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“King Gyanendra and Prince Paras – the architects of anarchy of the monarchy in Nepal”, reads the photo caption of the Asian Centre for Human Rights. In spite of all the claims of pro-royalists, that the monarchy is the unifying factor for all Nepalese, the recent moves by King Gyanendra and the response to it seem to indicate otherwise and instead buttresses the claim of this photo caption. The democratic parties and the Maoists have also indulged in activites that have led to increasing anarchy in Nepal and cannot shirk from shouldering responsiblity.
Role of the Monarchy
The monarchy’s part seems to have started with the ‘palace coup’ of King Gyanendra on October 2, 2002. On this occasion he dismissed Prime Minister (PM) S. B. Deuba by labeling him as ‘incompetent’ as he had failed to hold elections and himself took over executive powers. Exactly 2 years and 5 months down the lane, and several PMs later, King Gyanendra again fired the reinstated PM Deuba on Feb 1, 2005, and imposed emergency and direct rule in Nepal. This time too PM Deuba was fired for not being able to hold elections. The King’s move was widely publicised this time as a ‘royal coup d’état’.
Following the new move, King Gyanendra released a royal proclamation assuring the citizens of Nepal that his moves were to bring multiparty democracy back on track. His gameplan was to first bring peace, (ostensibly by defeating the Maoists militarily) and then the atmosphere would automatically become conducive for elections at the end of which multi-party democracy would return.
Innocent as it may appear, King Gyanendra does not seem to have any real intention to bring peace for the purpose of holding elections. To begin with, Deuba as PM was never really in charge, otherwise how can the PM of a nation be fired whenever the King wished? Certainly, from October 2, 2002, if anything only King Gyanendra appeared to be the person in-charge and ruling through proxy. Moreover, none of the PMs including Deuba were PMs who came through the democratic process since the parliament itself was dissolved. All the appointed PMs were just the King’s puppet.
When Deuba was dismissed the first time, King Gyanendra nominated Lokendra Bahadur Chand as PM whom he later dismissed and brought on Surya Bahadur Thapa. Both were members of Rastriya Prajatantara Party, the party of the former Panchayati regime politicians, and always ready to toe palace diktats. After the Chand and Thapa team had collapsed under the combined pressure of the five party agitatiton, and increasing violence both by the Maoists and the army, the King in June 2004 issued a deadline to the political parties to come up with a ‘consesus canditate with a ‘clean image.’ When they did not respond, an advertisement was issued which asked potential PM canditates to file a petition and submit it at the royal palace gate. The whole episode turned out to be a farce. Following this Deuba was again brought back in June last year until his re-ouster in Feb 1.
All along the real motives of King Gyanendra had been to restart autocratic monarchy. The international community had tried to wish away the facts all along and now suddenly they are crying wolf. There was hardly any condemnation or displeasure shown by the international community after the palace coup of October 2, 2002. Ambassadors were neither called back, nor were there any threat or actual suspension of arms from those that matter the most to Nepal. According to Ajai Sahani (Executive Director, Institute for Conflict Management) regional stability overrode regime stability.
The King has chosen a very sinister route to autocracy. His gambit appears to have been to keep fiddling with governance in such a way that 1) incompetent people are hoisted by him and given charge of governance; 2) keep changing them to prevent any bold initiatives; and therefore leading to 3) increased governance failure and anarchy that could be ascribed by the common people to those appearing to be in charge. He was hoping all along that the swell of public anger against successive governments and the political parties, who would not let them function, would continue to rise, and he would appear as a unifying factor and the only power center capable of delivering. But since he remotely ran all the governments through his appointed, inefficient and weak cronies all actions taken so far can directly be ascribed to him. By meddling in governance and remotely presiding over at the helm of affairs of all the actions of (non) governance since 2002, King Gyanendra is directly responsible in promoting anarchy in Nepal to benefit himself.
By February 1, 2005 the King’s was obviously cocky enough to think that the international community had failed to see his hand in maintaining and increasing the current mess, and took full control but the move failed flat on its face. First, the international community, though late in recognizing, is finally beginning to realize that the Maoists of Nepal are fighting a political battle and are not the only terrorizing force inside Nepal. Second, the King moved to strike at the roots of democracy and freedom of the press. Third, the King moved unilaterally without taking the main players into confidence and fourth, the government in India had changed from pro right-wingers who saw a Hindu emperor in King Gyanendra to ‘detoxifiers’ of such thoughts. No doubt that India didn’t support the King’s move and demanded that democracy be restored, which it followed by suspending military aid. With India turing the screw the rest of the major players followed suit. The new UPA government in India sees the King’s move as foolhardiness that would make the Maoists even stronger and could ultimately lead to the demise of monarchy itself. UK has already suspended its military aid, while US is mulling on it giving Gyanendra a 100 day grace time to restore democracy.
At the same time the King was planning the coup he was playing the so-called China card to force India, US and UK to fall in behind him. This involved surprising moves such as the closure of the Tibetan Refugee Welfare Office that had been operating for decades only a week before Feb 1. His foreign policy is turning out to be like those of, fools rush in where angels fear to tread. The first signal came in 2002 itself when he answered a question about the efforts to ‘balance’ India with Pakistan and China. The King had then said, that “relations with one country is independent of our relations with any other country, there is no need to ‘balance’ one with the other or to play one off against the other. We have never believed in such short-sighted policies. For us, every country is a different entity in equal footing.” This was in spite of the fact that Nepal’s economy is intricately and directly linked with those of India.
