Thursday, October 12, 2006

How About The Real Story?

Now that the Rayamajhi Commission has finally submitted its questionnaire to King Gyanendra on the “excesses” his government committed against the April Uprising, the buck may finally stop somewhere.
The panel, which hyped its determination to spare nobody, should have made public those questions. For now, whether or how the monarch responds and what the panel will do about remains uppermost on most minds.
For the record, King Gyanendra should provide a full accounting of the context of the royal takeover while explaining why his government acted in the way it had during those 19 tumultuous days.
By now, even the most inveterate critic of then-Home Minister Kamal Thapa can probably sympathize with his contention that the Maoists drove the show. The chief rebel ideologue, Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, has already disclosed how the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) had implored the Maoists to lend their armed strength to disrupt the local elections and the national polls the king had planned.
Moreover, Dr. Bhattarai has expressed fulsome gratitude to India – yes, the collective Indian state – for facilitating the SPA-Maoist accord. The record shows that New Delhi, which was toying with the idea of a joint front against the palace for a while, was goaded into action after King Gyanendra led the initiative linking China’s inclusion in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation as an observer with the admission of Afghanistan as a full member.
The record also shows that Maoist chairman Prachanda, having purged Dr. Bhattarai for, among other things, his pro-Indian inclinations, somehow suddenly forgave his transgressions and reinstated the chief ideologue before dispatching him for talks with the SPA in New Delhi.
With the SPA’s anti-palace agitation having failed to pick up momentum beyond political activists and their cousins in civil society, masses had to be mobilized from Maoist ranks – without the fingerprints.
The massive crackdown was uncharacteristic for a government that, until then, had shown remarkable tolerance for dissent. True, the press was muzzled, politicians incarcerated and political activity suppressed – but, then, there was a state of emergency in force. It seemed odd that the royal regime, vowing to snuff out the Maoist insurgency, should be going after the mainstream politicians. Considering the SPA’s inner tantrums on display since April, it’s not unreasonable to presume that the palace considered them the greater evil.
Once Chinese arms began entering Nepal, the interests of those intent on fostering another color-coded revolution converged with those bent on teaching a recalcitrant monarch a lesson in the geographical vulnerabilities of his realm. (Remember those foreign doctors already positioned in the capital to treat those they expected to be wounded during the penultimate fight against autocracy?)
A series of questions come to mind. Could the massive crackdown have been part of the script all along? Could the orders to open fire have been given by mid-level or junior officers on the scene? Could these officers have been influenced by the same forces that brought the SPA and Maoists together.
The faces in the crowd, lest we forget, were not ones Kathmandu residents normally saw. Could the intention have been to create a sudden “surge” of anger against a vicious palace? Ordinary Nepalis had reason to be angry. Royal ministers, after all, had been warning of Maoist infiltration, hadn’t they? So they must have ordered the crackdown. Too bad they hadn’t prepared for the Maoists’ coming out without their guns.
This point has become more relevant against the backdrop of the developments since April. The reinstated parliament – technically long expired – has become the longest session in country’s legislative history. The Maoists, who so energetically demanded United Nations supervision of the peace process, now believe Nepalis are capable of driving everything indigenously.
Forget the 12-point accord, even the eight-point agreement reached after Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s first talks with Prachanda seemed to suggest the signatories had worked out a post-royal regime arrangement. Who deceived whom?
It’s clear the alliance was merely a ruse to roll back Nepal’s resoluteness in asserting its sovereign rights between two regional behemoths against the ambivalence of the global hyperpower’s South Asia strategy.
As for the “excesses,” King Gyanendra should take responsibility for the 24 or so deaths. But only if the SPA and Maoists take joint responsibility for all those lives lost since in the endless chase for that fictional ‘loktantra’.