People Victims Of Nepal’s Politics Of Vengeance
People Real Victims Of Nepal’s Politics Of Vengeance
By Madan P. Khanal
Claiming to be the exclusive custodians of Nepalese democracy, the newly empowered Seven Party Alliance (SPA) is seizing every possible opportunity to hammer away the principles of constitutionalism that underpin freedom and equality. In retrospect, it is clear that King Gyanendra’s 15-month direct rule was far more constitutional than the charade that is being played out in Kathmandu today.
The attorney-general appointed by the new government himself has cast doubts on the nature, content and implications of the House of Representatives (HoR) proceedings. But to each critic, the SPA leaders point to the “historic people’s mandate” on which they believe the HoR stands.
True, tens of thousands of people took to the streets over two weeks to press the palace to restore democracy. These often-violent protests and the government’s efforts to maintain law and order were splashed across TV screens and newspaper front pages. The frenzy obscured the more important questions. Who were these people? More importantly, where were the SPA leaders? During the height of the demonstrations, octogenarian Girija Prasad Koirala, the “supreme commander” of the “people’s movement” catapulted to the prime minister’s job, told reporters he had been advised by doctors and supporters to stay home.
UML general secretary Madhav Kumar Nepal, who now expounds on the urgency of an open-ended HoR tenure, was emphasizing a reinstated legislature would meet only for a few days to formalize the roadmap to peace. People like the Nepali Congress’ Krishna Prasad Sitaula – the current home minister – and the UML’s Bamdev Gautam were huddled in New Delhi for weeks working out the details of a grand strategy to destabilize the kingdom.
King Gyanendra, recognizing the conspiracies being hatched against the kingdom, restored the HoR in order to facilitate genuine conciliation among the political forces. However, the SPA, in keeping with the Delhi Master Plan, began undermining the country in the guise of empowering the people. The two oldest and most patriotic institutions, the monarchy and the army, became the principal targets of the “historic” HoR proclamation.
By hailing this enactment of the Delhi script, laced with some customary caveats for public consumption, Maoist leaders Prachanda and Dr. Baburam Bhattarai exposed their real intentions vis-à-vis the country and people.
The first session of peace talks has ended with much fanfare. The code of conduct has been hailed as a harbinger of real peace. However, the SPA government has not been able to end the Maoists’ spree of abductions, extortions and recruitment. Worse, its response to these atrocities has amounted to little more than a slap on the wrist.
Instead, the Koirala government has detained ministers of the royal government and suspended senior police and bureaucratic officials on the grounds that they had worked to suppress the democracy movement. The SPA, on the other hand, is promoting loyalists in sensitive positions arguing that they had been victimized by the royal regime. Such politics of vengeance might have been bearable had it been just that. The wider and sustained effort to destabilize state institutions and demoralize its professionals is disturbing has all the hallmarks of a Koiralaesque “grand design.”
When the SPA and Maoists signed their 12-point accord in New Delhi last November, the unnaturalness of the alliance was apparent to all. The timing of the accord – after King Gyanendra led a multi-nation effort to correct India’s unhealthy dominance of South Asia by campaigning for China’s inclusion in South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation as an observer – was enough to indicate the intentions of its architects. Considering the stakes involved, New Delhi’s firm control of both the SPA and the Maoists was bound to prevail over the abnormalities of this anti-palace alliance.
SPA leaders are free to delude themselves into believing that they have prevailed in upholding democracy in Nepal. The fact of the matter is that India and the Maoists – in that order – have been the principal beneficiaries of recent turn of events. Indian ministers, officials and experts, who until the other day had been emphasizing the need to side with the Nepalese people’s “quest for democracy,” are now stressing the need to ensure uphold India’s security and economic interests in Nepal. The Maoists, who had failed to defeat the Royal Nepalese Army on the battlefield, have won by forcing the SPA to “democratize” the military.
From the outset, saner voices within the SPA have recognized the dangers inherent in the weakening of the monarchy and the destabilization of the army. But they have been sidelined by their leaders who dismiss such criticism as tantamount to “betraying the people’s mandate.” Clearly, the Nepalese people are the real victims of this politics of vengeance being waged in the name of democracy.