Originally Published 2006-06-01 07:04:48 Published on Jun 01, 2006
The Nepalese revolution is only the latest manifestation of the power of the people in compelling dictatorial forces to yield. In February 1986, the Philippine people had brought down a dictatorship and restored democracy in their dramatic four-day People Power Revolution.
Nepal: India should keep hard options in reserve
The Nepalese revolution is only the latest manifestation of the power of the people in compelling dictatorial forces to yield. In February 1986, the Philippine people had brought down a dictatorship and restored democracy in their dramatic four-day People Power Revolution. Though the Soviet communist regime had quelled both the 1956 Hungarian Uprising and the 1968 Prague Spring with tanks in the street, the influence of Lech Walesa's 'Solidarity' movement in Poland led to the intensification and spread of anti-communist ideals throughout the countries of the Eastern Bloc, weakening their communist governments.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> The citizens of neighbouring Czechoslovakia threw off the shackles of four decades of totalitarian communist rule in what has been called the "Velvet Revolution". The victory of the Ukrainian people's Orange Revolution over their country's corrupt leadership and the installation of Viktor Yushchenko as President in January 2005, represented a new landmark in the history of peoples' movements for democracy. The Cedar Revolution in April 2005 ended the Syrian military occupation of Lebanon after 30 years.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> However, the Nepalese people's short but intense agitation that led to the restoration of parliamentary democracy in April 2006, after over two years of brutal repression, is nothing short of spectacular in the breadth of its reach and the depth of its significance. In the face of fearless crowds creeping up on the Narayanhitty Palace, King Gyanendra finally threw in the towel. In many ways the scenes of frenzied crowds on the streets of Kathmandu resembled the last hours of the regime of the Shah of Iran. However, Gyanendra's Himalayan Kingdom, which he treated as a personal fiefdom, is still in a royal mess.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> Delighted by their victory over totalitarianism, the people of Nepal welcomed the transfer of power to the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) headed by octogenarian Prime Minister G. P. Koirala, despite the ever-squabbling and corrupt Nepalese politicians having lost the people's confidence years ago. The Maoists, whose writ runs over large swathes of rural Nepal, have declared a cease-fire for three months but have set tough conditions for elections to a new Constituent Assembly, including the release of their cadres from jails in Nepal and India. Both these honeymoons are likely to be short-lived. Fissures have already begun to appear among the constituents of the SPA over their approach to bringing the Maoists into the mainstream.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> The arrogant and wily monarch that he is, King Gyanendra's recent moves are at best only a tactical retreat to stave off what was quite obviously an imminent lynching. He appears to be light years away from realising that in the eyes of the people he is the problem and cannot, therefore, be part of the solution. The Royal Nepalese Army (the prefix 'Royal' has now been dropped) had earned the wrath of the people with its high-handed tactics in crushing the movement for democracy. Though the traditionally loyal Army, that is officered at the senior level by the King's handpicked appointees, has reluctantly agreed to place itself under civilian control, it remains to be seen whether it will actually take orders from a civilian dispensation or continue to take its bearings from the palace.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> Though the King of Nepal has been traditionally revered as an incarnation of the Hindu God Vishnu, the Nepalese people have made no secret of their contempt for King Gyanendra. There is no clarity on whether the King will be willing to abdicate if the Constituent Assembly adopts a Republican model. In case the King has the good sense to hand over all executive power to the people and accept a ceremonial role in a constitutional monarchy like the Queen of Britain, the people may yet accept such an arrangement despite their reservations.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> The Maoists too have a diabolical game plan. As they are well armed and have terrorised most of the rural areas, they hope to win the elections to a Constituent Assembly and then dictate terms. So far they have failed to show any enthusiasm for laying down their arms as a pre-condition for their participation in the proposed electoral process. It is not even clear whether they genuinely wish to share power with the SPA, or if their interests lie in capturing Kathmandu through the ballot box, if they can, to govern Nepal in keeping with their ideologically driven policies.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> The international community did not cover itself with glory with its tacit support for the King despite his assumption of absolute power on February 1, 2005 as it saw the Maoists as the greater evil. Even though the King's repressive regime had launched a brutal campaign to crush the movement for democracy, Ambassador James F. Moriarty of the United States was advocating reconciliation till late-March 2006 and was opposed to the 12-point agreement reached between the SPA and the Maoists for the restoration of democracy. As Nepal's neighbour, India's "twin-pillar" doctrine of supporting multi-party democracy under the rubric of constitutional monarchy lulled the King into complacence and angered the Nepalese people.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> India is itself plagued by Maoist violence in 150 districts of 14 states. In recent months the Maoists have broken into jails to free incarcerated cadres, hijacked a train and attacked police stations to loot arms and ammunition. Daily incidents of violence and IED blasts are commonplace. In the deep jungles of Central India the Maoists collect taxes and impose fines. They are rapidly acquiring organisational cohesiveness and may soon begin to coordinate their attacks. As has been the case with insurgencies in Jammu and Kashmir and India's north-eastern states, inimical neighbours are bound to jump into the fray with what they call "political, diplomatic and moral" support. Hence, the Indian government has been apprehensive of growing linkages between Indian and Nepalese Maoists.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> A full-fledged civil war in Nepal that results in a Maoist take over would be immensely detrimental to India's national security interests. Even though such a prospect is improbable at present, the present situation in Nepal is far from stable. It is time India stopped hedging its bets and came out with a clear pro-democracy policy while simultaneously remaining prepared for harder options if the need for these arises.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> </font> <font size="2" class="greytext1"> <em>The writer is Director, Security Studies and Senior Fellow, Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi. <br /> <br /> Source: The Tribune, Chandigarh, May 24, 2006. <br /> </em> <br /> <br /> <br /> <em>* Views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Observer Research Foundation.</em> <br />
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