Nepal’s ‘Humpty-Dumpty’ Political Ride

Nepal has come a long way to reach to this point of democratic change.

nepal-democracy-electionThere was a time when Nepalese used to be touched by hearing the news of death in their locality. People gasped. They expressed sympathy.

It was during the eighties. Life was simple. The country had its own pace of development.

Nevertheless, it was peaceful. Songs of Narayan Gopal, Deep Shrestha and Udit Narayan filled the air. Kusume Rumal, Santaan, Lahure, Chino and a host of pro-cultural movies were shown in the theaters.

People were innocent. A sincere dream of progress sparkled in their eyes. Power-cuts were less frequent. Cities like Kathmandu and Pokhara could breathe fresh air. Noise and dust pollution were unheard.

Nepal was compared to Switzerland in terms of peace and beauty. The former King Birendra had initiated a campaign of declaring Nepal as the ‘Zone of peace.” More than one hundred and thirty countries had voted in its favor.

During the early nineties, there was a phenomenal change in the political structure. People opted for a multi-party system. Democracy came like a season and stayed back.

The year was 1990. Different political parties joined hands to work for the greater welfare of the country. That evening, when late King Birendra gave up the Panchayati Raj, was a memorable day. The entire country celebrated with Dipawali.

Tens of thousands of gallons of mustard oil and wicks were burnt. Fire crackers were lighted. Villages, towns and cities reverberated with merriment. Revolution brought hope.

The King realized the sentiments of the people and succumbed to their wishes. Talks of freedom echoed throughout the length and breadth of the country. However, the new found freedom did not stay for long.

In 1996, a handful of agonized Maoists leaders waged another iconic revolution. Initially, it started as a movement against repression. Different oppressed groups raised their voice. They directly rebelled against the government.

The impact of the revolution began to shake each and every village of the country. News of reforms spread like wild fire. The Maoist soon won the hearts and minds of the people.

As the war progressed, it took a deceitful detour. People were being killed. The Maoists and the Army exterminated more than 17,000 Nepalese. The war began to stink of everything that was deplorable. The idea that had started as a reformative drill became a bloody mess.

The Army and the Maoists turned into killing machines

Thousands of innocent civilians died during a decade long war. Opportunists and defaulters joined combat groups and took revenge against their opponents. Horrendous killings were idealized in the name of the party. The war produced orphans, widows and widowers at a colossal level. Men and women were killed like insects. Fear dominated the society. People could not sleep peacefully at night. The conflict had a drastic impact.

In 2001, the Royal Massacre stunned the nation. Within a span of a single night, all the members of the royal families were killed. Former King Gyanendra, succeeded his brother. But this transition became a harbinger for the complete abolition of monarchy.

Thus in May, 2008, Gyanendra had to quit the palace. The royal massacre is still a mystery. A thorough investigation will surely shed light to those clandestine details which have been concealed till this date.

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After a bloody compromise, people had high hopes from the political parties. Nothing happened. The leaders came, filled their coffers and went leaving the country into a dilapidated stage. The 2006 Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) that had warmed the inter-party relationship, was tainted with distrust.

The parties could not forge a consensus for the Constituent Assembly. A series of dates came and went. Continuous postponement of the Constituent Assembly and its ultimate failure proved how the leaders could loosen their tongues to any extreme, to stay in power. The country went into a wave of aftershocks.

Nepal has changed

Time will tell if it is for the best or for the worst. Crime has sky-rocketed. Criminal dons are joining political parties.

Leaders are wolfing on the public fund. The November election is the penultimate hope for a long-term political stability in Nepal. The air is still rife with obstructions. The Maoist hardliner, Mohan Vaidya has threatened to boycott the election. In an interview with Dil Bhusan Pathak, he tagged the election as a mere Nautanki.

While summing up these events, some journalists had severely criticized the image of Nepal. In June 2012, two researchers published an article in The New York Times, entitled, “Nepal at the Brink of collapse.”

CNN had another headline in March 2013 which said, “Nepal heading towards failed state.” It is true that there have been serious flaws however today as Nepal stands at the verge of a historic election; it is unquestionably a prominent achievement for a country that was at war.

Despite the chaos, there are positive notes that have to be lauded

There are some “it-happens-only-in-Nepal” moments. A decade long civil war brought the rival faction into the political mainstream. Corrupt ministers have been punished to some extent. The PLA combatants have merged into one national army.

The date of the election has been announced. Political parties are busy in pre-election drills. These positive enterprises should serve as a fuel to tackle other major issues. Nevertheless, there are encouraging signs that have to be taken into account to follow a positive political trajectory.

The impasse has been long and painful. The entire energy of the politicians has been spent on the shuffle of power. Not a single government has had time to focus on a long-term development. Jimmy Carter once wrote, “Our observers find that Nepali citizens remain passionate supporters of democracy but are increasingly frustrated with their leadership for breaking its promises time after time.”

Nepal has come a long way to reach to this point of democratic change. Despite some interference, the preparation for the election is in full swing. Elections alone can determine the fate of the country. November 19 will be a golden opportunity for leaders to prove their worth and to win back the trust of the people.

Nabin Kumar Chhetri studies at the University of Oxford. He holds an M.Litt from the University of Aberdeen. He is the member of the Scottish Pen. Nabin can be reached at nabin11111@yahoo.com. Read other articles by Nabin.

  • Gautam

    Nabin K Chhetri described the political events of Nepal objectively in simple words. I enjoyed his writings. I wish he continues to write in this way.

    • nabin

      Thanks Gautamji for the comment.

  • Abhishek Sharma

    Thank you for your article. The loss of innocence of Nepalis has been tremendious. Nepal is a classic case of deterioration of the State and society. Unfortunately, I don’t see things getting any better. Things will, if anything, get a lot worse. Indians, Americans, Chinese, EU have their spy network spread all over Nepal in the guise of volunteers and experts. Foreign meddling have a reached a peak. Certain sections of the population have become like the fifth column, undermining the nation from within. I foresee UN peacekeepers being stationed in Nepal in a few years. Hopefully I will be wrong.

    • Nabin

      Thanks Abhishek for the comment. I agree with you regarding foreign intervention. A huge patriotic wave within the country and in the diaspora can perhaps check foreign meddling.

  • Saguna Shah

    If intelligence could be freed from selfishness and vested interests then Nepal would definitely see better days with the break of this new dawn after the election. But , I am least hopeful of that. Loved reading you Nabin (y)