People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
January 21, 2007
Historic Transition In Nepal
THE much-awaited historic transition in Nepal has begun. It is, indeed, a historic event that the millennia-old feudal monarchy has finally been replaced by a transitory order that should eventually pave the way for the assertion of complete people’s sovereignty in Nepal. The “Royal” tag that inevitably was associated with everything in Nepal has now simply ceased. The anachronism of a feudal monarchy in the modern world has been removed.
On January 15, Nepal’s old parliament adopted an interim constitution and dissolved itself to pave the way for a new parliament which includes the Maoists. This is to be followed by the constitution of an interim government once the Maoists and the Nepal army deposit their arms at designated centres. The process has already begun. There are seven designated centres where the Maoists will be depositing all their arms and one centre for the Nepal army. All have agreed that once this process is completed in the next few weeks, the new parliament will constitute the interim government. This interim government and the interim parliament will then draw up the schedule and procedures for the election of a constituent assembly which shall draw up the new constitution under which fresh elections to the Nepal parliament vesting in it the absolute sovereignty of the people will be held. This should complete the historic transition of Nepal.
Though Nepal had a form of parliamentary democracy from 1991 until it was abrogated by the King on February 1, 2005, it functioned under a constitutional arrangement where the ultimate sovereignty was co-terminously held by the King and the parliament. This was the famous “two pillar democracy”. Under such a dispensation, no law could be enacted by the parliament without the approval of the Royal palace. In effect, the King exercised an unstated veto power.
Clearly, under such a dispensation, the feudal monarchy continued to preside over the destiny of Nepal and its people. The King not willing to reconcile with such a situation had abrogated the parliament in order to reestablish the absolute monarchy. The decade-long Maoist insurgency which began in 1995 against the oppression and suppression of the people by the feudal monarchy had claimed more than 20,000 lives. It is only natural that the Nepali people yearning both for peace and improved livelihood asserted themselves in a powerful people’s upsurge that forced the King to abandon his plans of restoring the absolute monarchy and forced him to restore the old parliament. Since the days of Bangladesh liberation, South Asia did not witness such a massive popular upsurge.
This popular upsurge, in turn, was the result of an over year-long protracted negotiations between Nepal’s Seven Party Alliance and the Maoists. The decision by the Nepali Maoists to return to the democratic mainstream abjuring the politics of the gun and the declaration that they shall participate in democratic competitive politics was a decision of singular importance in galvanising the people’s struggle. The King who so far played with the contradictions existing between the political parties and the Maoists was left with no option when the political process converged to seek the abolition of the feudal monarchy and the creation of a new democratic order in Nepal. The Nepal army also declared its loyalty to the democratic forces and ceased to be the “Royal Nepal Army”.
These developments have brought the situation to the present stage where the interim constitution reflects a broad consensus amongst all political forces on the future goals of Nepali state and society. Amongst others, these include the sovereignty of the people; multi-party democracy; inclusion of all peoples, communities and regions; gender equity; recognition of cultural diversity; equal rights for all including minorities; social justice and the rule of the law. There is also a commitment that the future elections to the constituent assembly will take place through a free and fair public participation, “without any fear or threats and without being influenced by violence”.
An important issue that the constituent assembly will have to resolve is on the future of the King and the monarchy. The overwhelming public opinion seems to be veering around to the position that the future of Nepal will be in a republican constitutional structure where there shall be no scope for even a constitutional monarchy. This, however, is a matter that should be decided by the popularly-elected constituent assembly.
While such is the roadmap for Nepal’s future, there are many associated risks that need to be resolved and many genuine apprehensions that need to be allayed. Natural concern arises over the peaceful manner in which the process of “arms management” will be concluded. If, for instance, some insurgents refuse to part with their arms, then can the interim government exercise the right to enforce so that the law of the land prevails? Will the commitments made in the interim constitution including the conduct of free and fair election be honoured? These and such associated questions are, indeed, important . The resolution of these will determine both the character and the pace of the transition. It is only hoped that having come thus far the Nepali political parties and process will not permit any opportunity to those who continue to seek to sabotage this historic transition in Nepal. But, from all indications, the people’s movement and the popular aspirations in Nepal are so strong that they are likely to overcome all such apprehensions and risks to ensure that Nepal’s march to create a new history will not be subverted.
In the days to come while the Nepali people and its political leadership will grapple with such and other associated problems, we, in India, express our unstinted solidarity and support for the logical culmination of the ongoing people’s movement in Nepal in the establishment of a new republican democratic order.