Monday, November 12, 2007

Conflict in Nepal enters a dangerous phase

Conflict in Nepal enters a dangerous phase
By Syed Ali Mujtaba

The conflict in Nepal between the Monarchy, political parties and the Maoist have entered a dangerous phase after the 12-point agreement between the ultras and seven political parties alliance to dislodge King who assumed absolute powers in February 2005. The agreement undoubtedly would trouble the Gyanendra in the days ahead; but at the same time it seems taking the country to a political abyss from where return to multiparty system looks abysmally dismal.

The big question is whether the political parties were right in choosing the Maoist as partners in their struggle for restoration of democracy in Nepal. It’s obvious they had a delicate choice between the ‘devil;’ ‘autocratic Monarch’, found in history books, and the ‘deep sea;’ the Maoist, whose ideology of ‘dictatorship of the proletariat,’ have become redundant in 21st century.

To recap, King Birendra, assumed constitutional role in 1990, paving way for multiparty democracy in Nepal. However in a span of ten years, as many as twelve governments came and went, making a mockery of democratic governance. This led to the rise of Maoist insurgency that strove to bring ‘peoples democracy’ or ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ by ending the institution of monarchy in Nepal.

Meantime, the palace massacre of royalties in June 1, 2001, brought Gyanendra, slain King Birendra’s brother to the throne. The new King since the beginning harbored autocratic ambitions and showed displeasure towards with the democratic government’s inability to deal with the Maoist. He first dismissed the government and then ruled the country through his hand picked cabinet, finally to assume the absolute powers. This triggered a wave of anti monarchy protest culminating into a 12-point agreement between the political parties and the Maoist.

There are two fundamental issues that require attention in the agreement reached between the Maoist and the political parties. One is the status of the Monarchy and the other nature of democracy in Nepal.

The political parties have diluted their stand on Monarchy being ‘essential pillar’ of Nepali politics, and now endorse the Maoist views of its complete abolition and establishment of a ‘republic’ in Nepal. They seem convinced that if the unarmed people of Iran could uproot the autocratic Shah in 1979, why can't the ordinary people do the same in Nepal.

This hypothesis looks logical on paper but there is little similarity between Iran and Nepal over the question of abolition of Monarchy. In Iran, a religious order was tried to replace the Monarchy, while in Nepal, a non-religious order is attempted to supplant the Monarchy that has a religious halo around his throne.

The Monarch in Nepal is not only a fountainhead of the political power but also regarded as an avatar of the Lord Vishnu, an embodiment of Rama, Krishna, and Buddha all encompassing. It’s hard to imagine the people of Nepal would whole-heartedly support the designs to end the Monarchy and see it being replaced by the Maoist model of China that itself is shedding the baggages of the past.

That’s one of the reasons the cumulated anger of Nepalese people against their King could not transcend beyond the realm of protest and is unable to generate the kind of anti-Monarchy frenzy seen during the days of the Islamic revolution of Iran.

The conflict in Nepal has thrown up many imponderables; conspicuous among them is the question of the abolition of Monarchy. It’s hard to imagine how this would play itself out, the facts remains that, even then it would not be an end of conflict in Nepal.

On the question of democracy, there is little clarity in the 12-points pact except for the fact that it mentions the establishment of 'absolute democracy’ in Nepal. This ideally to the political parties would mean restoration of parliamentary democracy where the Maoists are co-opted in a multiparty system. However, that’s not the goal of the Maoist who may like to establish the 'dictatorship of the proletariat,' that necessarily do not mean the restoration of multiparty democracy.

In the current situation what appears imminent is both the Maoist and the political parties want to maintain their respective positions with regard to the nature of democracy and would like to combine together for an assault on Monarchy till its total abolition in Nepal.

The strategy of the political parties is to first battle it out with the Palace and then to think about dealing with the Maoist. The alliance with the Maoist has giving them a breathing space, however the fear is it may entangle them in the cobweb of left ultra radical ideology from where it would be hard to disengage in the long run.

As far as Maoists are concerned, they seem to have developed a new political maturity at this juncture of their struggle. They have realized that that they may not succeed in capturing the state power through the violent means and therefore adopted a new strategy to try out the political route. It is with these intentions that they have entered into an alliance with the political parties so that they may gain political legitimacy and build their own inherent strength.

It is unclear how the Maoist would deal with the political parties once their objective of dislodging the King is accomplished. This is a fact that Maoist have been chary about the multiparty democracy right since the beginning and their rise took place during the democratic era not against just the same parties but the same individuals who have cut the present deal with them. They have repeatedly made it clear that they would not compromise on their ultimate goals, capture of political power and establishment of 'people's democracy.'

Therefore, it does not stand to reason why the political parties have opted to for an alliance with the Maoist. The fear is, more the anti monarchy protest prolongs; the more the political base of the Maoist would be consolidated and in such scenario, it would be the ultras that would call the shots and not the other way round. The political parties then would be left with little option to get co-opted into the radical’s ideals of ‘absolute democracy.’ That would mean destruction of the democratic freedom and political pluralism in Nepal. It seems the conflict in Nepal has entered into a dangerous phase.
The author is a working journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at

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