Monday, April 05, 2010

Too Lame, Wouldn’t You Say?

A former prime minister and a former foreign minister who share little else in common now clamor in unison that the Americans and the Indians eliminated King Birendra and most of his family. The only way that indictment could get louder is if the incumbent premier were to open his mouth in exactly the same way. (Which he might, should he be removed from office. He was, after all, the man who so vociferously demanded the massacre probe commission and then refused to serve on it.)
This is not quite the situation the country had expected after King Gyanendra vacated Narayanhity Palace. From the rhetoric blaring throughout his five-year reign, you would have thought the new leaders would haul him to the Tudhikhel pavilion, extract a full confession and drag him to Bhadrakali for you know what. But no. Not one leader has dared respond to the challenge newly assertive citizen Gyanendra Shah laid out during his valedictory speech from the palace.
So the story line changed. Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Chakra Prasad Bastola and the others who are now likely to speak believe King Birendra’s nationalism did him in. That the “foreign hand” could become handy for everyone in its own way was made amply clear early on when Dr. Baburam Bhattarai penned that imploration on not legitimizing the new kot parba. Dahal used the Birendra-the-nationalist wrap for, among other things, personal effect. Should he be silenced – even by a loony disgruntled cadre – his supposed patriotism should not.
In that sense, Bastola is in a different league. Although he later fell out with his illustrious in-law, his family loyalty seems to have persisted. After Girija Prasad Koirala’s death, he pushes the preposterous line that the then-premier was supposed to have attended what everyone knows had always been a strictly royal family affair. Moreover, Bastola expects us to forget that Birendra and Koirala were barely on speaking terms.
After the tragedy, Koirala often told us that the palace massacre was part of a ‘grand design’. But over the preceding months, the king and his premier had drifted far apart on a variety of national and international issues, including mobilizing the military against the Maoists, the bill granting millions of Indians citizenship and relations with China, to name a few.
Koirala had described the Hrithik Roshan riots as actually being an outburst of popular sentiment against the monarchy. Birendra had taken the unprecedented step of convening a cabinet meeting in the palace. And in the run-up to that fateful Friday, didn’t Koirala gush more than once at how he was finally about to feel like a truly popularly elected premier. If Bastola wanted to absolve Koirala of any role in the massacre – which seems to be his prime motive – he should have paid more attention to concocting a more believable story.
The Americans and Indians don’t seem terribly perturbed by these recent allegations. And why should they. The international left and the right has always castigated U.S. intelligence’s dirty tricks in Asia, Africa and Latin America knowing full well that the agencies concerned never respond to such allegations. As for the Indian intel guys and gals, they are no less impervious than their American counterparts. But they have an added reason for indifference. Dahal couldn’t have maintained his celebrated subterranean existence all those years without their assistance. Nor could Bastola have emerged as one of the central figures in the Forbesgunj hijacking and cashed it in politically for so long.