Since King Gyanendra took over the death toll on both sides (Maoists and the army) and civilians caught in the cross-fire increased from 1700 till May 2001 to more than 3000 by April 2002. By December 2003 the insurgency had claimed more than 9100 lives. During 2004, violence related to the rebellion cost an estimated 2,380 lives, including those of 209 members of Nepal’s police services, 240 soldiers, 1,457 Maoists and 474 civilians, according to the U. S. State Department.
Since his Feb 1 takeover, many atrocities have been committed by the State and none has equaled to, and is as revolting as the lynching of 12 ‘Maoists’ in Kapilvastu district. It was followed by a week of looting, burning and killing a couple of dozens ‘Maoist sympathizers’. The police and army looked the other way and the King’s appointed ministers congratulated the mob leaders – a striking example of anarchy being promoted by the state, whose autocratic head is the monarch.
Role of the democratic parties
The democratic parties in Nepal are responsible for anarchy for several reasons.
First, they have always fallen for the King’s move and failed to protect democracy since the “palace coup” of October 2, 2002.
Second, for the 12 years (1990 to Oct 2, 2002) that democracy functioned, (mostly ruled by the Nepali Congress) instead of governance we saw intra-party and inter-party squabbling, breaking of parties into factions, ‘politicization of the state institutions and government bureaucracy’, cronyism and nepotism; and institutionalized corruption. In those 12 years Nepal saw: K. P. Bhattarai (2 times), Girija Prasad Koirala (3 times), Manmohan Adhikari (1 time), Surya Bahadur Thapa (1 time) Lokendra Bahadhur Chand (1 time), Deuba (2 times) taking turns as PMs, i.e. we had regime change 11 times in 12 years. No wonder that many are fed up with the democratic politicians who are seen only as those jostling for power.
Thirdly, when the Maoist conflict was at its infancy, both G. P. Koirala and K. P. Bhattarai did not try for a peaceful resolution to this political problem. Just look at the short-sightedness of these two democratic, supposed stalwarts, of Nepal. Bhattarai in his swearing ceremony as the PM on April 1998 announced that his priority was to end the Maoist insurgency. This was re-iterated by Koirala when he succeeded him. Both believed solution only through bullets. The official figure of the total deaths under the Koirala government (April 1998-May 1999) was 596 (457 as the result of police action). In Bhattarai’s 11 month tenure 420 people were killed.
As Karki and Sneddon (2003) argue “Initially the police was dispatched to deal with what was perceived as a law and order problem. When the police failed more violent and barbaric operations, viz. Operation Romeo and later Operation Kilo Sierra was conducted in the mid-western hills. They treated everyone as a potential Maoist and many innocent people were arrested, ill-treated, tortured and killed almost randomly. The police actions resulted in a substantial proportion of the local population making common cause with the Maoist.”
Thus by failing to protect democracy, providing ineffective governance, squabbling amongst themselves instead of nation building, and more importantly dealing with the Maoist problem without any real understanding of the ground reality the democratic parties are responsible for the increasing anarchy in Nepal.
Role of the Maoists
The Maoist movement that started quietly since its birth in February 1996 has taken such a violent turn that it’s being seen as a Khmer Rouge in the making. In the Maoist mouthpiece website not only the index page is blood red in color, their objective also is of bloodletting: “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun”, a quote attributed to Mao. Maoists are no better than the RNA under King Gyanendra as has been shown by the atrocities they have committed: killing and torturing suspected informers, army and policemen; kidnapping and forceful recruitment of children; looting and bombing of government and properties of those identified as class enemies and many other heinous human rights violations.
According to a 2003 World Bank report, “more than one-third of Nepal’s 3,900 village development committee buildings have been destroyed, 19 districts are without telephone service, 250 post offices have been ruined and six airports have been closed.”
By destroying the infrastructure and creating terror amongst opponents the Maoists are responsible for creating anarchy.
The three main players in Nepal have brought anarchy and are maintaing it to further their own agenda. Each party wants to capture complete power in the process. All three have lost sight of the country and are guided by their myopic vision of self benefit.
The King believes that if anarchy continues the country would have no recourse but to stand behind him. Those who are not with him will be militarily eliminated.
The governance seen under the democratic regimes for 12 years was ineffective; the aspirations of the common were never satisfied and the benefits of democracy was cornered by the elite few democrats. One only saw a democratisation of corruption. Instead of hundreds we had thousands pilfering the state. After the King usurped power instead of a short duration decisive campaign they conducted a prolonged and weak campaign often bringing hardship to the common in the process.
Through executions, forced conscription, destruction of infrastructure and blockades, the anarchy that the Maoists are creating serve to indicate their strength. They too are hoping that every Nepali would soon be forced to choose amongst either of the violent side.
Thus to a lesser or larger extent the monarchy, democratic parties and the Maoists are all responsible for the current anarchy in Nepal. After Feb 1 the country has got increasingly polarized into the camp of either the monarchy or the Maoists. The democrats have now been squeezed out by King Gyanendra. The situation as it stands today can lead Nepal down 4 distinct paths of which the first 3 will lead to bloodletting. Path 1: King Gyanendra vanquishes the Maoists. Path 2: Maoists defeat King Gyanendra. Path 3: The status quo continues forever. Path 4: Peaceful resolution and democracy restored.
Path 4 is the sane one, but the million dollar question is who will bell the two cats: King Gyanendra (RNA) and the Maoists. The only way out perhaps is a tripartite agreement among the three players and stationing of an international peace keeping force that disarms the Maoists, sends the RNA back to the barracks and creates a peaceful atmosphere to conduct elections in a time-bound manner. The elections should provide the three parties to test their support in Nepal. The disarmed Maoists should be provided jobs or absorbed into the police or RNA. Sure, all these would be a severe encroachment on Nepalese soverneity, but these are not normal times either.
AVANTIKA REGMI can be reached at: Avantikaregmi@aol.com