Myanmar in the
map are not members of SAARC)
CHIRAN JUNG THAPA *
nationally and internationally, there is an increasing
realization that the fragile alliance stitched together by an
outside power is not the sustainable solution to Nepal’s
has always had a few elements of strangeness. But the recent
political climate has provided far too many. From the powerfully
weak Prime-minister to the royal-republic, the litany of
strangeness has turned Nepal into a glamorous example of
begin with, the Transitional Governing Authority (TGA) is a prime example.
Touted as the most omnipotent governing authority in the history of Nepal,
the TGA is also perhaps the most impotent. It wields such authority that
it hacked off the Royal title from everything without a hitch. It declared
a country with an overwhelming Hindu majority as secular even without the
consent of the governed. But ironically, it has been abysmally incapable
of preventing even small bands from shutting entire highways. Also, the
most recent protest organized by the cabbies of Katmandu demanding a fare
hike, serves as a reminder as to how even a handful could challenge and
erode the authority of the invincible TGA. While an entire city is brought
to a stand-still repeatedly right under its nose, the TGA's writ appears
more tellingly, the TGA honcho - Prime Minister Girija Koirala accentuates
a paradox. Although he is widely acclaimed as the most powerful Prime
Minster in Nepal's history, Koirala is also the most senile and hamstrung.
With a stature of above six feet, Koirala is not only one of the tallest
Nepali politicians ever, but this man wields a towering authority as well.
His acquiescence translates into the decision of the TGA. He is supposedly
the supreme commander of the single most powerful institution in the
country - the national Army. But then again, he can barely operate without
of a dose of oxygen. And he can barely stand up to make a speech. His
authority has been doggedly hounded by innumerable agitations and the TGA
which he leads has had to concede to most of the demands put forth by the
agitators. The territory which he is supposed to reign over is being
overtly encroached upon. And yet, he dare not make a comment on this issue
because it would severely jeopardize his status-quo.
striking contradiction about Koirala that deserves mentioning has to do
with religion. It was under Koirala's stewardship that Nepal was declared
a secular country. Interestingly, however, his bellicose zeal to attend
religious ceremonies is quite apparent. Even as the head of a secular
state, he has hogged all the religious duties previously performed by a
Hindu Monarch. To illustrate, Koirala was so incensed when he learnt that
the King had visited the Kumari-House during Indra-Jatra to receive
blessings of the living Goddess, that he immediately halved the number of
guards at the Royal palace to penalize the monarch.
salient paradox is the concept of "New Nepal." From the sounds
of it, new Nepal is supposed to imply change from the old status quo to a
new one. It presupposes new ideas and new faces taking charge.
Unfortunately, the ground realities beg to differ. Those waving the banner
of New Nepal are the same old faces of the past. And the pundits that have
self-designated themselves as the architects of new Nepal are those that
are frequently accused of plundering and plunging the country into a
interestingly, there are occurring examples to indicate that Nepal is
being pushed to oldness rather than newness. Possibly beleaguered by the
increasing clamor of the various ethnic groups demanding regional
autonomy, the TGA has made the decision to opt for a federal system of
governance. But, many believe that such a decision is more likely to push
Nepal back a few centuries to the pre- Prithvi Naryan Shah era. Instead of
a new, united and powerful Nepal, many believe that the so called
New-Nepal will become dismally weak, dictated by foreigners, ethnically
fragmented and could soon start resembling the "Bais-say Chaubis-say
Rajyas" (fragmented principalities of pre-unified Nepal).
are even better examples. The recent decision made by the Nepal
Electricity Authority (NEA) to slap thirty-six hours a week load-shedding
schedule, is set to plunge the country into a similar darkness that once
shrouded Nepal's hills and valleys of the pre-electricity era. And the
scarcity of cooking gas, fuel and electricity could certainly compel the
populace to opt for wood-burning or coal burning to meet their energy
needs like in the past. Given the rampant deforestation and wood
smuggling, perhaps even wood has become scarce.
paradox is the trumpeted rhetoric of " Nepal's return to
democracy." After the King-led government capitulated to the uprising
in April 2006, Nepal's return to democracy was jubilantly propagated by
both the national and international cheerleaders. While supporters of the
TGA fervently claim the establishment of a democratic system, Nepal's
ranking in the democracy index published by "The Economist,"
says otherwise. The Economist has rated Nepal as an authoritarian state.
