Published on:10 Apr 2008
Indians must be ready to welcome a new secular republic in her neighbourhood this month. Nepal , India's best friend and so far her closest civilisational ally, is set to reborn as a different nation.
Nepal finally goes to the polls on April 10 to elect 601 representatives to the constituent assembly. Of these, 240 would be elected through first past the poll system while 335 would reach parliament through proportional representation and the rest 26 would be nominated by the cabinet formed after the results. Nepal has witnessed a revolutionary change in its electoral system with special quotas for women (one-third), dalits and oppressed classes, with a provision for Muslims too under the head of 'others'. Though 74 parties have been registered with the election commission, of which more than 13 owe their allegiance to some shade of Marxism-Leninism, the main contestants remain Nepali Congress Party, Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist Leninist, Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist, Rashtriya Prajatantra Party (RPP), Rashtriya Janshakti Party (RJP), Nepal Sadbhavna Party-Anandi Devi (NSP-A), People's Front Nepal, United Left Front, and Madheshi Janadhikar Forum. Thousand of international observers have arrived in Kathmandu to monitor the most significant democratic exercise in this tiny Himalayan nation, which was once the only constitutionally declared Hindu nation on earth with a 240 year-old tradition of Hindu monarchy. If Americans are there in a large number and former president Carter has arrived with a team of 60 members from 20 countries, countries like Japan, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Canada, Australia, Thailand, Finland and Norway too have sent their official teams to observe the elections with United Nation's special monitoring team making its presence felt through public interviews of its representative. The change was imminent since the royal massacre took place June 1, 2001, killing mysteriously the entire family of King Birendra, the citizen king Nepal has ever witnessed after the legendary Prithvi Narayan Shah, King of Gorkha (the word Gorkha or Gurkha is derived from Sanskrit word 'go-raksha' meaning the protector of holy cow), unified the territory in 1766 after winning the Kathmandu Valley. Birendra was a beloved ruler of the masses and I had the privilege to know him personally. He wrote a special signed message for my book on Kailas (royals were supposed to send their special messages unsigned only under the seal of their office) and whenever he visited India, we were invited to see him with family. He was quite unassuming in his talks, would offer to make tea for his guests and once also introduced his daughter Princess Shruti, who was then studying in Mayo College, Ajmer. Shrouded in uncomfortable questions, his brother Gyanendra rose to the throne but fell in public esteem as many believed he had a hand in the royal killings. Next seven years saw a turbulent period with more than 12,000 innocent Nepalese losing their lives at the hands of blood-thirsty Maoists who wanted to bring in an era of 'red revolution'. None of the democratically-elected Prime Minister could rise to the occasion and save Nepal from getting into a pit of anarchy and despondency. The writing on the wall was clear-an uncomfortable nation was yearning for a change which would see a new regime of rulers through a different mode. Weak economically and having a poor leadership, Nepal became a hotbed of various international players and strategic craftsmen from European proselytisers active under the garb of NGOs and various peace missions to the Chinese influences reflected in Maoists routed often through the Indian Communist outfits who were more than willing to see a 'red revolution' fructifying in the neighbourhood. After King Gyanendra failed to gauge the nation's mood and became a stumbling block in the way of change, a seven-party coalition shook hands with the terrorist Maoist group and brought them into political mainstream by inviting them to be their eighth partner in governance. The Maoist leader, Prachanda (real name Pushpa Kamal Dahal), became the de-facto 'monarch' and acquired fame by showing off his expensive Rolex wrist watch while sermonising on the necessity to have a proletariat government. His Young Communist League (YCL) became a notorious gang of lawbreakers forcing the Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala to dub them publicly as Young Criminals' League! He had to take back his words later under Maoist pressure though. In a bit complicated electoral procedure this time for Nepalese people (literacy rate-male 45%, female 35 %), the voters would be asked to use two ballot papers to mark their choice, one for the direct election of their representative and the other for the party, so that the proportional representation of 335 seats can be made by the party out of the 'closed lists' submitted of their probable candidates. Even much before the Indian parliament could approve the one-third quota for women, Nepal has gone ahead with it without much fuss. Though abolition of monarchy is almost a foregone conclusion after the elections, the main question being asked is whether the Maoists, who have tasted the power after a bloody 12-year militancy, accept the verdict of people? In case they do not get the majority and are voted less than the number they can use to influence the next government, what will be the fate of a nascent democratic secular experiment? Though one of the main leaders, Prachanda, has gone on record to say they would abide by the verdict, another leader Babu Ram Bhattarai has publicly threatened to begin another 'revolution' in case of an outcome against Maoists. The verdict of the people of Nepal should be supreme and needs to be supported.
