The world was awe-struck by the massive scale the Nepalis rose in April against absolute kingship. It is heartening to find a downpour of salutes on them still continuing. But at home it is saddening to observe them tossing in uneasy peace. People do not feel secure because they have every reason to worry if the present fragile peace is going to be stable.
The April revolution has sent several messages but the political leaders have picked up only one and, accordingly, divested the monarchy of its absolute power. But an equally big problem of the Maoist insurgency remains to be satisfactorily resolved. It is indeed encouraging to see the Maoists coming out in the open, talking with the government and trying to assure the people that they do not intend to reopen their arms. The people do truly want to see them desisting from returning to the jungles and restarting the bloody fighting. Are the popular wishes for a lasting peace being taken care of properly? Certainly not.
The situation looks volatile because the key issues are not being promptly addressed by what can be described as the victorious sides of the power showdown in the month of April 2006. The Jana Andolan II has given a clear mandate to restoring democracy and cutting monarchy down to size. There is no dispute among the seven plus one parties as far as democracy is to be reinstated. And indeed it is in place. But regarding monarchy, there is a difference of opinion.
In fact, those who are in favour of retaining monarchy, at least as a ceremonial symbol, and those who want to abolish it are equally taking a wrong course. Supporters of a ceremonial monarchy like Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala are wrong because their logic is wrong. They argue that without monarchy Nepal will fall into anarchy. So the question arises how a ceremonial king devoid of all state and executive powers can save a country if and when it heads
towards anarchy. If a king is to be able to help Nepal in any kind of potential crisis, he needs powers to act. And a ceremonial king is supposed to have no power to act. So it is silly to defend a ceremonial monarchy for any kind of political role even during a period of crisis. It, in other words, means that the advocates of ceremonial kingship are harbouring a hidden agenda of re-empowering the king, which is definitely against the popular will.
The opponents of monarchy like the Maoist leader Prachanda are equally wrong because they are taking unnecessarily a long time to resolve the issue that is, in their own view, already a foregone conclusion. They want to leave the issue of establishing republicanism to the constituent assembly. They say they are dead sure of achieving it through this body. It means they do not intend to give this potentially elected body a choice but to impose a decision of republicanism. That sounds undemocratic irrespective of the fact that they would abide by any kind of decision of the constituent assembly, including an active monarchy.
If the Maoists are not going to settle down for anything less than republicanism, why should they wait so long for the constituent assembly to be constituted and take a prompt decision on this issue? They can get it immediately fulfilled by a simple declaration of the all-powerful parliament. If the parliament does not agree to it, they can insist on the new interim constitution to do so. There is no fun in keeping the people of Nepal on tenterhooks on the issue of monarchy for seemingly interminable years to come. Why should the country bear so much tension on a controversy whose outcome is taken for granted? Why should the king bear constant barrage of humiliation if the crown is to be shelved in a box for good? Maoist supremo Prachanda should, therefore, go for immediate declaration of republicanism rather than postpone it for an indefinite period.
What is the political issue that the Maoist leaders say should be resolved before they dismantle their guerrilla outfit and surrender their arms? Is it not the question of monarchy turning into republicanism? It means if republicanism is declared, the Maoists will lose all logic and rationale for holding on to their arms. In that case, even the tricky question of management, supervision, monitoring and what not of the Maoist arms will instantly be resolved. The road to an interim constitution, an interim government and elections to the constituent assembly will be clear without any serious hitches coming up among all the political parties, including the Maoists. Peace will, then, be secured. That is exactly what the people want and that is what the political leaders, including Prachanda are not doing. How can we, then, believe that our leaders have understood the popular wishes particularly those expressed during the massive peopleâ€™s participation in the peaceful April revolution? They better learn it fast lest there is no dearth of younger, brighter and smarter people in Nepal to throw them out.
Shrestha is a freelance journalist