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Nepal: People’s Third Movement In The Offing

People’s Third Movement In The Offing


By Siddhi B. Ranjitkar

Some political parties particularly the Nepali Congress (NC) and Nepali Congress-Democratic (NC-D) had been conspiring against the peace process, and had already called off the election for a constituent assembly that would have put back the derailed democracy on track. These political leaders posturing as the democrats had been trying every possible ploy to preserve the monarchy, as if they would not survive without monarchy. They had already let the army play the discarded national anthem to honor Gyanendra, let the army chief meet the king in secret, and had increased the difference between the pro-republican and pro-monarchists. These leaders were not for peace, as it had revealed by their activities. They had no love for the country but only for power. The possibility of return of chaos in Nepal again had been looming.

On April 24, 2007 while Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala was celebrating the first anniversary of the People’s Movement at ‘Shainik Manch’, Kathmandu, and civil society leaders and other political leaders were at Basantapur, Kathmandu for celebration for commemorating the anniversary of the people’s movement, and Gyanendra still holding the title of a king but without any portfolio was performing worship offering the blood of five animals and birds such as water buffalo, goat, sheep, rooster and duck to the almighty goddess Dakshinkali about 25 km to the south of Kathmandu. On that occasion, the Nepali Army played the discarded former national anthem. It looked more like the mockery of the king than a salute but it also might be the indication of the secret deal Girija had with Gyanendra. Some civil society leaders demanded an explanation from the government for such an unusual behavior of some ministries.

On Thursday, April 27, 2007, speaking at an event held by Sanchar Samuha Nepal, NC legislator Binaya Dhwaj Chanda said, "Playing national anthem in honor of the king, who has been rejected by the people and the parliament, was a serious mistake on the part of the government; the action should be protested.” [1]

On April 30, 2007, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala sought clarification from Chief of Army Staff (CoAS) Rukmangad Katuwal about his ‘meeting’ with King Gyanendra after the ministers during the cabinet meeting on Sunday April 29 raised the question of the ‘secret meeting’ between CoAS Katuwal and King Gyanendra who had been stripped of all powers. CoAS Katuwal refused to speak to journalists after his meeting with Koirala. However, the Nepali Army (NA) refuted media reports that the army chief had met with King. "There is no process whereby the Chief of Army Staff can meet with anyone without government approval," a statement issued by the NA said. The meeting between the Prime Minister and the CoAS was a regular meeting to brief the Prime Minister about the security situation of the country added the NA statement. [2]

Prime Minister Girija must be posturing by questioning the army chief about his widely hyped meeting with the king probably to counteract the Nepalese people’s growing disenchantment of his love for the monarchy at the same time letting the army to play the discarded national anthem in honor of Gyanendra.

On April 26, 2007, addressing a function held to mark the eighth-death anniversary of the first-elected communist Prime Minister, Manmohan Adhikari, Speaker Subhas Chandra Nemwang said he was ready to declare the country a republic from the parliament’s rostrum if all the parties decided to this effect and urged the parties to resolve their differences soon so that the interim parliament could start its business smoothly. Speaking at the same function, CPN-UML General Secretary Madhav Kumar Nepal said that the eight parties must reach a consensus on deciding the future of monarchy either by referendum or through the interim parliament, as constituent assembly polls were uncertain. General Secretary Nepal said that it was possible to declare the country a republic through the interim parliament if all the constituents of the eight parties were ready to do so. [3]

On April 27, 2007, sharply reacting to the readiness of the Speaker to declare Nepal a republic, Peace and Reconstruction Minister and General Secretary of the NC, Ram Chandra Poudel speaking at an event in Nepalgunj said, “The House does not have authority to declare republic as it has already been agreed that the first meeting of the constituent assembly will take a decision on monarchy.” [4]

Nepalis could imagine the intellectual power of Mr. Poudel based on his strong statement about the authority of the House. Probably, he must have forgotten in the rush to protect the monarchy that the revived House had in its Declaration of May 18, 2006 stated “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.” And he ignored the agreement the eight parties in the interim government had reached to add a provision in the interim constitution by the second amendment for removing the monarchy by a two-third majority if the King was found to be conspiring against the constituent assembly elections. In addition, the interim legislature even if it was not elected represented the whole nation while the eight parties represented only their party members. They have no authority to speak for the whole nation. All these things indicated the intellectual bankruptcy of Mr. Poudel. Any morally strong person in his place would have resigned from the cabinet.

