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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2738

Monarchy under siege … ….

By Vinod Vedi - Syndicate Features

King Gyanendra of Nepal must have heaved a sigh of relief: Things could have been worse on his 60th birthday than the demonstration of about a thousand republicans at a barricade far from the Narayanhiti palace in Kathmandu. It was tokenism just as that of the pro-monarchists who carried the king’s portrait and danced to drumbeats that did not carry the conviction of yester years.

In 2001 after crown prince Dipendra killed the ruling family and then shot himself dead, the man who on an earlier occasion had been Regent of Nepal must have felt that fate had smiled on him a winning hand and ascended the throne. But his rule during the past six years marked perhaps the most turbulent moments in Nepal’s history. Now Gyanendra finds himself haunted by the spectre of an abolished monarchy. He has four months till November to try and manipulate his people into letting him stay at least as titular head but there is no way he can reclaim the incarnation of Vishnu that Nepalis have revered for several centuries.

November has been fixed by the eight-party coalition that is currently ruling the country as the time for elections to a Constituent Assembly that will decide on the abolition of the monarchy. The danger of things going terribly wrong for the King is apparent in the demand by the Maoists that the elections be turned into a referendum on the abolition of the monarchy by two-thirds of the votes. Under that scenario the Constituent Assembly would be left with the task of sweeping out the debris.

“The existing members of the interim parliament can remove the monarchy by a two-thirds majority before the Constituent Assembly polls if the king tries to disrupt the elections,” Ram Chandra Poudel, Nepal’s minister for peace and reconstruction told newsmen in April. Any conspiracy to disrupt the polls would invite immediate Cabinet reprisals.

Thus the king would be skating on thin ice if he proceeds with his intention of holding separate discussions with the eight constituent parties of the ruling coalition with the intention of forging a “coexistence” agreement with each of them. It is, by itself, a barely-veiled attempt to start a process of sowing suspicion within the coalition that one or the other party is willing to pre-empt the Constituent Assembly prerogative of deciding the fate of the king.

The king is keen to retain control of as many of the levers of power as possible. Top in his list of priorities would be retention of links with the Royal Nepal Army. Maoists will not like this. They will not forget that the King had turned the army against them. It would not take very long for someone to construe the very “dialogue” process as coming within the “conspiracy” clause of the Parliament vote. The issue of violation of human rights by the royal palace in its attempt to stave off the rising wave of Maoist emergence in Nepal is a sensitive issue.

Prime Minister Koirala is against giving the monarchy an ornamental role. He has been put off by the king’s machinations, especially in trying to use the army to his own advantage. Hence the remark: “Giving space to the ceremonial king does not mean letting him create instability. Even if the king abdicates the throne now, it will create [a better] environment”.

One clear signal of the eight party alliances (EPA) to move to prevent the king from misusing the army to retain power came in the Maoists demand for integration between the Nepal Army and their Militias. The presence of their cadres in the barracks of their old foes is intended to nip in the bud any Palace intrigue. This was one of the approximately thirty different amendments proposed in the recently charted Nepal Government’s future plans and strategies in the Interim Parliament.

Incidentally, the Maoist demand that their cadres who were killed during ‘the rebellion period’ be declared martyrs and to lift the ‘foujdari abhiyog’—charges of criminal offence—will remove a potentially contentious issue from becoming a divisive one if integration of the militias does, indeed, become a reality.

Even as the Young Communists League (YCL) took the zing out of Gyanendra’s birthday bash, their role in the Terai belt bordering India is causing concern in New Delhi which has, hitherto, done well to support Maoist leader Prachanda by giving him sanctuary and a political base to operate against Gyanendra. The sudden eruption of clashes between the YCL and the inhabitants of the Terai known as “Madhesis” has underscored a worrisome situation. The linkage between the Nepal Maoists and their Indian counterparts is not a secret. So, India needs to be careful about developments in the Terai.

ULFA with help from Pakistan’s ISI is testing the porous borders between India and Nepal to open sanctuaries there. Hitherto, ULFA’s’ forays into Nepal were limited to securing weapons and collect funds from the ISI station head in Nepal. The Maoists’ YCL helped the Ahom insurgents to secure bases in Nepal, according to Ghanakanta Bora and his wife Tulsi, who had surrendered to the authorities in eastern Assam’s Tinsukia district on June 5. They told their interrogators that ULFA was preparing to shift a large number of cadres and leaders to the new base.

Double confirmation came a few days later when the main procurer of weapons in Nepal was intercepted on way to Tinsukia. “Second lieutenant” Diwakar Moran, number three in the hierarchy of ULFA’s 28 battalion and the commander of its “Alfa” company, revealed that he was based in Nepal since 2006 and that the ULFA was preparing to shift a large number of its cadres there. Days after the allegations surfaced, Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) leader Baburam Bhattarai vehemently denied any connection between his party cadres and ULFA. Such denials don’t even have face value.

This coupled with the fact that Pakistan’s ISI has the largest hub in South Asia in Nepal from where it operates to destabilise India indicates the kind of convergence that could emerge in what can now be justifiably described as the “former kingdom”. Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala is beginning to routinely turn up a chief guest at very important function hitherto led by the sovereign himself.

- Syndicate Features -

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