King Gyanendra of Nepal’s royal coup on February 1, 2005 not only suspends the Nepalese people’s fundamental rights, including freedom of assembly and expression, right to information and privacy, and protections afforded by Nepal’s constitution against arbitrary arrest and imprisonment of individuals but also drives the country into an un-destined direction. The Himalayan nation is floating amid different political cyclones created by the king and his army, and other parties. The so-called emergency rule has blinded-folded the eyes of journalists, and closed the mind and lips of the Nepalese. Nobody knows who killed whom and where. Intimidation by either king’s army or Maoists is a part of life for majority of the people. King’s council is very reluctant to listen anything except a supporting voice of the royal coup. The political mess is further aggravated by vigilante advices of council members. Nearly after two months of emergency, it seems that king’s pockets for peace have nothing except guns that also provided by donors’ money, but Nepal’s current problem won’t be solved by guns.
Majority of population in Nepal live under a very deprived situation of basic needs. The country is poor not only due to lack of economic capital, but owing to facts of biased and flawed planning and policies adopted in past five decades. In spite of the highest per capita funding by international agencies in past fifty years, life in rural areas is pitiful in absence of any socioeconomic development structures. A handful ruling class who controlled the resources over the years never bothered to uplift the poor village economy. This ruling class that enjoys a first class privilege maximizes its vested interest by centralizing power, and, unfortunately, multiparty polity lagged behind to break this loop. Maoists are trying to capture that poverty and underdevelopment for their political momentum, whereas King seems further fostering the zeal of Maoists by centralizing the decision making authority, and sidelining the democratic political forces. Further, the ongoing sporadic fights between army and Maoist are turning the general people’s life insecure and vulnerable in many areas.
The country is deadlocked due to King’s absolute political command, which is against the 1990 Constitution of Nepal. King’s day to day political activity with the help of a council of ministers simply aims to control mainstream political parties who oppose the absolute monarchial system. Over two years period the King has changed four sets of ministers. On the other hand, the Nepali Congress, an oldest democratic party that upholds a constitutional monarchy, insists that King must reinstall the parliament, and it eventually will take a course of actions including dealing with the Maoists, holding election, and reforming the constitution. King gained by playing a zero sum game with political parties. The same tactics used by his brother and father in past five decades. In fact, in past fifty years of political history of Nepal, not a single prime minister has completed its tenure of five years. Meanwhile, Maoists are insisting on to satisfy their two key demands: formation of an interim government, and agreement on election of the constitution assembly prior to initiate the negotiation.
It will be never late to reconcile the democratic forces, and formulate an exit strategy. It is well discussed by different stakeholders that present constitution does not solve Nepal’s current socio-political and economic problems. Further, the contemporary constitution is fouled by all: king, parties, and judiciary. Nepal is in dire need of an overhauling of socioeconomic development philosophy based on an innovative constitution that guarantees rights, resources, and responsibility, and accountability at different levels rather than a simple politico-administrative makeover at the central level. An original constitution is required to empower people at local level such as villages and districts. It is pity to mention that an elected people’s representative at a local unit of government is helpless and hopeless except to hearing complains due to lack of sociopolitical and economic rights, and resources. A novel constitution is needed to institutionalize the democracy at village and district levels so that resources will be mobilized by the local people with due responsibility. An innovative constitution is a long desired felt to address the need of accountability in Nepal which lacks from King’s palace to ministries, army, and judiciaries. Henceforth, the national political parties need a consensus voices on holding an election of constitutional assembly so that Maoists will be brought into a mainstream politics as well as it will address people’s concerns raised above. Issue of constitutional assembly is a much waited politico-economical tool in Nepal, which was raised in 1950s by the Nepali Congress – a very old and a democratic party. As of now, Maoists also seems waiting for a safe landing based on this issue. Further, international mediation may require to holding such an election so that guns will not prevail in the process.
All political ills including doubt, bloodshed, egoism, jealous, and threat may overcome, had all political entities could trust on people’s opinion. An endless struggle for democracy needs to be converted into empowering to people so that poverty won’t be a begging bowl for ruling elites. It is expected that king and royalists will end playing a zero sum game. It is high time to save the country from sinking, and a progressive constitution may save it.
Surendra R Devkota, Ph.D. spent many years in Nepal as a student leader, consultant, and advisor. Now he is a US based research scholar. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.