Then, Finance Minister and NC Member, Dr. Ram Sharan Mahat took the turn to declare that the legislature had no authority to declare Nepal a republic. On April 29, 2007, speaking at a village awareness campaign held by the NC in Aambhanjyang, Makwanpur Dr. Ram Sharan Mahat said, “the eight parties have already agreed in writing that the first meeting of the constituent assembly would decide the fate of monarchy. The parliament cannot declare a republic, against the norms and spirit of the interim constitution.” [5] The intellectual such as Dr. Ram Sharan Mahat had either betrayed his intellectual status or got the order from the party-high command to take the stance on not declaring Nepal a republic.

The NC did not agree to declare Nepal a republic through the legislature and did not want to hold a referendum on the monarchy but stuck with the CA polls that were called off and put to uncertainty. All these things made further clear that the NC wanted to prolong the state of no republic no king to hold on to power as long as possible not willing to understand or deliberately allowing to create an environment conducive to revive the already almost dead monarchy.

On Saturday, April 28, 2007, senior leader of the CPN-Maoist and former commander-in-charge of the Maoist militia, Ram Bahadur Thapa “Badal” addressing the mass rally held by the CPN-Maoist in Pakhribas, Dhanakuta said that the CPN-Maoist was making necessary preparations for the third Jana-andolan for declaring Nepal a republic. He said that foreign and national reactionary forces were undermining the republican set-up. He claimed that the upcoming third Jan- Andolan would finish off the political leaders who had collaborated with the reactionary forces to hatch the conspiracy. He further said that the CPN-Maoist was determined to set up a “Loktantrik” Republican state as Nepalese would not get justice and be free in the real sense of words without a democratic republic. [6]

On April 28, 2007, addressing a training program launched by the Gorkha-Kathmandu Ganatantrik Manch in Banasthali, Kathmandu, Maoist second-in-command, Dr Baburam Bhattarai said that his party would launch a peaceful agitation for an indefinite period if the interim parliament failed to declare the country a republic by the third week of May. His party would announce a series of protests if the interim parliament did not declare republic by that time. “Our efforts will be to generate a consensus among the eight political parties on declaring the country a republic through the interim parliament. If that does not happen, we will forge unity among the leftist and republican forces and declare the country republic by simple majority of the interim parliament,” said Dr. Bhattarai. He further said that the peaceful agitation would be focused on declaring the country a republic; the monarchy must be uprooted to bring an end to the feudal system of economic relations in the society; however, the NC and the NC-D were opposed to the idea, saying that the interim parliament had no rights to take any decision on the monarchy and the constituent assembly would decide on it; they argued that in the interim constitution promulgated on January 15, 2007 there was no constitutional provision for doing so; even if the provision of removing the monarchy by a two-third majority was added to the constitution, the left parties would not have adequate number of votes to overthrow the monarchy without the support of NC and NC-D. [7]

On April 27, 2007, speaking at a Face-to-Face program held by Sanchar Samuha Nepal in Kathmandu, NC student leader Gagan Thapa said that the eight-party government had lost the mandate of people, and the need for again launching a movement for declaring Nepal a republic. ANNFSU vice-chairperson Ram Kumari Jhankri said that the constituent assembly polls would be disrupted if the government failed to take actions against those found guilty by the Rayamajhi Commission. Former president of the Nepal Students Union (NSU) affiliated to the NC, Guru Raj Ghimire said that it was a mistake to administer oath of office to former Chief of Army Staff Pyar Jung Thapa (after the people’s movement) and appoint Rukmangad Katuwal to Chief of Army Staff (after the retirement of Thapa); both of them were found guilty by the Rayamajhi Commission and added that the top leaders should learn from their previous mistakes in a bid to chart new Nepal. [8]

The young generation should takeover to abolish the monarchy totally. The old generation leaders were for preserving the monarchy. Some newspapers started off writing the monarchy was already abolished need not talk about it anymore. Former Minister Nilamber Acharya said that the monarchy was already dead ignoring the palace was still occupied by the so-called king and queen. So, this might be another ploy of Gyanendra to prolong the life of the Shah dynasty as much as possible bribing some journalists and politicians.

