Saturday, January 27, 2007

Deja Voodoo

The process of creating a new Nepal contains too many echoes of the old. Consider, for instance, the Maoists’ continuing contempt for the escalating Madhesi movement.
The Nepali Congress, Unified Marxist-Leninists and the motley parliamentary crew had displayed similar disdain for the early People Warriors. A band of misguided thugs backed by royalists struggling to ward off irrelevance, according to the mainstream view, was bent on subverting Nepalis’ hard-won democracy.
Today Maoist chairman Prachanda sounds pretty much like Khum Bahadur Khadka. The Maoists would be tamed in a week, the powerful Nepali Congress home minister had thundered after the first shots were fired in 1996. (Could this be why they chose his constituency, Dang, to take their insurgency straight into the ex-Royal Nepal Army (RNA) barracks after the collapse of the peace process in November 2001?)
Today, our president-in-waiting would be lucky to get a loyalist to head the home ministry – not entirely because of U.S. Ambassador James F. Moriarty. Louise Arbour, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, wants the Maoists and the military to face war crime trials. (Too late for that truth and reconciliation commission, eh?)
Now, Arbour probably hasn’t forgiven King Gyanendra for mounting the February 1, 2005 takeover days after she issued a stern warning in Kathmandu against the militarization of the kingdom. But she also understands that the human rights agency of the United Nations is the last international body that could afford to offend Washington by giving the Maoists a pass.
If the supreme commander of the ex-RNA is to be held responsible for mowing down two dozen protesters in April, can his counterpart expect to evade justice for the 13,000-plus deaths over the last decade?
Actually, the buck doesn’t stop there. From Operation Romeo to Kilo Sierra 2 to full military deployment under a state of emergency, every mainstream political party has blood on its hands. King Gyanendra can expect familiar company at the International Criminal Court, if it ever comes to that.
Our eight clans of new courtiers, publicly gloating over the marginalization of the monarchy, were already bothered in private by the royal silence. Deep depression, Internet gambling, spiritual introspection – what could it be? Arbour’s ardor has made things scarier.
Donning a new mustache, the monarch seems prepared for the adornments of a ceremonial monarchy. That, too, at a time when Crown Prince Paras has started making headlines for hosting a sober birthday party.
One Maoist leader thinks the palace may be preparing for an epic battle. The king is trying to buy off top Maoist leaders and media organizations, according to Pampha Bhusal. But she, too, is regurgitating her rants as an engineering student during the pre-referendum student movement. (Whether she was actually a student of Dr. Baburam Bhattarai at Pulchowk Campus remains to be established, though.)
Nepal’s rebirth should have been more propitious, especially under the midwifery of a man who took part in the struggle that forced Padma Shamsher to draw up Nepal’s first constitution.
Girija Prasad Koirala, who has been at the center of the creation of all successor statutes in one way or the other, is likely to oversee the adoption of the country’s seventh basic law. He, more than any other Nepali, is Mao Zedong’s quintessential permanent revolutionary.
That might have been a sobering thought in easier times. It certainly isn’t when followers of the Great Helmsman are driving the government, Koirala’s own health is failing and ancient grievances are dictating the march ahead. No wonder our prime minister sounds uncomfortable with all the power he has under the interim constitution.