KATHMANDU: Vexed at the Maoists after they pulled out of the government and allegedly tried to thwart the rescheduled Constituent Assembly elections, the then interim head of the state, Girija Prasad Koirala, also the prime minister, asked Nepal Army Chief General Rookmangud Katawal to take over. “Maoists betrayed (us),” Koirala told Katawal, “There is no scope to trust the King also.” “(We) have to save the country. You do what Army thinks is better,” the most powerful person in the country, who played a crucial role in bringing in the former rebels into peace and politics and carved the path for monarchy’s exit, summoned the general to express his haplessness as he failed to tame the Maoists. Even though King Gyanendra still lived in the ancestral Narayanhiti palace, the monarchy was suspended and the Interim Parliament had decided to determine the fate of, that is to say formally close the chapter of, the age-old institution through the yet-to-be elected CA. As an ailing Koirala assured him of his support to curb anarchy in the country, Chief Katawal asked some time, a night, to ponder. The duo met at the Prime Minister’s official residence in Baluwatar, in an evening in September 2007, a couple of months before the CA elections, for this conversation. The following day Katawal got back to his supreme commander, Koirala, with a nay. For, he concluded that the army rule would not sustain in a country like Nepal. ----------------- Dramatic it may sound— and there is no other way to verify this, moreover, as Koirala is no more—but this is what the former army chief has written in his autobiography, Rookmangud Katawal, named after himself. The book was released today. There are many such chronicles that were not told earlier. And, some of them make startling revelations—for instance, in 2006, a quarter of the palace had furtively attempted to deploy the army in a bid to prevent the first meeting of revived Parliament which later decided that the maiden CA would formally end the monarchy; the NA soldiers were surrounded by Maoist guerrillas in Holeri in 2001, and not otherwise as it was told and believed earlier, and that the NA had told a lie as well as kept the then Prime Minister Koirala in dark about the incident. The 447-page book in Nepali, co-authored by journalist Kiran Bhandari and published by Publications Nepalaya, has portrayed the dramatic turns of events in the rough-and-tough general's entire life – from an eight-year-old Katawal chasing King Mahendra and his entourage from Okhaldhunga to Khotang for three days in 1956 seeking an opportunity to study in Kathmandu, and making it to the top position of army from a rustic clan, outside the blue blood, for the first time in Nepal’s modern history -- and Nepal's conflict and peace process. Katawal, who witnessed the downfall of monarchy that was his benefactor, has claimed that he made several attempts to save the monarchy through non-bloody means and tried his best to King Gyanendra take up the concept of Baby King ultimately. The author has tried to project himself as a lone commander in the forefront who fought to safeguard democracy and rescue it from the clutches of ambitious Maoists, who supposedly dared to penetrate into the army with intent to impose an authoritarian rule in the country when they led the government in 2008/2009. Needless to remind, Katawal locked his horns with Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, elected from the historic CA cum Parliament, and stayed put at his office. He compelled the latter to step down instead, over the Maoist-led cabinet’s unilateral decision to relieve him from the duties. Katawal has chronicled the events of 16 days, starting March 19, 2009, in the prologue Sorha Din ko Ladain (War of Sixteen Days). Definitely, it was the decisive war that saved him from being just another general, and earned him a mixed bag of fame and notoriety. The book includes a sensational opening as 45-page prologue and 11 other chapters that tell the stories of his childhood, student life and career in army, the Maoist conflict, the royal take over, and the events after the Maoists came to the peace process. As the book was released amid a function at nepa~laya’s r-sala this afternoon, General Katawal said it was his story and he wrote it from his perspective. Moreover, he maintained that he was honest at writing, and hinted that he has kept mum over some incidents and withheld some classified information. The book undoubtedly contains all elements to make it a readable autobiography. “There could be red or white or black areas, but there is no gray area in this book,” he claimed, crediting this statement to one of the early readers of his book. Aware of the potential controversies that it could stir, Katawal said, “Whether people like me or dislike me, they will read this book.” His stories offered to the general public in black-and-white are certain to contribute to the country’s conflict-to-peace history. The author has dedicated his book to all the soldiers who he said are Nepal Army's source of inspiration and Nepal's pillar. The paperback has been priced at Rs 545, and the hardbound at Rs 950.
General Katawal makes big revelations in autobiography
The Himalayan Times
Published: 11:54 pm Aug 14, 2014