On Sunday, April 29, 2007, Chairman of the Madhesi People’s Rights Forum (MPRF), Upendra Yadav went to New Delhi, India to garner the support of the Indian political leaders for the political movement of the MPRF. Upon arrival in New Delhi he said, “We have come here to garner moral support for our demands for declaring Terai a federal autonomous region, establishment of a republic, proportional representation at all state machineries, after the government failed to practically address these demands.” Senior leader of the NC-D, Pradip Giri was acting as a mediator between the Indian leaders and Yadav for their meetings. In the press conference held by Yadav, Pradip Giri said that the MPRF movement was more democratic than the Maoist movement. On Monday, April 30, 2007, Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula suffering from an ear ailment arrived in New Delhi afternoon for treatment at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). [9]

So, it was not baseless that the Maoists’ accusation of the NC and NC-D were trying to neutralize their influences in the Terai assisting the MPRF in acting against the Maoists. According to the human rights activist, Mathura Prasad Shrestha, MPRF leader Upendra Yadav was a village-level leader only.

NC vice president Sushil Koirala issued a threatening warning to the Maoists saying the continued lack of discipline of the Maoists could trigger a civil war in the country. "Sometimes they carry weapons, sometimes they take out rallies. What happens if the Nepali Army, too, loses its discipline? There will be civil war," NC vice president Koirala said at the event held by Nepal Peasants Association. Speaking at the same function, NC General Secretary Kul Bahadur Gurung condemned the Maoists' demand for the immediate announcement of Nepal a republic. He said republic cannot be declared based on whims. In another event, NC legislator Sujata Koirala warned that if Congress, too, lost its cool, democracy could again be endangered. On Monday, April 30, 2007 talking with the media people in Charikot of the Dolakha district, Mohan Baidya 'Kiran’ accused the NC of conspiring with MPRF to sweep the Maoists away from Madhes (Terai). [10]

While Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula, one of the architects of the ongoing peace process in Nepal was in India for medical treatment, the NC hawks had started off firing salvos against the peace process, and made preparations for another conflict with the advocates of republic probably in conjunction with the Nepali Army.

The enemies of the peace had been trying to undo the peace process widening the difference among the political parties although such difference was a trivial matter compared with the benefits of peace. Nepalis wanted peace but the politicians were for grabbing power and staying on power at any cost to the people. Nepalis did not want Nepal become a slaughter house as had been Iraq since 2002. Therefore, all peace-loving Nepalis make their call to Girija and his clique instead of preserving the most reviled monarchy at any cost to the nation continue the peace process setting the date for an election for a constituent assembly immediately for keeping the aspirations of Nepalis for peace, democracy, republic, proportional representation, autonomy and federalization alive. The intensified activities of the king were the threat to all democracy-minded Nepalese people. So, Nepalis needed to eliminate the monarchy at the soonest possible.

Footnotes:

[1] The Himalayan Times, April 27, 2007, “Army's 21-gun Salute to King Draws Flak”

[2] Nepalnews.com pb Apr 30 07, “PM seeks clarification from CoAS on his ‘meeting’ with King”

[3] The Himalayan Times, April 26, 2007, “Speaker says House can declare republic”

[4] Nepalnews.com mk Apr 27 07 “Parliament cannot announce republic, says Poudel”

[5] The Rising Nepal, April 30, 2007, “House cannot declare a republic”

[6] The Rising Nepal, April 29, 2007 “Third Jan-Andolan in the offing: Badal”

[7] The Himalayan Times, April 28, 2007, “Declare republic by third week of May: Bhattarai”; Nepalnews.com sd Apr 29 07, “Maoists threaten to unleash indefinite agitation”; Ekantipur.com, April 28, 2007, “Stage set for indefinite pro-republican stir: Baburam Bhattarai”

[8] The Rising Nepal, April 28, 2007, “Student leaders demand action against suppressors”

[9] Ekantipur.com, April 30, 2007, “Home Minister Sitaula, MPRF Chairman Yadav in Delhi”

[10] Nepalnews.com sd Apr 30 07, “Congress and Maoist leaders trade charges”


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