Monday, January 19, 2015

Starry-Eyed And Snookered

“When the king hounded you, you came running to us considering us democrats. Now you have the audacity to call us obstructionists?”
Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) general secretary Krishna Bahadur Mahara’s pointed question to the two mainstream parties the other day wasn’t exactly new. The context has amplified its relevance.
Some of us still wonder how far from the Ratna Park perimeter the erstwhile Seven Party Alliance would have been able to push their anti-palace protests without forging that alliance with the Maoists. But for the New Delhi-brokered 12-Point Agreement, the Maoists would probably still be waging their People’s War, unable to win or lose.
Had king Gyanendra appointed Surya Bahadur Thapa as chairman of the council of ministers on the morning of February 1, 2005 instead of taking on the dual role, wouldn’t the twin-pillar principle still be the defining tenet of India’s relationship with Nepal? We certainly wouldn’t be debating a prime ministerial vs. presidential system. But would be stuck so neck deep in the number of provinces the state could shoulder?
Instead, the monarch bet on the sheer impossibility of an alliance between the mainstream parties and the Maoist rebels – and lost. The country, for its part, put its faith in the possibility of such contrived cooperation and is left hoping against hope ever since.
For a while, politicians and civil society leaders who considered themselves the new saviors told us how the violence perpetrated by the Maoists was qualitatively different. The rebels shed blood in defense of a people languishing in the vise-like grip of the military-backed monarchy. With the monarchy gone, those same groups immediately began wooing the military against the Maoists.
As the allure of a “new” Nepal descended upon us, old grievances were bound to mingle with new ones. But the grievance industry went into full production mode. The proliferation of new victims eviscerated meaning from terms like inclusion and federalism.
The royal regime was castigated internationally for beating up on Tibetan refugees here. Two years later, the Dalai Lama could be heard sighing how safer his followers in Nepal were even during the supposedly worst moments of the monarchy.
Contradictions and incongruities proliferated but were swept under the carpet, where there was only so much space. They have now surfaced in all their ugliness. Political parties ideologically inspired and organized to compete with one another – and which did so in two elections – continue to stress the urgency of consensus when it comes to producing the constitution. Majority rule – the bedrock of democratic governance – is being shamed and shunned.
Having allowed the bureaucratic-technocratic establishment to mediate among the political parties in between the elections, the military is now being asked to defend democracy.
Our absurdities have infected the realm of occultism. Astrologers are competing to burnish their credentials by pronouncing on whether we will or will not have a new constitution or whether the monarchy will or will not return.
Dream, we all must in order to go on living. But shouldn’t we also remember to wake up?