Hail to the people

The House of Representatives’ Declaration 2006 — in sync with the popular aspirations — is a turning point in the history of Nepal. By underscoring the significance of the sovereign people’s power, the declaration deals a decisive blow to the immense powers and privileges enjoyed by the 237-year-old institution of monarchy. With it comes to an end the Shah dynasty as the custodian of the nation’s sovereign power and the centuries of legacy it had embodied. Country’s sovereignty and executive authority is now acknowledged to rest irrevocably with the people and the parliament is to exercise supreme authority from now onwards. His Majesty’s Government has been rechristened as Nepal Government, and the Royal Nepalese Army as Nepal Army. Now transformed into a secular state, Nepal is no more the world’s only Hindu kingdom. Changes over the national anthem are also on the cards. The king’s executive authority is a thing of the past. Like ordinary citizens his actions can be questioned in the House and court of law, and his income and private property too have been brought under the purview of taxation. The parliament keeps with it the authority to enact the law with regard to royal succession. The monarch is no more the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the army. He cannot even convene the session of parliament. Instead the House will be convened by the prime minister and terminated by the Speaker on his recommendation. The largely discredited Raj Parishad and the National Defence Council stand scrapped with the parliament and the government assuming their role respectively.

Indeed the dawn of a new era has come at a heavy price. The nation is indebted not only to the sacrifices of those 21 precious lives lost during the Jana Andolan but also to hundreds of protesters who fearlessly battled with brickbats and bullets during the recent mega movement. But the newfound freedom, undoubtedly, comes with new responsibilities and unless the political power is exercised exclusively in the interest of the deprived and the marginalised, the sacrifices of the martyrs will have been in vain. In this context, the parliament’s announcement to deal with the chronic issue of citizenship is a positive step. Even to savour freedom, a sustainable peace is required. Legal eagles are, however, cautioning the leaders against the probable designs of the anti-democratic forces. The dissenting views cannot be brushed aside but care should be taken to plug the legal lacunae, if any. As the election to the Constituent Assembly will decide Nepal’s future, the constitution in the making should bring in its wake guarantees of the basic rights of all the stakeholders. Bad politics have stunted the nation’s growth. The country needs visionary leaders who can look beyond parochial and sectarian interests. People expect from the seven-party alliance and the Maoists to channelise their energies in the consolidation of the gains of the Jana Andolan. No matter what system of governance Nep-al embraces eventually, it cannot make an iota of difference if the political system continues to rot. Let’s not, then, create cause for the history to repeat itself.