The Myths of a Constituent Assembly

Nepal’s parties and the Maoists have agreed on a 12 point agenda among which the most controversial is the election to a constituent assembly to resolve the triangular conflict in Nepal.

At the very outset, one side of the triangle which is the palace and the army has been deliberately excluded from this understanding. The Rastriya Prajatantra Party, the Rastriya Janashakti Party, the Election Commission recognized Sadbhavana Party whose Member of Parliament were incumbent lawmakers at the previous Lower House were also excluded from this agreement.

Narayan Man Bijukchhe, President of one of the seven agitating parties has already shown his highest displeasure at this agreement as it was inked in a hush-hush manner in India in what looks like a Delhi engineered package to determine the future of the Nepalese people. Therefore, at the very start, nationalist elements of Nepal have been “disqualified” to be part of negotiations to reach this 12 point understanding- sending shock waves right through the people’s psyche’ on what is the hidden rationale behind India taking the lead for this impractical overture.

The second element of discontent is of course the “agreement” to allow the United Nations or so-called “credible” third-party to supervise the arms of the national army. It must be emphasized here that it was because of the monarchy and the Royal Nepal Army that Nepal was unified as a nation state and throughout the British raj in the Indian sub-continent, Nepalese could keep their head high as citizens of a sovereign country precisely because of the bravery of the Royal Nepal Army which fought wars with the colonial British armed forces.

Today, that same patriotic army has been shamefully told by political party leaders to lay down its arms over a third-party whose intentions, preconception, impartiality and design is a big question mark specially in the perspective of North Korea, Taiwan and Myanmar already being hotly disputed international issues around China’s vicinity. The recent statement of President Bush on the right of the Tibetan people must also be seen in the same perspective.

GP Koirala and Madhav Kumar Nepal who were both Defense Ministers at a certain period of time should have at least contemplated the repercussions of this on the morale of the security forces. One cannot even imagine what would have happened to the fate of Nepal if the Royal Nepal Army command and structure would have been in the grips of these sorts of fickle-minded and selfish leaders after 1990. The palace having a strong say over the usage of the army therefore was a correct modus operandi, proven right by these same political leaders. Placing the RNA at the same par with the Maoist guerrillas was not only a dishonor to Nepal’s independent history but also a conspiracy to invite thousands of foreign peacekeepers on Nepalese soil.

Furthermore, there is no guarantee that the involvement of a third-party like the UN will help create stability and ensure free and fair elections. The style of functioning of the newly established UN Human Rights Commission in Kathmandu has already generated serious doubts over the neutrality of the UN bureaucracy.

Ian Martin is more interested in inaugurating seminars, condemning the state, censuring the army, criticizing government ordinances and passing negative judgments over issues clearly of domestic nature. Did he issue a statement when the parties held a Nepal-Bandh and the human rights of Kathmandu people were held hostage? Has he ever shown sympathy to the police personnel who are targeted with stones by hooligans of the student organizations? Does he ever caution the “free media” of this country for writing stories in support of violence, agitation and fighting? The intention of the commission is obviously to linger inside Nepal for as long as it can in the costume of the protector of human rights.

Thirdly, the Maoists have nowhere in the agreement said that they will end violence, stop killing people and lay down their arms prior to the constituent assembly elections. It is clear that if the result of the constituent assembly goes in their favor, they will takeover the state or if it is the other way around, they will cry foul and yet again return to the jungle. It is clearly a trap that they would want the state to fall upon.

It is in this background of suspicion and mistrust on how the agreement was reached with the Maoist terrorists that have an Interpol arrest notice, betrayal of party leaders over their own motherland as regards to the RNA and the ill-intention of India that behaves like a bully over all of its six South Asian neighbors – that the concept of a constituent assembly needs to be carefully examined.

Constituent Assembly was originally proposed by Prime Minister Nehru at the behest of his home minister Sardar Patel during the tripartite agreement of 1950. It was designed to grab and annex Nepal constitutionally just like Patel had seized other kingdoms and princely states of Junagadh, Kashmir and Hyderabad around the Indian subcontinent.

King Tribhuvan, nationalist leaders like Tanka Prasad Acharya, Matrika Prasad Koirala and his wise brother BP Koirala very soon realized the hidden agenda behind the proposal and therefore never pressed for the holding of constituent assembly elections.

With the Maoists now insisting on this 55 year old Nehruvian model, it is now becoming clearer that Delhi is using them to fulfill the same old grand design framed by the grand father-in-law of Mrs Sonia Gandhi, current President of the Congress (I). Mrs Indira Gandhi, the daughter of Nehru annexed another sovereign Himalayan kingdom of Sikkim by using the same methods of division, coercion, instigating political uncertainty, referendum and elections in the early 70s.

What happens if two-third majority of the newly elected constituent assembly decide to merge Nepal into the Indian union especially in lieu of the demography heavily tilted towards the Terai and an open border with India? Furthermore, citizenship papers and voter identity cards have been sold at reasonable prices to tourists coming from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and numerous cases against CDOs are pending at the CIAA and the district courts.

Therefore, the risks involved for Nepal’s independence is not very different than what it was in 1950.

Ms. Preeti Koirala is an insurance executive of Nepali origin, based in the USA.