Furtherance of democracy and peace: The road ahead for Nepal

There cannot be democracy without peace, nor is it feasible to establish peace first and then get on with the business of democratic exercises. We have to strive for both simultaneously. Thus, it was timely and necessary to conduct the municipal elections and it is definitely opportune to prepare for the all-important parliamentary elections. However, the question of creating a favourable atmosphere to ensure whole-hearted and maximum participation has to be discussed.

Return to Mainstream Politics

It is essential to woo away the democratic political parties from the deadly embrace of the totalitarian terrorist Maoists and to work towards the dissolution of the dysfunctional 7-party misalliance. For this, the King has to re-structure the present council of ministers and give-up his role as chief executive, which up to now has indeed been relevant, but which if continued, would only hamper both the nurturing of democracy and the facilitation of peace. Above all, the constitution of a representative cabinet with an acceptable prime minister would decidedly silence his domestic and foreign detractors and singularly promote the prestige of the monarchy in particular and Nepal’s international standing in general.

Significance of the Countryside

A recent visit to the western districts of Kaski, Baghlung and Parbat has strengthened the present writer’s belief that the war for the hearts and minds of the Nepalese people will be won, not in Kathmandu and the towns and cities, but in the countryside. The Nepalese Maoists are true children of Mao Zedong, and in order to vanquish them it is essential to study the great master thoroughly and to use their own weapons against them.

‘Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun’; therefore, the Royal Nepal Army (RNA) has to be vigilant always and go from strength to strength and pursue relentlessly a war of attrition against the Maoists, dislodge them from their bastions and not be lulled by the idiotic maxim that there is ‘no military solution to the on-going conflict’. As the great helmsman himself said synoptically: “war can only be abolished through war.”

Moreover, the Nepalese terrorists practice what Mao taught, namely that the revolution “cannot be advanced softly, gradually, carefully, considerately, respectfully, politely, plainly and modestly.” Unfortunately for them, but fortunately for us, they carried this dictum to its extreme and converted themselves from dedicated social revolutionaries into ruthless political terrorists, forgetting in the process another of Mao’s precepts that “the peaceful population is the sea in which the guerrilla swims like a fish.” The tide has, therefore, turned against them. Like rats, they will soon be confined to the sewers. This is not to say that we can rest on our laurels, for much remains to be done.

The people in the countryside are least bothered who rules in far-off Kathmandu. Thanks to the unmitigated lethargy, incompetence and kleptomania of our previous political leaders, democracy for them has acquired a bitter taste; what they yearn for is peace and visible returns from development. It is ludicrous how the so-called leaders of civic society strut about the capital city, ignoring the real problems of society.

In this connection, the managers of the King’s visits to the districts have not considered the ramifications and political implications, specially the possible fallout. Of course, the people are thrilled to see and hear their paramount chief and many to interact on a ‘one-to-one basis’. However, this also broadens the horizon of expectations. Vis-a-vis the monarch, the people have repeatedly stressed their thirst for peace, which doesn’t seem to be quenched.

Therefore, a dangerous situation could arise: the King promises peace, but is not able to deliver. This could be exploited ruthlessly by the agitating parties and even the Maoists. ‘Look, the King only talks and doesn’t, or cannot act’. Or, they argue in a Delphic manner: ‘he is basically a good and decent person, but he is surrounded by sycophants and dullards with a mind-set not conducive either to sustainable democracy, or viable peace.’ Thus, the very foundations of the monarchy maybe shaken and the King’s and the nation’s attackers would ultimately indirectly achieve, what they have failed to do directly via violent demonstrations or murder, extortion and intimidation.

Addressing Social Problems

In the meantime, pressing social problems have to be addressed. Thus, Nepalese society through the centuries has failed to focus on the dire situation of the dalits – Damai, Kami and Sarki – and also of certain indigenous ethnic groups. This has remained a festering sore in the body politic.

Therefore, the Great King, Prithvi Narayan Shah’s famous dictum: ‘My realm is like a garden, where many different flowers blossom’ sounds empty and futile to the oppressed subjects. Many have sought succour with the Maoists, who in turn have ruthlessly used them as human shields and ‘hewers of wood and carriers of water.’ Succeeding rulers and decision-makers have ignored, or denied the existence of this problem – right down the line from top to bottom in politics, administration and society.

As subjects of discrimination, they were beyond the pale of society as such – ignored by the monied and political classes. If one is to apportion blame, then without doubt it is the self-styled high-caste bahun and chhetri who have kept the under-privileged and dispossessed at the bottom rung of the ladder. For them, there is no hope from the self-indulgent and consumption-oriented Kathmandu society.

A lack of vision and a sense of propriety can also be seen in the conception of a grandiose and most expensive Hindu temple in Sarangkot, near Pokhara. What a colossal waste in an economically and politically underdeveloped country like ours!

These ardent followers of the Sanatana Dharma should have taken the Sanskrit injunction to heart: ‘Sevaiva Dharma’ (service to the community is true worship). It would have been better to establish a higher institute of learning and training for medical doctors, health assistants and nurses, whereby the indigent castes and ethnic groups would be favoured. Such a policy should also be adopted with regard to recruitment to the civil service and the security forces.

Role of Development Projects

The achievement of the twin goals of democracy and peace also means the forceful promotion of appropriate development projects in the countryside – also to counteract the climate of fear spawned by the Maoists. The RNA has made a move in the right direction by encouraging the locals in the far west to undertake road-building on their own initiative, but with the army’s help.

It would also be most opportune to encourage the proper functioning and manning of health posts. Health camps must also be organized on a regular basis, specially in the far-off regions. Civilian doctors must also sacrifice their time and energy in the service of the nation.

Considering the naked hills of the country, it seems most relevant to force a massive afforestation campaign with full local involvement and under the management of the ‘Aama Samuhas’ (women’s committees). The forests would be developed and utilized by the villages themselves, but national affluence would be enhanced: ‘Nepal ko dhan, hariyo ban’ (The wealth of Nepal lies in its forests!).

The villagers have to take on responsibility for local needs and purposes, in order to lay the foundations of participatory politics – democracy at the grassroots. Ultimately, the Maoist menace would be banned.

Domestic Politics & Foreign Policy

However, we cannot lose sight of the nexus between domestic politics and foreign policy. We have to find ways and means to neutralize Indian involvement in our internal endeavours, and above all to stop their very substantial support of the Maoist terrorists.

Their exposure to the international community is a must, if we are to start the process of national reconstruction. And we have to accept the sad fact that Nepal and India are two countries separated by the same culture!

This means that foreign minister Pandey and his Shital Niwas must get their act together and start calling a spade, a spade. How long are we to tolerate the loss of innocent Nepalese lives? If the FM is too chicken-hearted to take Indian ambassador Mukherjee to task, it is utterly useless for him to travel to Delhi and waste the Nepalese taxpayers’ money. Our national interests must be defended energetically.

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