Shockingly, even the notoriously authoritarian countries like Cuba,
Pakistan, Egypt and Jordan fared better than Nepal in the rankings.
than the rankings, however, it is the ground realities that blaringly
dampen the democratic merit. Primarily, the TGA and the parliament are not
elected bodies. Hence, this body does not have the inviolable mandate of
the majority as required to qualify as a democratic system. Also, there is
no mechanism to protect the individual liberty and freedom because the law
and order has more or less collapsed. Accountability too is virtually
most unbeatable paradox, however, is the current status quo of the Nepali
polity - a royal-republic. Recently, a bill passed by the interim
parliament has presumably turned Nepal into a republic. The provisions are
such that the decision will only be implemented after the Constituent
Assembly elections. With the passage of the bill, it has been said that
the King and the institution he represents are in the tumbrel. Yet, the
King is not a finished article. He has certainly maintained a regal
reticence. But, he is still addressed as the King and the title of “the
King” is still mentioned in the interim constitution. Even more
markedly, he still resides in the Royal Palace guarded by the most complex
security arrangement in the country.
despite being on the verge of demise, notable contradictions are emerging.
Now, even the avowed roundheads of the past have come around to concede to
the fact that the King is a power-centre none could ignore. Sujata
Koirala, (the daughter of the Prime Minister), recently appointed as a
Minister Without Portfolio, who is being groomed to lead the
Nepali-Congress, has been quite openly emphasizing on the need of a
constitutional Monarchy. Not only her, other leading figures in the Nepali
Congress are openly speaking in favor of the Monarchy as well. Very
strangely, even the Maoist boss-man - Prachanda, had recently emphasized
on the need to forge an alliance with the Royalists. The significant
foreigners too privately admit to the continued links with the Palace.
is Nepal really a federal Republic or is it still a Kingdom? Is the state
authoritarian or is it democratic? Is a New Nepal in the offing or is it
reverting to an old one? Are we witnessing the demise of an institution
that is as old as the nation or are we seeing its resurgence after two
years of reclusiveness?
is a baffled layman to make out of these contradictions? It is certainly
perplexing and there is a good cause to worry. But unmistakably, given the
stagnation and rising public insecurity, public mood of disgruntlement and
doubt is on the rise. Now even the international cheerleaders of the past
have become increasingly skeptical of the political progress in Nepal.
Both nationally and internationally, there is an increasing realization
that the fragile alliance stitched together by an outside power is not the
sustainable solution to Nepal’s mountainous afflictions. Now, the only
hope remains in the vision, willingness and dedication of the emerging
generation of leaders. But even that is another paradox. For, all the zeal
of the young leaders has been arrested by the elderly resistance.
article first appeared in NepalNews.com. Thapa lives in New York and
can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org]
in Terai disrupts normal life and leads to fuel crisis in Kathmandu:
The indefinite blockade and shutdown by regional ethnic parties in
Nepal brought normal life to a halt across the Terai Districts on
February 24, 2008, and also deepened the petroleum crisis in the
country. The strikes and shutdown, which entered the 12th day on
February 24, are aimed at forcing the interim Government to agree to
greater economic and political rights, including more autonomy, for
the Terai region. The United Democratic Madheshi Forum (UDMF), an
alliance of regional political parties fighting for greater rights
for the Madheshi community living in the southern plains, has been
spearheading the agitation since February 13, with curfews in place
in at least two Districts. Hundreds of vehicles reportedly lined up
outside a handful of service stations selling rationed fuel in the
national capital, Kathmandu. According to officials, the state-run
Nepal Oil Corporation escorted 53 oil tankers to Kathmandu on
February 23 in an effort to ease the fuel crisis. The
Hindu, February 24, 2008.
Madheshi parties unite to form common Front: Three
Madheshi parties, amid a press conference held on February 9, 2008
in Kathmandu, have declared the formation of a common "Madheshi
Front." At the joint press conference called by the Terai
Madhesh Loktantrik Party, Madheshi Janaadhikar Forum and Nepal
Sadvawana Party, the Madheshi leaders declared the formation of a
common front which has been named as the "United Loktantrik
Madheshi Front." Speaking on the occasion, Mahanta Thakur the
president of Terai Madhesh Loktantrik Party, said the Madheshi
population will call for the civil disobedience henceforth, no taxes
shall be paid to the Government of Nepal. "No Madheshi
population will be allowed to vote in the forthcoming election if
our six-point demands were not met with", decaled Thakur.
Ensuring compulsory 50 per cent representation of Madheshi
population in the constituent assembly, recruiting Madheshis in the
Nepal Army, addressing the demands of the armed Madheshi outfits are
some of the major demands forwarded by the Madheshi population,
added Thakur. Upendra Yadav, president of the Madheshi Janaadhikar
Forum said "the Madheshi population do not need the election to
the Constituent Assembly… this Madheshi uprising however will be
the final one." Telegraph
Nepal, February 10, 2008.
South Asian Intelligence Review]