In the desert, a parched traveller can chase a pool of water he sees in the distance; and fall down dead because he never reaches it. The Nepali society has pursued similar political mirages.
With our short-lived governments from 1951 onwards, the contrast with India couldn’t be greater. Author Ramachandra Guha writes, “Jawaharlal Nehru served three full terms in office, a privilege denied comparable figures in the countries of South Asia, where for example, Aung San was murdered on the eve of the British departure from Burma, Jinnah died within a year few years of Pakistan’s freedom, Mujib died within a few years of Bangladesh’s independence, and the Nepali democrat B.P. Koirala was allowed only a year as prime minister before being dismissed and then jailed by the monarchy" (India after Gandhi, Pg 744). Avoiding distracting political mirages, Nehru pursued secular, liberal democracy for India.
We had mirage chasers during the Panchayat period. While B.P. Koirala languished in jail, the late Surya Prasad Upadhaya tried to turn King Mahendra into a democrat. A recent book on Upadhaya (editor: Mahamunishwar Acharya) has quite a few writers backing the lame view that just before his death Mahendra had envisioned a liberal rule; and, had he lived, Nepalis would have tasted democracy then on. If so, why did Mahendra commit suicide (as author Krishna Abiral alleges in his book Raktakunda, Pg 82-3)? Why didn’t his son Birendra immediately turn Nepal into a multiparty state to honor his father’s wish?
We have mirage chasers now. Kamal Thapa of RPP(N) campaigns for a Hindu state and the restoration of monarchy. Nepali anthropologists state that “forefather’s” religions have made ours one of the most underdeveloped countries in the world and secularity is the best bet for the future; but Thapa won’t believe that. As a minister in 1990, Thapa had claimed that it was New Delhi which brought King Birendra’s government down; but now he enlists India’s BJP to make our secular country a Hindu state again. The Chairman of Janamorcha Nepal, Chitra Bahadur KC, holds mass meetings against federalism; but doesn’t give an alternative of his own.
However, the UCPN (Maoist) and its disciples qualify as the most prominent mirage chasers of our time. The party still pursues its goal of outdated Peoples’ Republic, enforced in China, North Korea, and Cuba but abhorrent to Nepalis.
KP Oli famously remarked once that by “people” the UCPN (M) means the YCL (Young Communist League). So, when the party talks of “people’ we should understand its cadres and sympathizers. Thus Mohan Baidya still fumes about “people’s revolt” when most Nepalis want development, health, education, gas, petrol and water. The “people’s war” took place to pacify Dahal, Bhattarai, and Baidya’s egos and impatience with the democracy we had from 1990-1996, when things were much better for common people than what Maoist-led governments have had to offer us till date.
Ex-king Mahendra interrupted 30 years of democratic gains by imposing Panchayat regime; the Maoists have so far cost Nepal 16 years of progress.
One columnist has called this reference to the past a “nostalgia”; however, he can’t point to any visible progress under the current Maoist regime, except that more Madhesis have joined the government. (I can indicate another positive achievement—expansion of roads, provided it’s done legally and completed on time.) PM Bhattarai has formed the largest and the most corrupt council of ministers in Nepali history to accommodate the “disadvantaged” Madhesis. The columnist remains silent on the fact that Madhesi ministers loot the state now as their Pahadi counterparts did in the past. To name a few: Ministers Mohammad Okil Mussalman raping the forests, Rajendra Mahato handing out “gifts” to journalists, Bijaya Kumar Gachhadar selling posts for money, and former minister Shyam Sundar Gupta involved in abductions. Meanwhile, Jaya Prakash Prasad Gupta has just continued with the “trade” from his Nepali Congress years.
The UCPN (M) has introduced issues in the name of “people” to delay the nation’s progress to a democratic constitution, which it detests. Consider these facts: Bhattarai wanted to pardon Balkrishna Dhungel, a convicted killer, because the killing was carried out during “people’s war”. He wanted to legalize the conflict-era land transactions because the “people’s courts” had sanctioned them, and thus there was no point returning confiscated properties. Both matters wasted precious weeks in the parliament. Maoist vehicles with strange yellow plates still ply the roads, supposedly “people” gifted them to the party.
Dahal as a representative of the “people” now lives in a luxurious mansion while the “proletarian” Narayan Kaji Shrestha goes to Japan for medical treatment available in Nepal. Likewise, Mohan Baidya and CP Gajurel will only settle for a “people’s constitution”. Recently, the Maoist mouthpiece, Lal-Rakshak (Magh 15-Falgun 14) has identified former diplomat Kul C Gautam, human rights activist Subodh R Pyakurel, and senior journalist Kanak M Dixit as “people’s enemies”, a chilling reminder of the Chinese Red Guards who followed the same course before eliminating their opponents.
CHECKS & BALANCES
Mao Tse-tung could fool his contemporaries by his triple-speak because of Stalin’s support, the Chinese gullibility, and Chiang Kai-shek’s brutality. In terms of education and awareness, our 21st century Nepal vastly differs from the China of the 1940s. So, although Bhattarai reveres Mao’s bust sitting in his office, he has very little chance of implementing the Red Book.
First, we have the Supreme Court (SC) dedicated to upholding democratic values. Bhattarai couldn’t duplicate China’s cultural revolution (which got rid of old people/items) when the apex court forbade him form removing King Tribhuvan’s statue from Sahid Gate. He couldn’t muzzle the press after the SC shot down the government’s decision to increase the types of classified information to 140. Besides, our media people courageously revolted. The SC didn’t allow the legalization of conflict-era land transactions either.
Second, we have the vigilant civil society. Some civil society members have shamefully joined the Maoists; but others remain faithful to democratic ideals. Thus, responding to the Lal-Rakshak article, Gautam, Pyakurel, and Dixit have written to the PM, “It is important for the Maoist leadership to understand that we, the undersigned, will not step back an inch from expressing our views freely. We will not be cowed by the accusations made by Lal-rakshak and its brazen attempt to instigate the party fold.” Neither will other democracy-lovers!
Third, we have a democratic opposition. NC, UML and other smaller parties have done a good job in checking Maoist excesses.
Finally, the Maoist mirage might soon disappear thanks to disagreements within the Maoist party. Remember Badal calling Dahal a RAW agent a month ago? Maoist leaders now reap the fruit of their past follies. The UCPN (M) pampered the YCL, whose members are presently demanding the golden handshakes given to ex-Maoist soldiers. The party has said it will pacify the YCL from its own funds, apparently amassed by looting state treasury in the name of 3,000 cadres who didn’t exist. Now, each ‘PLA’ soldier robbed of 40 percent of his voluntary retirement allowance will further tarnish the party’s image.
Mahendra wasted 30 years of our progress by imposing his Panchayat system. Beginning with the futile war that it started in 1996, the UCPN (M) has already wasted 16 years in nation’s development, ruined the lives of thousands of teenagers/adults who were brainwashed by Prachandapath, and is responsible for the death of 16,000 Nepalis. For the sake of their own political future, Dahal, Baidya, and Bhattarai should stop chasing the mirage of a People’s Republic and come around to promoting true democracy