India's interests lie in ensuring that Nepal remains in the hands of Nepalese patriotic people and doesn't fall prey to the western powers or the Chinese influences that would de-Nepalise the Himalayan nation to serve their strategic goals. The Chinese obviously do not like the growing US presence and Nepal is fast becoming a playground of the two powers in their war of influence in south Asia. For whatever reasons, India has lost Nepal and also the esteem and trust of her people. Nepalese politicos and media of the secular variety love to hate India and it pay politically to bash India in election speeches. Though till now, the relations with Nepal have remained more than the 'most favoured nation' status with no passport and visa required to travel into each other's territory, (just an official I-card would suffice, such closeness marks are fast changing. Very soon visa would be required and may be the number of Gurkhas in Indian army would dwindle to a trickle for obvious reasons. Krishna Prasad Bhattarai, the first democratically elected Prime Minister of Nepal and an octogenarian politician of repute, once lamented to me in an interview that the slow death of traditional ties with India by the western oriented generation would change Nepal forever. So far every Nepali politician had his education and political training in India. Hindus of India find their religious pilgrimage circuit incomplete without visiting Pashupatinath in Kathmandu and so an average Nepali Hindu would necessarily visit Hardwar and Rameshwaram. Gradually with the weakening of Hindu centric politics in India and growing secular talibanism that thrives on hate-Hindu element, Nepal too found a feel of 'modernism' in distancing from her Hindu character and getting closer to western countries and influences. Though Nepal still officially observes Vikaram Samvat as the state calendar and the language is written in Devanagari script, things may change even in this area. Till now the state coat of arms has the famous Sanskrit lines from Ramayana - Janani Janmabhumishca Swargadapi Gariyasi - (originally Lord Rama says in Ramayana - O Laxman, the mother and the motherland are greater than the kingdom of heaven.). Nepalese of Rajasthani origin control most of the business and industry and they feel threatened by the Maoists. Now any Nepali who can afford sends his children to UK and USA for studies and not to Varanasi or Kolkata as it used to be in the past. It's quite natural too, seeing the global trend and centers of excellence situated more in the western hemisphere than in India. The other loss has been in the reduced numbers of Nepalese students in the traditional Sanskrit schools, which India had in all the religious places where Hindu sanyasins provided free education to the needy students. Nepalese students were traditionally coming to such ashram type schools in large numbers. Now as the Sanskrit teaching has been looked down by the state powers in India under a false secular dispensation, Nepal too has started looking in a different direction. With India losing space, Nepal has been targeted by Jihadis and became an easy preparation ground of ISI (Pakistan's intelligence agency) against India. It may soon become another 'NGO country' like Bangladesh if immediate steps are not taken to check and control the immense funds being pumped into Nepal by European Christian funding agencies aiming to convert Nepal's innocent Hindus. With China, Church and Islamists gaining ground in Kathmandu, it's a challenge for India's nationalists and Nepal's genuine well wishers to rethink their Nepal policy and channelise support to the democratic and cultural forces in a manner that Himalayan Hindu land doesn't lose her fragrance. With Pakistan and Bangladesh bleeding India on both sides and a threatening China on the North, we can ill afford to have a new pain in the form of a Nepal turned 'red' under a Maoist dispensation. Hopefully, Nepalese Congress and Communist Party of Nepal -United Marxist Leninist under the suave and India friendly leadership of Madhav Nepal may emerge as the final engines to the Nepalese democracy. Let's pray to Pashupati Nath to ensure that.