Jun 8, 2012

Back to where it all began

By Maila Baje

The abject failure of the post-April 2006 enterprise has underscored the imperative for the country to return to the drawing board at the point where it all started.

That the crown was accepted as the part of the solution even then was evident in the reality that the 12-Point Agreement had not envisioned the abolition of the monarchy as a precondition for national salvation.

All three principal parties to that document – the Indian government, the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) and the Maoist rebels – may have expected tactical advantage from perpetuating some ambiguity over the course ahead.

Yet the ambiguity concerning the monarchy – to the extent there was any – dissipated when the SPA-Maoist combine accepted the House of Representatives restored by King Gyanendra as the starting point for their action. Everything that has happened in the country since vis-à-vis the monarchy was a result of sustained internal and external maneuverings, which, in Maila Baje’s view, only doomed the march toward a new Nepal.

The constituent assembly, which died an ignominious death on May 27, 2012, was already on life support for the last two years of its existence. The international community’s support for tentativeness under the ‘doctrine of necessity’ seemed to give the process enough political credibility to sputter along. It was tempting for the ruling class to dispense with notions of constitutionalism when Nepal lacked a constitution. But the goalposts were shifted so often that it stung our collective sense of decency.
What became all too apparent was that King Gyanendra’s invocation of Article 127 during his much-maligned direct rule stood on sounder constitutional footing. In retrospect, it became clear that the king lacked political legitimacy for his actions not because the crisis he confronted was somehow contrived but because democracy became a convenient cover for the domestic and external forces arrayed against him to seek to pursue their conflicting priorities.

To be sure, the accumulated grievances of exploitation and exclusion voiced by various communities were real. The Maoists exaggerated them to great effect and hurtled their way to the forefront of power. Once there, they had to machinate new gripes and grumbles, in which they were happily assisted by foreign quarters. When the time came to deliver, all the former rebels could do was try to speak from all sides of their mouths. The degeneration of the Maoists into just another ambitious, avaricious and acrimonious cabal was complete once they assumed power.

The mainstream parties pretended they could be the harbingers of change necessitated by the breakdown they themselves were part of King Gyanendra took direct control of government beginning on October 4, 2002 because of the two main parties’ failure to live up to a constitution they had touted as the best in the world. To his credit, King Gyanendra took full responsibility for his failure, while many of those who assisted him them are still taking the easy way out by pleading powerlessness.

Doubtless, there will be strong resistance to any quest to involve the monarchy into the current national discourse. But their claims must be examined for what they are. Their basic contention that the institution has harmed – more than helped – Nepal has fallen flat amid the post-April Uprising debris. Their assertion that successive kings have been congenitally anti-democratic must now take into account their own role in the decline of democracy.

One of the seminal achievements of the post-2006 years is the scrutiny the foreign factor – in their state and non-government incarnations – has come under. Increasingly Nepalis seem disinclined to view them as innocuous partners oblivious to any cost-benefit calculations. With that knowledge, Nepalis are in a better position to accept with enduring gratitude the help they think will be to their benefit. Conversely, they can decline gratuitous advice and offerings with confidence and carefulness.
An abiding sense of nationhood has energized the discourse at the level that really matters to the point where those who advocate newness now have to prove the viability of their vision. People cannot be asked to be eternally forward-looking when all they see is a dark abyss.

The issue of federalism, legitimate as it may be, cannot be a panacea for our real and imaginary injuries. More importantly, we cannot divorce such nebulous federalism from our geo-strategic realities. True, our neighbors so far have been reticent about the fallout from our collective quandaries. We cannot be oblivious to those ramifications.

The questions today are not only about the Free Tibet movement/containment of China or cross-border terrorism/string of pearls theory. The rise of China and India has precipitated different responses among the traditional powers. Beijing and New Delhi recognize deep down how much they stand to lose if they lose any sense of perspective or proportion.

Nepalis can no longer wallow in the illusion that we are too small and insignificant players on the international stage to be talking about great power rivalries. For far too long, this sense of inadequacy has helped to narrow our vision and provided others space to maneuver.

Voices of separatism aligned with one neighbor or the other cannot be ignored or appeased. They should be brought to the table, discussed vigorously as any other issue regarding their relevance, durability and wider ramifications. Grievances can then be distinguished and addressed not only for their genuineness but also for the sustainability of solutions. The answer to our individual victimhoods cannot be collective victimhood. What a travesty it would be to continue to try to isolate the individual/institution that has made that case so consistently over the past six years.

Courtesy: People’s Review

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