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The Monarchy in Nepal

by SURENDRA R. DEVKOTA

Democracy is a wonderful passion for billions of people around the globe. President George Bush’s vision of universality of democracy gives a high hope to many ordinary denizens around the world. His road to democracy could set up a historical landmark in different corners of the world. The United States of America as well as democratic nations around the world may need to have a long term sincere strategy to foster the democracy rather than a seasonal election politics. Political hugging with rulers of a fake democracy for a short term benefit may perpetuate complexity as if such autocrats are encouraged.

Fake democracy is substituting the real one in many dictatorial regimes. The governors of fake democracy are army turned politicians, and absolute monarchs. For instance, in many South Asian countries like Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan, Myanmar, and Maldives a sort of bogus democracy is ruining the fundamental rights of the people. The rulers in these nations have a common and unique character that they do not like multiparty polity in their land but they shamelessly do commit for democracy many times in a day. The version of the Pakistani democracy where army generals grabs the executive power by over-throwing the elected government is a pioneer model of a fake democracy in south Asia. This model has been followed by the ruling junta in Myanmar, and, of lately, King of Nepal is on the same track. In case of Bhutan and Maldives, real democracy is a rare thing except to please the rulers. Their passion of democracy is guided by their own vested interest in power and may be money also. Their primary objective is to maximize their own authoritarian grip nationally and internationally as far as they can. Majority of the people living under such autocratic system are struggling for their survival and daily basic needs, because proprietors of such hybrid democratic states are irresponsible and not accountable to the people. Resources are overly misused for the benefit of rulers and their aides, and people’s rights are distorted under different names and excuses.

A classic case is Nepal, where an absolute monarchy is ruling the country since 250 years back with a flash break of ten years from 1990/91 to 2000/01. Politically never colonized but economically lame country due to bad policies and planning, Nepal’s two third of annual budget comes from the donors. In past fifty years, Nepal received one of the highest per capita donations, which were grossly misused by all rulers and administrators. As of today, one fourth out of total population of 25 million earn less than ten dollar per month, and majority of population earn less than one dollar per day. On the other hand, many royal families who enjoy on the tax money paid by poor Nepalese do not bother to pay utility bills regularly; forget the taxes. Each year thousands of Nepali children die due to lack of primary treatment for diarrhea, dysentery, and malaria that may cost one dollar. As King Gyanendra ascended on the throne, he increased his annual remuneration at about one million dollar. Nobody dared to audit the royal expenditure in past hundreds of years. He might be one the highest paying head of the state and government in the world, whose love to the people seems a crocodile tear.

After the present King Nepal ascended on the throne on June 2001, which itself is controversial, he committed many times for a multiparty democracy and a constitutional monarchy. During his three and half years of period, Nepal witnessed dissolution of the parliament and two emergency periods. The first emergency period in 2001 was demanded by the army of Nepal to eliminate the Maoists, but it ended by dissolving the parliament. The present constitution of Nepal does not imagine a vacuum of parliament, and in absence of it, King became an absolute authority, though he appoints a set of his cabinet. The second emergency is in effective since February 1 2005 with total press censorship and complete ban on civil rights. The justification of emergency is to curb the Maoists who are waging a bloody path of revolution to fulfill their 40 points demands that includes socioeconomic reforms and new constitution. It is estimated that more than eleven thousands lives have been lost in past ten years, and Maoists claim the control over many rural parts in the country.

Divided they stand

After the Maoists started their insurgency on February 13 1996 a unanimous or consensual strategy to deal the Maoists was virtually lacking at the national and international front. Nationally, the elected government of the Nepali Congress simply underestimated the initial brutalities of the Maoists, though the Maoists were selectively killing the local leaders, and sympathizers of the Congress. Meanwhile the opposition politics did not mind to fuel the Maoists so that it could be able to grab the power. Royalists got the chances to play between the divided political scenarios. As police forces were being unable to deal the Maoists, the government tried to use the army in a couple of hot spots. It is pity how the historian will judge when the police posts were burning the army of Nepal never bothered to help to the police. The army, which only obeys the direct order from the King, reluctantly went to certain disturbing areas and handshaked with the Maoists as local reporters of different newspapers reported. Consequently, the then prime minister resigned, and government became a weak authority as army did not obey the elected government’s order. Such incidents encouraged the Maoists, as well as Royalists who always hate the multiparty system in Nepal. In fact, after Maoists insurgency began, democratic forces became feeble as wished by the Maoists. Maoist has set up their own terror network and people are compelled to obey their order in rural areas. At the center, different political forces tried to seize the opportunity for their own benefit. Royalist gained by playing a zero sum game among the parties.

