Hari Bansha Dulal: Rights And Democracy In Nepal

Published: Mon 26 Mar 2007 03:08 PM
Rights And Democracy In Nepal
By Dr Hari Bansha Dulal
Finally, after a year of submissive relationship, it appears, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and some of his colleagues within the Congress party have started realizing what the Maoists are up to. Prime Minister Koirala's refusal to toe Prachanda's line in declaring the country a republic through the reinstated parliament has once again demonstrated that Koirala does have the courage to lead the nation during this tumultuous period.
Prachanda, like in the past when the country was declared secular, failed to cast his spell and charm on Koirala and his colleagues this time around. With Koirala's refusal, Prachanda's uninterrupted run over the democratic forces has come to an abrupt end, even if it is temporary. Koirala's refusal to snatch peoples' right to choose has exhibited the subtle difference between a lifelong democrat who believes in people's right to choose and a radical communist who thinks "power comes from the barrel of a gun."
Negotiations with the Maoists were started with promises of peace. But the Maoists had something else in their mind; they want to take country toward dictatorship with promises of democracy. The Maoists are using the cry for freedom and ethnic equality to regiment people. It is understandable why Prachanda dislikes Upendra Yadav and Pasang Sherpa. When more and more people start to fathom the idea of ethnic equality and autonomy, the Maoist propaganda of fight against oppression becomes irrelevant and untenable.
Why do the Maoists who claim to stand for the people are in such haste of declaring Nepal a republican state? Why can't they wait until Constituent Assembly (CA) elections and let people decide?
The reason given by the Maoists to declare the country republic through the reinstated parliament is that the king has started his foul play. It is not anything new in the Maoists seeing foul plays. They see foul play in almost everything: ethnic protests, prime minister's stance on monarchy, and Ambassador James F Moriarty's statements. For the Maoists, if something is not in their interest, it's a foul play.
Democracy is all about people's right to choose. Gone are the days when people were not allowed to choose. Let the Nepali citizens be the master of their destiny rather than slaves of someone else's whims. It is important to let people choose because the system that people choose will have better chances of succeeding and delivering benefits to the people.
Furthermore, people take greater interest in safeguarding the system that they choose, and not the one that is imposed upon them. They will nurture it with better care and sincerity, if they are involved in the process.
Nobody has a moral authority to stand for 27 million people and say, "here is the system that best suits you, take it." Out of many things, freedom to choose is one that keeps democracy afloat, and its absence sinks proletarian communist states.
The Seven-Party Alliance (SPA) should counter the Maoist propaganda and force them to stick to the agreements. The Maoists have not stopped extortion, intimidation of civilians, administration of crude justice through their Kangaroo courts, and brandishing their weapons. The security situation in the country is apparently deteriorating. If the CA elections are held without improving the security situation, the Maoists will rig the elections—be it by showing the weapons they have covertly stored or through intimidations—and force the outcome of the elections in their favor. All they seek for at this point in time is, "political legitimacy." International community will be then forced to acknowledge the existence of the CPN (Maoist) like Hamas and Hezbollah as a legitimate political force. If they succeed in buying that legitimacy, it will be the last nail in the SPA's political coffin.
The ultimate survival of the SPA as a political force in future depends on their ability to force the Maoists to play by the rules and detangle the issue of monarchy from the other issues during the CA elections. The Maoists are consistently beating the drum against monarchy, which is a dead horse because that diverts people's attention and helps them get away from their own atrocities.
In the current situation, free and fair CA election is not possible by any means. So, the CA election should be postponed until the Maoists do not mend their ways and the grievances of ethnic groups are addressed. CA election without resolving these issues will merely be a window dressing of the process of construction of "New Nepal."
It is time to play a hard ball with the Maoist. The SPA government should gather the facts about the violation of agreements on part of the Maoists and pose some tough questions to Prachanda and his fellow ideologues. The brandishing of weapons in Nepalganj and appearance of weapons with UN's sticker in Gaighat can be used as a case to put them on defensive. The weapons with the United Nation's sticker that appeared in Gaighat of Udayapur district summarizes both the United Nation's sloppy job in harvesting and safe storage of the weapons and the Maoists' commitment to surrender all their weapons.
Give the Maoists a time frame to surrender their additional weapons that they have been brandishing openly and provide a security cover to Prachanda, who says he stands for people but is afraid to walk as a freeman in a free country amidst the people. If needed, the government could provide security cover to other top rung Maoist ideologues too.
Prachanda is desperate to declare Nepal a republic state ignoring the people's right to vote and choose the system they like simply because with each passing day, the Nepali people are getting suspicious about the Maoists' commitment towards peace, freedom, and democracy. The recent opinion polls clearly show that the CPN (Maoist) is going downhill. With increase in quest for ethnic identity and equality and dwindling people's trust towards the Maoists, they are at the risk of running out of popular slogans that attract people towards them and may eventually lose the very people that once associated with the CPN (Maoist) to the ethnic political forums such Upendra Yadav's Madhesi People's Rights Forum (MPZRF) and Pasang Sherpa's the Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NFIN).
With ethnic identity and equality gaining currency, the Maoists know it very well that century old communist tactics of propaganda and brainwashing to ensure the virtues of communism may not work in the future.
In addition, the Maoists want to declare the country republic now without seeking popular mandate because although letting people vote provides citizens with the possibility to participate, it gives decision-making power to people outside the Maoist cartel.
The majority of Nepali citizens voting will be those that are outside the Maoist cartel and they evade the control by the Maoists. The Maoists know it very well that putting the right to decide political future of the country in the hands of those that are not within their grip may not suit their long-term strategic goals.
The other possible reason behind the Maoists' desperateness to declare the country a republic might be to create power vacuum. They have sensed that the CA election in June is not possible due to increase in public outcry against their highhandedness and the ongoing ethnic tensions. So, the other routes for them would be to ensure a power vacuum and fill it.
Except for KP Oli and a handful of other moderate communists, the majority of rank and file within the UML appears comfortable in joining the CPN (Maoist), if the balance of power tilts in favor of the Maoists. So, if they could get rid of monarchy now even if it is a dead horse, with the demise of GP Koirala there will be a political vacuum, which they can easily fill in. However, the question that the Maoists may not want to think about and we, the freedom loving Nepali people can't stop asking ourselves is, for how long Prachanda's dream of proletarian communist state will survive. This is more than theory, as it is inherently contrary to the basic instinct—right to freedom and right to private property-- of Nepali people.
Hbdulal @
This article was published in The Kathmandu Post on March 13.

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