by Chiranjobi audyal
American Reporter Correspondent
April 15, 2004
NEPALESE DEMOCRACY IN PERIL AS SITUATION DETERIORATES
Kathmandu, April 12, 2004 -- The political situation in Nepal is deteriorating day by day due to the growing rift between the nation's democratic parties and its King as it faces the problem of Maoists guerrillas fighting to establish a republic state and replace its fragile parliamentary democracy.
The five political parties - Nepali Congress, Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist and Leninist (CPN-UML), Nepal Sadbhavana Party (A), Peoples' Front Nepal and Nepal Majdoor Kisan Party - have been launching protests demanding the reinstatement of the dissolved House of Representatives and formation of an all-party government.
The government has declared Kathmandu and neighbouring Lalitpur as riot-prone zones and banned all kinds of political activities last week keeping in view the massive participation of people in the demonstrations.
Despite the ban, thousands of pro-democracy activists have been marching in the streets of Kathmandu demanding the formation of an all-party government, dissolving the present royalist government of Surya Bahadur Thapa, who was appointed Prime Minister in June last year.
Over 2,000 party supporters including human rights activists were arrested during the massive demonstration during the first two days of protest. This was the first mass arrest in the history of Nepal. The government has come under attack from human rights groups for violations of human rights.
The government has claimed that the ban was imposed due to credible information that Maoists have infiltrated the protest rallies. The political parties have rejected the government's argument, saying that their movement will remain peaceful. The five parties have organized a meeting of former elected representatives, a rally against hunger and other peaceful protests over the last year. Participation has increased and so has the chanting of anti-monarchy slogans. Such protests have now spread to other major cities and towns.
"Our movement will continue unless the king returns the right of the people," said former prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala, who suffered a head injury when security forces moved against one peaceful demonstration.
The rallies of the political parties have grown larger in the last few months and gained momentum with the expression of solidarity by various professional organizations including those of lawyers, human rights activists, doctors, journalists, engineers, teachers, employees' organizations and trade unions.
There was no place to shelter the detained persons, so the government kept them in a place where goats imported from Tibet werekept during the Dashain festival, the biggest festival of the Hindu minority here. The government came under fire from various national and international organizations for gross violations of human rights and was compelled to release them after two days.
"This is totally inhuman and no civilized society does this type of behavior. This is a violation of international human rights norms," said chairman of Human Rights and Peace Society Krishna Pahadi.
The parties demand that the dissolved House should be revived, as there is no possibility of elections due to the increasing violence, torture, extortion, murder and terror sown by Maoists in the villages of Nepal, and say a broad-based all-party government of the political parties represented in the parliament should be formed and peace talks should be initiated with the rebels.
The present government appointed by the king is not recognized by the five party alliances favoring democracy. The king had sacked the elected government of Sher Bahadur Deuba in October 2002; since then, the king's appointed government has ruled the country.
King Gyanendra said last month that the power would be handed over to elected representatives after elections before April of next year. Political parties say that in view of the deteriorating law and order situation and the increasing Maoist tactics of abduction, extortion and murder of political workers, free and fair elections seem almost impossible.
The king accuses the political parties of bad governance and rampant corruption during the 12 years of multi-party democracy. However, the political parties blame King Gyanendra for creating an environment of instability and for defaming party leaders and multi-party democracy. The monarchy has ruled the country for the last 240 years.
Meanwhile, there are accusations and counter-accusations. The rift between the king and the political parties threatens to plunge the nation into chaos.
"If the king does not restore democracy, we will bring toughest program in the coming days," said the general secretary of the Communist Party of Nepal (CPN, UML), Madhav Kumar Nepal.
There is a triangular struggle among the political parties, Maoists and the King. The Maoists have been fighting to establish a communist-style republic in the country since 1996, and have apparently benefitted from political division between the constitutional forces.
Talks with the parties have been held twice recently but have failed. Their main demands include the formation of an interim government to hold elections to the constituent assembly that would draft a new constitution. The government opposes that. Political parties, which wanted to amend the constitution to address the demands of the Maoists, are now sidelined. With a stalemate between the political parties, King Gyanendra and the Maoists, each suspects the other.
"There is crisis of confidence among the three. Monarchists do not see the future of monarchy in democracy, political parties do not accept active monarchy and Maoists do not accept the present system," said one politician.
There are slogans against the king and people from many walks of life have started to come to the streets. Every day there are clashes between the pro-democracy demonstrators and the security forces.
Hundreds of thousands of protestors have marched recently in the streets of Kathmandu despite the ban on political activities they say was intended to crush the democratic movement. Even the disabled have also come to the street shouting anti-king slogans.
"This is very bad that the king could not understand the sentiment of the people. We do not accept autocratic king," said student leader Rajendra Rai.
More than 9,000 people have lost their lives in the Maoist insurgency, thousands have been injured and thousands others displaced.
"If the constitutional forces could not unite the future seems bleak," an influential ambassador of a Western country told The American Reporter.
The king should play a role within the framework of the constitution, he said. The political parties should realize their mistakes and the king should behave like a constitutional monarch, the diplomat said.
Monarchy could be a symbol of unity in a country where at least 60 ethnic communities have lived in harmony for centuries. However, the younger generation is very critical to the monarchy as their loyalty to the king may determine whether their parents remain loyal to him as well. For their part, the political parties have been saying that they would accept a constitutional monarchy if the king agrees to act only within the constitution.
"It depends on the king. If he remains as a constitutional king, it is okay. The autocratic king is not acceptable," said a senior politician. The slogans chanted during the protest repeat that assertion.
Another politician put it like this: "The ball is in king's court. The future of the nation and the monarchy depends on how the king kicks the ball."