Nepal: Whither Nationalism?

Almost nine months from the Royal Proclamation which revived the House of Representatives, let us look at our beloved country.

The King has been stripped of all his powers including ceremonial status of the Head of the State. That vacuum has been filled by a group of unelected politicians exercising all sorts of power in the name of the elusive “people’s mandate”.

The Maoists have been brought into the mainstream in the sense that they have declared a ceasefire, are now part of the interim legislature and have agreed to handover weapons to the UN Mission in Nepal. Verification is in progress. Verification of combatants became a tricky issue, so it was agreed that whoever will bring in whatever weapon in the camps will be recorded and stored in containers, the keys of which would be with the Maoists themselves and a siren would go off in a UN office if the locks are tampered with. Despite such successes, Maoist atrocities have continued unabated until very recently.

Interim Constitution Hastily Drawn Up

The interim constitution, a hastily drawn up document trying to accommodate all sorts of conflicting demands was adopted exactly three weeks back. The expectations of the Terai people and ethnic minorities were not met and resentment among the Madheshis residing in the Terai resulted in burning the constitution by the Terai Janadhikar Forum (TJF). The government clamped down hard and Upendra Yadav, Chairman of the TJF was thrown behind bars. Problems, demonstrations and bandhs started in the Terai. In Lahan a Maoist cadre shot and killed one of the demonstrators in Lahan on January 19, 2007.

Since then there has been violence, arson, strikes, demonstrations and vandalizing statues of different leaders and curfew has been imposed in many cities. Other indigenous groups and ethnic communities have also started their own protest programs which has paralyzed life in many Eastern Hill areas. The Prime Minister delivered an address to the Nation, but that did not control the situation and although the draft was supposedly agreed upon by all eight parties (SPAM), Nepal Sadbhavana Party (Anandi Devi), and notably the Maoists distanced themselves from the prime minister’s stand.

In the meantime three ministers of the earlier regime including Kamal Thapa along with so called loyalists in the Terai have been arrested. But that hasn’t made any difference. The so called loyalists and reactionary forces have been blamed but neither has evidence been found nor the arrests have made any difference.

Three Main Issues

The issues have been federalism, proportional representative system and fresh delineation of constituencies according to population. The eight parties met yesterday and couldn’t come to any agreement and the meeting is going on today, after which it is supposed to be decided whether the prime minister would again address the nation or not, that is if there is an agreement.

In the meantime, the Maoists have literally been wiped out in the Terai and it must have been a great eye opener for the Maoist leadership. That has happened despite Prachanda’s press interview blaming reactionary elements, Hindu religious fundamentalists and the Americans.

However, the saddest part is that more than twenty-three people have died in the Terai. That number is greater than that of the casualties in People’s Movement II which let to a change of regime. Over time, Nepalese human life is being more and more devalued except when politicians develop a cause to promote some to martyr status. Fourteen thousand deaths during the insurgency – one doesn’t hear much about punishment for the killers except 49 rebels unaccounted for from a particular Army barrack.

Role Of The Media

The role of the media has been completely opposite to that during the April movement. There has hardly been any international coverage. Instead of highlighting human loss, media report that peace is being restored despite reporting that curfew is still being imposed in major areas and police posts are being looted by Terai activists.

There is a sad news of deja vu. It will all be decided somewhere else. Two days back a General of the Nepalese Army (NA) gave a speech. On Monday while addressing Nepali Army personnel in Western Divisional Headquarter, Pokhara, General Rana had hinted that the NA could be mobilized to contain the ongoing violent activities across eastern and central Terai. Rana also said political parties were the main reason behind the genesis of Maoist violence. He also disparaged the parties, alleging that the latter had nurtured the Maoists through corruption, poor governance and political instability. Chief of Army Staff Katuwal went to the Legislature to state that NA would take action against Rana, although he is not directly under the Legislature but under the Prime Minister/Defense Minister. Every sensible Nepalese agreed with the contents of General Rana’s statement.

Severe Blows To Nepalese Nationalism

In all these nine months Nepalese nationalism has taken severe blows. Nobody speaks for the nation. Institutions like Monarchy, Army, religion and culture are being dismantled in a planned manner. The new movements could lead to separation and dismemberment.

Our forefathers kept the national spirit alive and we still hold our heads high. The independence which our ancestors preserved before the might of the British Empire might be compromised by the selfishness and greed of the present breed.

Have we become a nation of mercenaries?