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SHIVA GAUNLE


King Gyanendra may have isolated himself internationally but within the country there hasn't been much concerted opposition to
his move.

The people in the country's 4,000 VDCs have suffered nine years of violence and they were told to choose between Maoism and monarchy. The microcosm of this despair of rural Nepal is now at Tundikhel for the rulers in the capital to see.

Partly, the lack of dissent is due to the emergency. The royal commission has politicians in its crosshairs: Prakash Man Singh was forcibly arrested from his home on Thursday. Sher Bahadur Deuba has also defied summons, and commission sources told us he may be arrested soon.

Ninety days after 1 February, it is clear which way the king wants to go. But the parties seem to be waffling. They could chart a 'third way' but are stuck where they were four years ago. Leaders of the four parties that stand for reinstatement of parliament finally met at Girija Prasad Koirala's house on Thursday and decided to invite NC-D and the UML to join in.

But it's not enough for the parties to say they want democracy restored, they have to show a pragmatic way forward. Koirala spent two months in house arrest and Jhalanath Khanal was in hiding but neither seems to have come up with any new ideas during that time.

This week, zonal and regional administrators assumed their posts to take royal rule to the countryside, asserting their determination to "fulfill His Majesty's wishes". Their first job is to monitor and coordinate security activities and start preparing for municipal elections.

Most UML leaders are still in jail, there are no indications of either civil liberties being restored or the emergency being lifted by next week. The ban on mobile phones, news on FM and cable tv news channels stays. Phone lines of politicians and journalists are still selectively cut. Officials seem to believe that agreeing to international human rights monitors should placate donors for now. But a UN resolution in Geneva on Wednesday called for the immediate restoration of political and civil rights.

In the rest of the country, the 11-day nationwide strike ended but the Maoists are enforcing regional bandas and blockades. Most schools haven't reopened after new year\'s day and those that did were bombed. Instead of targeting the Maoists who are creating this mayhem, state security seems preoccupied (except for actions in Khara and Bardiya) with harassing politicians, activists and the press.


LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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