At the Crossroads: Peoples’ Republics or Mother Nepal?

During their 11-year long so-called People’s War, the Maoist terrorists had promoted the idea of ‘ethnic republics’ as part of their agitation for ‘state restructuring’. Now with the flare-up in the Terai with the storm of violent protests, it has boomeranged back at them and their allies of the Seven Party Alliance (SPA).

This alliance which was basically a marriage of convenience was also grieviously at fault since it had not rejected this evil conception right from the start. Now they are caught up in a vice-like grip with their strange bed-follows. They do not know the way forward, nor can they now go backward. The only justification for their behaviour and inaction – of the SPA and Maoists (SPAM) – is to blame the monarchists, regressive forces and Hindu-fundamentalists (in Nepal and India).

For them there is no light at the end of the dark tunnel. Now these cowardly, ineffectual and senile leaders – at the forefront PM Koirala and home minister Sitaula – have instigated the arrest of alleged royalists and monarchists.

After the King took over executive power because of the downright incompetence of the politicians, SPAM together with their Indian promoters were only too glad to highlight the evils of autocracy and regression ad nauseam. He at least attempted to give people’s sovereignty true meaning and to allow the ruling politicians to get the mandate of the people.

Now, with the violent troubles in the south, this is receding even further. This is in the selfish interests of the politicians. As veteran journalist Shyam Bahadur K.C. has written in The Kathmandu Post: “the flame of discontent that (has) engulfed the terai region is a direct consequence of the SPA-Maoist collusion to have it their way… The others do not count and therein lies the problem.” A give-and take approach has to be adopted; ethnic republics is not the solution, but the end of the Nepalese nation.

Just to placate the Madhesis, the highland communities must not be discriminated against.

PM Koirala’s dislike of the military (although he is also the defence minister) – he was the prime mover in creating the Armed Police Force to counter-balance the army – and his inexplicably maladroit deployment of troops has facilitated the vicious protests in the south. The inaction of SPAM borders on insanity. At the present, unknown to the leaders themselves, perhaps a Greek tragedy of immeasurable dimensions is now being enacted.

The people have not forgotten the long reign of corruption and bad governance of the ‘democratic’ political parties which failed miserably to address the economic, social and political problems facing the country after 1990. Their abject lack of success made the rise of the Maoist insurgency possible, and now the flare-up in the south is bringing the country asunder.

We really cannot expect SPAM to demonstrate vision and the ability to face hard realities. It is the Maoists who are exacerbating the issue. However, the Indian ambassador has spoken out for a dialogue with the Madhesis ( Indo-Aryans with linguistic and cultural affinities to the people in the north Indian states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh). SPAM has no other choice but to follow ‘their master’s voice’.

In a period of deficient governance, and when PM Koirala’s current contribution to solving the country’s woes is practically nil, the Nepalese telecom and other telephone companies have nothing better to do than promote a most ludicrous action; namely proposing Koirala and/or Pushpa Kamal Dahal, aka ‘Prachanda’ for the Nobel Peace Prize (with daily ads in the Indian ‘The Himalayan Times” ) !

Now, the Nepalese people are being asked by means of SMS to vote them into this high honour. This is not only the height of nonsense, but we will be making ourselves the laughing stock in the world at large. Let us hope that this is not picked up by the international media.

Even in the past, Koirala has only contributed to escalating the nation’s problems. Let us take the case of the present load-shedding in electricity, which has nearly reached a staggering 21 hours per week and is expected to top the all-time high of 12 hours per day!

The genesis of this problem goes way back to the 90’s. During his own tenure as PM, Koirala was instrumental in torpedoing the grandly conceived Arun III hydro-electric project in Eastern Nepal, which was to be financed by the World Bank and the German government’s development bank. If this plan had been realized, we would not only have enough electricity today, we could have been exporting to Tibet and India! But this is what happens when so-called political leaders put their own personal, selfish considerations before the national interest.

That the whole structure of Loktantra (total democracy) is a complete hoax and sham is illustrated by the continuing civil strife in the south. First, the genuine concerns of the Madhises, Janjatis (indigenous people) and down-trodden lower castes were not properly addressed in the self-styled ‘Interim Constitution’. As Dr. Prakash Chandra Lohini, the co-chairman of the Rashtriya Janashakti Party (the other chairman is the old war-horse Surya Bahadur Thapa), so eloquently stated in The Kathmandu Post: “On the question of democratic inclusion and empowerment of the people at the grass-roots level, the constitution is a disappointment.”

Second, the whole edifice of political power now concentrated in SPAM is unable and unwilling to undertake positive measures to quickly end the dissension and wrangling in the Terai. The legislature, the self-appointed ‘Interim Parliament’ is costing the Nepalese tax-payer a lot of money and is supposed to check and control the government. But none of this is in evidence. Dr. Lohini has expressed this situation graphically: “The anti-democratic provisions in the interim constitution make a mockery of the principles of constitutional checks and balances.” In fact the country is currently being ruled by a Mafia-like syndicate, and the ostensible leaders are actually the ‘political dons’.

Now the SPAM constituents have shown their true colours. They boycotted a meeting called by the Election Commission (EC) because of the participation of other political parties! This is irresponsible and unacceptable behaviour and not in consonance with democratic norms. The Chief Election Commissioner, Bhoj Raj Pokharel, has already gone on record to warn that the elections to the constituent assembly would not take place in time if the political parties, the government and the ‘Interim Legislature’ failed to act in concert to facilitate the election process.

SPAM leaders are acting as though only they are true democrats p- but with no legitimate mandate from the people! At this rate, free and fair elections to the constituent assembly will not only be stymied; it is questionable whether they will actually be held in June, or even held at all!

The writer can be reached at: [email protected]

Shashi P.B.B. Malla writes incisive political opinion about the politics and politicians of Nepal. He sometimes writes with fellow contributor, Chandra Bahadur Parbate.

Educated in Darjeeling, India, with a certificate from Cambridge University, he went to College and university in Calcutta: I. Sc./St. Xavier’s, B.A. (Hons.)/ Presidency, M.A. (International Relations)/Jadavpur, India. He was Assistant Editor: The Rising Nepal, Kathmandu.

He is or was the Country Representative, DAV Summit Club, Munich (Germany’s leading adventure tour operators in mountaineering and trekking)

He is a Senior Lecturer, Conflict, Peace and Development Studies, Tribhuwan University, Kathmandu