April revolution : An eye-opener for all

The Nepali people created history in April 2006 by rising in unison. By doing so, they have demystified the beliefs that they can be taken for granted, rather be fooled. It was an incredible popular surge in hundreds of thousands to assert themselves against the hostile state power.

The message of the popular movement is loud and clear that the people are capable of deciding independently and helping themselves in getting rid of a tyranny. There is a limit to the persuasion of the international community in influencing the course of events as was evident on April 22, a defining day for the seven-party leaders to accept or reject the first royal call to recommend a prime minister. People’s power is a thing to be recognised and that should continue to hold sway over national decisions.

For the domestic political players, the April revolution was a big eye-opener. No king of Nepal, if retained by the upcoming Constituent Assembly, hereafter will dare to resort to autocracy and absolutism. King Gyanendra stood to lose power sooner or later for ignoring popular wishes and, not surprisingly, he lost rather fast. Now he stands at the receiving end of the political game from that of the giving end. The diehard royalists could however console themselves that the King has lost a battle but not the war. That is what justifies the call to keep the street pressure alive.

The leaders who have been pauperised by the royal regime have come out as the biggest beneficiaries of the political somersault. But they are nonetheless alert to the risks of bungling public trust that they once gained and lost. They are definitely conscious of the mistakes they had made in the past but they are not sure if they can redress them now. The only dictum they have to bear in mind is that what is good for the country is good for them and what is good for them is not good for the country. The people’s movement is thus necessary to continue just to remind them of this reality.

As far as the Maoist rebels are concerned, their strategy has fully paid off. They wanted to appear in the towns and cities after getting bored in the villages, and they have exactly done that. It is nice of them to not only join the peaceful struggle, but also to make it overwhelming and decisive. But they too have learnt a lesson that a peaceful movement is far more effective than an armed insurrection. It was quite revealing that the death of 19 persons during the street demonstrations brought about a change that the killing of nearly 15,000 in the course of 11-year insurgency could not. In fact, the streets belong to them and we have no choice but to listen to them if we want them to remain on peaceful course.

The challenge following what is known as the Jana Andolan II is to lead the country in the peaceful political process. The way out is the Constituent Assembly not because it is the panacea for all problems of our country but because it is the common platform acceptable to all the parties, including the Maoists. Even King Gyanendra was once reported amenable to this idea for framing a new constitution with which he was not happy for his own reasons. He lost a golden opportunity to fulfil a half-a-century-old commitment of his grandfather, King Tribhuvan, to form a Constituent Assembly for writing a constitution.

There is no doubt that the issue of the Constituent Assembly provokes an interminable number of questions as to when, how and in what shape it will be formed. It really opens a Pandora’s Box. A series of developments have to take place to bring it to a successful end. The beginning has indeed been made with the restoration of the parliament. The newly formed all-party cohesive government should remove the terrorist tag from the Maoists, talks should be held with them, modalities of the Constituent Assembly have to be agreed, the arms of the rebels have to be managed under some international supervision and a fair election to the Constituent Assembly has to be held. There will be difficulties all through the constitution-framing period with haggling over the political, social and economic rights. The acceptance of the Constituent Assembly is just a beginning of a long national struggle, but it is all worth going for it for the sake of permanent peace and prosperity of the country. There is no turning back on the issue. It is only the Jana Andolan spirit that can take it to a logical conclusion.

The dead parliament has been revived as a reminder of impossible thing made possible. Vishownath Upadhayay, who presided over the writing of the present constitution, should be pleased to see his suggestion of restoring the parliament accomplished after a period of four years. But he would be equally displeased to see his Constitution going down the hill with the coming of the invincible Constituent Assembly. There is again a lesson for the fathers of the constitution that they can produce a constitution as good as the people are. The people are above the constitution and not vice versa.

Shrestha is co-ordinator, Volunteers Mediators Group for Peace