the House of Representatives, and individually shall be accountable to the House of Representatives for the business of their concerned ministries. The civil administration, army, police and all the executive bodies shall be under the purview of the government accountable to the House of Representatives.

2.4 The Council of Ministers shall pass the rules and regulations concerning the job allocations and the performances of the government, and submit it to the House of Representatives.

3. Army

3.1 The name of "Royal Nepal Army" shall be replaced with "Nepali Army".

3.2 The current provision for the National Security Council has been annulled. There shall be a National Security Council under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister for controlling, using and mobilizing the Nepali Army.

3.3 The Council of Ministers shall appoint the Chief of the Army Staff of the Nepali Army.

3.4 The current provision for the Supreme Commander of the Army has been annulled.

3.5 The decision of the Council of Ministers on mobilizing the Nepali Army shall be tabled on the special committee prescribed by the House of Representatives, and get it endorsed within 30 (thirty) days.

3.6 The form and the nature of the Nepali Army shall be as required by the nation.

4. Rajparishad (Privy Council)

The current provision for the Rajparishad (Privy Council) has been annulled. All the functions performed by the Rajparishad (Privy Council) shall be as prescribed by the House of Representatives.

5. Royal Palace

5.1 The rights to make, amend and annul the laws on the heir to the throne shall be vested in the House of Representatives.

5.2. Expenses of and benefits for His Majesty the King shall be as prescribed by the House of Representatives.

5.3 The private property and incomes of His Majesty the King shall be taxable pursuant to the laws.

5.4. Actions of His Majesty the King shall be questionable in the House of Representatives or in the court of law.

5.5 The current Royal Household Service shall be incorporated into the Civil Service.

5.6 The security arrangement for the Royal Palace shall be as prescribed by the Council of Ministers.

6. The current problem of the citizenship shall be resolved soon.

7. The current "national anthem" shall be changed into a new alternative composition.

8. Nepal shall be a secular state.

9. Miscellaneous

(a) All the state bodies and entities shall consider their rights delegated by this House of Representatives, and shall exercise their rights with full faith in the House of Representatives.

(b) Officials holding specific public offices shall take an oath of office in the format and in the specified manner prescribed by the House of Representatives. Officials failing to take such an oath of office shall be relieved from their positions.

(c) All the provisions made in the Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal of 1990 and in other current laws contradicting this Declaration shall be annulled to the extent of contradiction.

(d) The House of Representatives by its decisions shall remove any difficulties and problems faced in the course of implementing this Declaration.

(e) There shall be a committee of the House of Representatives for implementing the sub-clauses (c) and (d).

(Siddhi B. Ranjitkar translated the Nepali text of the Declaration made by the House of Representatives of 2006 (2063) published in the state-run newspaper called ‘Gorkhapatra’ on May 19, 2006 into English)

[2]

The full text of the king's address to the nation delivered on the state-run Nepal TV simultaneously aired by other independent TV stations at 11:30 P.M. on April 24, 2006 and published in the state-run newspaper “The Rising Nepal” on April 25, 2006 is as follow:

Beloved Countrymen,

Convinced that the source of State Authority and Sovereignty of the Kingdom of Nepal is inherent in the people of Nepal and cognizant of the spirit of the ongoing people’s movement as well as to resolve the ongoing violent conflict and other problems facing the country according to the road map of the agitating Seven Party Alliance, we, through this Declaration, reinstate the House of Representatives which was dissolved on 22 May 2002 on the advice of the then Prime Minister in accordance with the Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal-1990. We call upon the Seven Party Alliance to bear the responsibility of taking the nation on the path to national unity and prosperity, while ensuring permanent peace and safeguarding multiparty democracy. We also summon the session of the reinstated House of Representatives at the Sansad Bhawan (parliament building), Singha Durbar at 1 P.M. on Friday, 28 April 2006.

We are confident this House will contribute to the overall welfare of Nepal and the Nepalese people.

We extend our heartfelt condolences to all those who have lost their lives in the people’s movement and wish the injured speedy recovery. We are confident that the nation will forge ahead towards sustainable peace, progress, full-fledged democracy and national unity.

May Lord Pashupatinath bless us all!

Jaya Nepal!

[3] Nepalnews.com by May 18, 2006

[4] Nepalnews.com mk May 18, 2006, The Rising Nepal, May 19, 2006

[5] The Himalayan Times Online May 18, 2006

[6] The Himalayan Times Online May 18, 2006

[7] Nepalnews.com May 18, 2006, by Indra Adhikari

[8] Khaleej Times Online, May 19, 2006

[9] People’s Daily Online, May 20, 2006, Source: Xinhua

[10] Khaleej Times Online, May 21, 2006

[11] Daily News and Analysis (DNA), Seema Guha, Friday, May 19, 2006

[12] Underprivileged People

[13] The Rising Nepal, May 21, 2006

[14] The Rising Nepal, May 20, 2006

[15] The Rising Nepal, May 20, 2006

[16] The Rising Nepal, May 20, 2006

[17] Nepalnews.com pb May 21, 2006

[18] Nepalnews.com pb May 20, 2006

[19] Nepalnews.com pb May 20 06

[20] Nepalnews.com by/pb May 19 06

[21] Nepalnews.com by/pb May 19 06

[22] ZEE NEWS May 23, 2006, Islamic Republic News Agency, May 23, 2006

[24] Nepalnews.com mk May 21, 2006

[25] Nepalnews.com May 24, 2006, By Pratibedan Baidya

[26] Nepalnews.com May 24, 2006, By Pratibedan Baidya

ENDS

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