Nepali Drama: Toppling of an Avatar by PC Punnen consists of 22 chapters (sub-titles) with an annexure. Despite its title, it deals with the political development during the Jana Andolan II of Nepal led by the seven-party alliance and CPN-Maoists as a result of which the direct rule of the king (generally regarded as a divine avatar of lord Vishnu) was toppled. It reflects upon the hardships of restoring true democracy in Nepal and the multifaceted movements of the Maoists.

The author, who is the News Editor with The Himalayan Times, has narrated the story of transmutation of the bloody struggle of the Maoists into a non-violent movement against feudalism, and how people’s faith in political parties, including the Maoists, who until recently were labelled “terrorists”, and the common people’s spontaneous participation in the demonstrations played a decisive role.

Punnen has laid the background and evaluated the roles played by Nepali politicians and civilians and international communities, including India, the US, European Union, China and the UN. He stands along with the majority of Nepali politicians and journalists in disliking the diplomacy of the US and EU. The writer has verified his perception by presenting different documents in the Appendix that follows. He has rightly analysed the role played by Indian leaders during the 12-point agreement between the seven parties and Maoists and the major events following.

Punnen is honestly optimistic about the rebuilding of Nepal for four reasons —

1) the goodwill of the international community for the Nepalis; 2) the courageous and dedicated press of Nepal; 3) the fall of the BJP government in India; and 4) the people’s resentment towards the royalists.

He has rightly underlined India’s support to the Nepali people. However, he has not elucidated what led India to change her two-pillared Nepal policy — the constitutional monarchy and multi-party democracy. He also fails to explain explicitly why the Indian PM himself and the diplomat in Kathmandu along with the ambassadors of US, UK and Norway asked the seven parties to support the king’s first speech of April 22, 2006. At the same time, the author warns, the people “have to be quite vigilant”.

Since then, new developments have taken place. The Maoist army and its weapons have been confined in the presence of UN representatives, an interim constitution has came into effect, Maoists representatives have been incorporated in the legislature, and a new government consisting of the Maoist legislators has been formed according to the agreement. The long-waited Constituent Assembly polls, however, has not yet been possible. Even the date has not been declared. People, other than the Maoists, UML, some leftist parties and Sadbhavana Party, do not take this seriously. The Maoists and some others are demanding that Nepal be declared a republican state if the polls are not held on the scheduled date. The

Nepali Congress, however, silent is silent.

One recalls Punnen here when he quotes Louise Brown to describe the political parties of Nepal as “patronage networks”.

The style of the writing is an unconventional one. Events and interpretations that are repeatedly stated do not follow a chronological order. A reader going through the introduction hopes to find a beginning, a background or concept of a book. The enormous information and the author’s wise interpretations could have been presented in a more organised and appropriate manner. But despite everything, a reader does not feel uneasy while going through the book. It does not hamper the reader’s curiosity. One has to agree that ‘a book is a book’.

Nepali Drama is an interesting book of great merit: a readable book, useful to all interested in the current history, politics and social science. Unlike other popular books on similar theme that are based on gossips and humour, this is an authentic work based on documents and reputed newspaper reports along with intellectual interpretation and historical background.

Impressed by the dedication of the Nepalis to the restoration of democracy, the author has not only eulogised them but declared to donate 10 per cent of the money he earns from the sale of the book to the people injured in the movement. This makes the author humane.

Dr Regmi is a professor in the Central Department of Nepalese History, Culture and Archaeology, Tribhuvan University