International groups in Nepal were also in two camps. One set lead by the India, USA and UK were in favor of strengthening the army of Nepal, whereas the others lead by the European block focused on the intensification of the democratic process. The upholders of democracy simply did not understand the deceptive role of dictators who are the champions of a bogus democracy. To strengthen the dictatorial hands, roles of army is very important as dictators and army complement each other in the fake democracy. In such prevailing context, there is a litmus test for the international community for their commitments for military aid in Nepal such as India ($85 million), the USA ($40 million) and the UK ($50 million) whether to support to army.
Further, the Amnesty International reported that Nepal has the highest disappearance of individuals under army custody. The auditor general’s report of 2001 mentioned that army of Nepal the highest un-audited expenses in the country. Resources inappropriateness, lack of complete fiscal discipline, and unaccountability of killings are the very significant parameters of a total autocratic regime. King of Nepal is patron of all.

Future scenarios

The future scenarios of Nepal could be enigmatic. It may depend how the royalist perceive their fate.
(i) Royalist scenario: The royalist scenario will be a revised model of party-less bogus democracy that ruined Nepal from 1960 to 1990. As King has appointed two stalwarts who helped his father to foster the fake democracy, selective freedom may prevail in future depending upon the King and his coterie’s wish. Role of army will spur to enforce a dictatorial peace.

(ii) Republic scenario: If the Nepali Congress gives up its faith on the constitutional monarchy, no one can check the road to a republic Nepal, because, most of the communists in Nepal do favor a republic state. It is the only the Nepali Congress party that sincerely tried to establish a constitutional monarch in Nepal since 1950s, though different Kings kicked the Congress party out from the government at different time periods. The student wing of the Congress already endorsed a republican set up for Nepal.

(iii) Maoist’s scenario: Although they were able to destabilize the mainstream politics in country, they may seek a negotiation with the King through internal and or international channel for their safe landing. On the other side, they will also continue for sporadic infightings in order to mobilize their cadres as well as to bargain with other parties.

(iv) Role of China and India: China’s only major concern is anti-Tibet activities in Nepal. Royalists were already able to shut down a Tibetan contact office based in Kathmandu to please the China. In future, nobody will be surprised if royalists hand over some Tibetans based in Nepal to China, as they did in past. In return, China loves to see Nepal as a buffer state of Tibet like a junta of Myanmar. It may help Nepal through militarily.

In case of India, it is now on the hot plate due to its own mistakes in the past. One possibility could be a two pronged strategy as it did before 1990 ­ both carrot and stick approach. If India is able to convince the western world, it may be able to minimize the ego of royalists. India is well aware of Nepal’s socio-economy, so it might also bargain with royalist for some resources. The worst scenario could be emerged if activities of China, Pakistan, and others increased in Nepal.

Concluding remark

Democracy is victimized in Nepal in order to control insurgency in the name of emergency. My father in 1950 fought for democracy, so did I until 1990. Now I do not wish my son will continue the same route for democracy. In absence of democracy, proprietors of either emergency or insurgency will misuse their authority and general people will be mistreated. King and his army in Nepal may argue for war on terror in order to boost their case of emergency, which is another deceptive step because without the help of people no one has even won a single war. They can’t win this war by keeping people in jail, and misusing their guns. It may backfire to them, eventually. Road to democracy is an ideal philosophy which empowers the people not the dictators. The civilized world should not energize to uncivilized rulers around the world.

Surendra R Devkota, Ph.D. is a US based research scholar. Devokota can be reached at: srdevkota@gmail.com

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