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Somewhere in Nepal II



and tired of pontificating analysts obsessed with the "cause and effect" paradigm of the Maoist insurgency.

I do not wish to quibble with you for appropriating my name, assuming, of course, you do not have another contributor who shares the quaint appellation my parents chose for me in the VIEWPOINTS column of NT #31. But I would like to take this opportunity to make some observations on some of the issues raised in the column.

Your 72-point headline "Saving Nepal" was probably intended to grab the attention of all those readers who are sick and tired of pontificating analysts who are obsessed with the "cause and effect" paradigm of the Maoist insurgency. I started to read the story with the specific point of reference that the Maoist insurgency is not the only ailment that Nepal needs to be saved from. I was disappointed.

Dipak Gyawali, who has the profound ability to make a human-interest story out of such seemingly everyday issues as the insensitivity shown by the Narayanhity Royal Palace and the Prime Minister's Office in sending out greeting cards, has spoken of the possibility of introducing military conscription. I noted with particular interest that he brought up the model of the National Development Service, a project the panchas so shrewdly abandoned just after the announcement of a national referendum in 1979, which allowed people like me to get a Master's degree without being forced out of Kathmandu for 10 months. Gyawali also cites the Maoists' Jana Sena and the Nepali Congress Mukti Sena as possible models for such an army of conscripts. However, I wonder how a national army formed under a formula suited to the specific ideological and contextual imperatives of the dialectical materialists and the democratic socialists would help the country.

Following the "Delhi compromise" of 2007 BS (1951 CE), the Mukti Sena was incorporated into the Nepal Police. In light of this fact, is it just a coincidence that Nepal Police was among the first organisations to have succumbed to the systematic process of the "Congressisation" of national institutions following the restoration of multiparty democracy in 1990? Furthermore, it would be interesting to see how a demobilised Maoist army would fare in an integrated national armed force. With their evident skills in high-altitude, low-intensity conflict, maybe the former rebels could be inducted into an expanded Armed Police Force.

Gyawali also recommends legally mandated term limits to stop politics from becoming a career option for the Nepali people. How many aspiring netajis would be discouraged from joining politics if that were the case? Moreover, think of all those current netajis who, deprived of their primary addiction, would start exhibiting all kinds of withdrawal symptoms. More importantly, for a country with already limited avenues of employment, term limits in politics would only force a sizeable section of the restive youth population to seek other ways of registering their grievances-the country's bushes, treetops and paddy fields are not the only bases they can expect to use.

With respect to Gyawali's plea for throwing up more Daya Bir Singh Kansakars, all I can say is that many potential Paropakaris are already throwing up at the current state of affairs.

Stephen Mikesell brings up an interesting point: Seven times more Nepali hill women are abducted to brothels in India every year than people who have been killed in the entire Maoist war. With due respect to the suffering and anguish of these women, I think Mikesell seriously errs when he seeks to equate the bruised and battered living with the mostly mutilated dead.

Responding to the argument that no other alternative works (other than armed insurgency), Mikesell writes "But I don't think the Peruvian Shining Path, to which Nepal's Maoists feel some kinship, has been overwhelmingly successful." That may be true. But neither has the Nepali government been successful in capturing Comrade Prachanda in the way Alberto Fujimori's government arrested Abimael Guzman from his jungle hideout. That puts our Maoist fighters in a psychologically better position than the remnants of their Peruvian counterparts. Moreover, when our Maoist rebels today see former plane hijackers in and around the government, and erstwhile underground Marxist-Leninist head-hunters of eastern Nepal in the main opposition party, it must rekindle their spirit to fight on for political empowerment.

Mikesell sees in the experience of Brazil's Labour Party a roadmap for a truly democratic Nepal. I see that as a path Nepal rejected long ago-the Gaun Pharka system of indirect elections enshrined through the 2032 BS (1975 CE) amendment to the Panchayat constitution. Concepts like recall (punaravhan) and cooption (sahabaran) were tried and tested in those bad old days. But, then, who had the patience to wait for the Panchayat system to fully evolve into the participatory system it was trying its best to become?

Pratyoush Onta correctly says the Maoists have shown that besides the two power centres in Nepal, Narayanhity Darbar and Singha Darbar, there can also be a Darbar in Rolpa. Extending his point, I would say that the Maoists have also encouraged the creation of a third army, after the Royal Nepal Army and the Jana Sena. If the recent ordinance manages to break through the deadlock in parliament, this will mark the first time since Mohan Sumsher-when he was still Shree Teen, and not yet head of the democratic coalition government that replaced the Ranarchy-that Singha Darbar will have a full-fledged fighting force at its disposal.

In sentences couched in the political correctness of multiparty Nepal, Onta maintains the palace is the major obstacle to the deployment of the army in quelling the Maoist rebellion. But, then, what else could the palace have done when all other political parties, including the Deuba-Bhattarai faction of the ruling Nepali Congress, are in favour of seeing the problem resolved politically? This assertion of royal prerogative might be inconsistent with the spirit of constitutional provisions, but it is in keeping with the king's role as the protector of the constitution. Onta wonders how the palace would stand to benefit ultimately from this royal (in)action. I think the palace gains by proving that a constitutional monarch need not necessarily follow a politically expedient route the ruling faction of a deeply fractured party has chosen without respecting the views of the dissident camp.

Without digressing too much, I am also appalled by the lack of appreciation in this whole debate for one core reality of the Nepali monarchy and its policy on the military. It would be foolish on our part to believe that the reigning monarch of a dynasty that has always taken pride in incorporating petty principalities into a united Nepal through tamasik military conquests, as Gyawali puts it, would want to become party to the fragmentation of the country through the mobilisation of the military against the Maoists.


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


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