A rev­o­lu­tion de­voured by its par­ents?

People's Review - - COMMENTARY - By Maila Baje

Amid the drea­ri­ness of daily po­lit­i­cal nar­ra­tive, it is re­fresh­ing once in a while to pro­ceed along par­al­lelisms no mat­ter how out­landish they might sound. How does a coun­try's jour­ney from point A to B end up at a lower-case e in light ital­ics? And can we be sure we have ar­rived? A uni­fied com­mu­nist party fus­ing the two best in­doc­tri­nated and or­ga­nized com­rades drives a gov­ern­ment en­joy­ing a mas­sive leg­isla­tive man­date. In­stead of ad­min­is­ter­ing ‘ new Nepal', it is mud­dling from cri­sis to cri­sis. Of the three pil­lars of our re­designed state, sec­u­lar­ism was first to shake. The only rea­son it still stands is the split be­tween the monar­chi­cal and repub­li­can ad­vo­cates of Hindu state­hood. There are other in­trigu­ing as­pects to the pre­cip­i­tous rise in anti-sec­u­lar­ism sen­ti­ments. Was the im­petu­ous and enig­matic dec­la­ra­tion on the abo­li­tion of Hindu state­hood the cul­mi­na­tion of a decades­long con­spir­acy to break one of the last bar­ri­ers to the world­wide dis­sem­i­na­tion of the Good News? Was it aimed at re­mov­ing what was con­strued as the most for­mi­da­ble plank of monar­chy to cut it down to size? Or was it just an­other way of per­pet­u­at­ing desta­bi­liza­tion? If any­thing, Hin­duism has had an un­prece­dented and un­ex­pected re­vival in sec­u­lar Nepal. Still, our as­ton­ish­ment at the plight of sec­u­lar­ism pales in com­par­i­son to that vis-à-vis the dark clouds hov­er­ing above fed­er­al­ism. Not even a year into its ex­is­tence, that pil­lar is slowly but surely be­ing ques­tioned on struc­tural grounds. The con­tro­versy over the ad­di­tional tax bur­den is symp­to­matic of a wider re-eval­u­a­tion likely to en­sue sooner rather than later. Repub­li­can­ism has proven more re­silient. It has be­come fash­ion­able to at­tribute its suc­cess to the un­pop­u­lar­ity of the ex-monarch which is only sur­passed by that of the ex-heir ap­par­ent. Less con­spic­u­ous in our col­lec­tive con­sid­er­a­tion is the con­tin­u­ing child­hood of the can­di­date for ‘baby king'. The more crit­i­cal fac­tor, though, may be the rel­a­tive suc­cess of the pres­i­dency. Com­pared to the oc­cu­pants of other in­sti­tu­tions of state, Ram Baran Ya­dav and now, Bidya Bhan­dari, have dis­charged their du­ties with re­mark­able deco­rum and dig­nity. Granted, they have been able to dodge se­ri­ous con­tro­versy be­cause of the cer­e­mo­ni­al­ism of their of­fice. Yet it is the in­di­vid­ual that has made the in­sti­tu­tion count. Even if the pres­i­dency were to main­tain its record of pro­bity and rec­ti­tude, would it be able to com­pen­sate for the rick­eti­ness of new Nepal's other two pil­lars? That re­mains in the realm of the fu­ture. There is value for all stake­hold­ers – ex­ter­nal and in­ter­nal – in re­vis­it­ing and reeval­u­at­ing how it all be­gan and what went on mid­way to grasp where things are now. Chan­dra Prakash Ga­jurel, who once headed the Maoists' in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions de­part­ment, put things very suc­cinctly the other day in

an in­ter­view with BBC Ra­dio's Nepali Ser­vice. Ga­jurel is now lan­guish­ing in the side­lines as a mem­ber of Mo­han Baidya's more rad­i­cal but rump group. In the in­ter­view, Ga­jurel con­ceded that the Maoists ended up fur­ther­ing In­dia's in­ter­ests in Nepal. How­ever, he was not pre­pared to con­cede that the Maoists had served as fifth col­umns. When the rag­tag band of Nepali rad­i­cals rose up against the monar­chy and the par­lia­men­tary sys­tem, In­dia had lit­tle use for them. Hav­ing kept the Maoists in re­serve, in Ga­jurel's telling, the In­di­ans brought them out when they needed to chas­tise the monarch. De­spite the palace's co­zi­ness with China and Pak­istan, New Delhi wasn't ready to dis­pense with Nepal's roy­alty. When events took their course, In­dia didn't feel ter­ri­bly sorry. Noth­ing ground-break­ing here. Where Ga­jurel gets in­ter­est­ing is when he de­scribes how the Maoist lead­er­ship went on to join hands with the par­lia­men­tary forces. Ga­jurel has some cred­i­bil­ity in call­ing this a be­trayal of the rev­o­lu­tion be­cause both he and Baidya were in de­ten­tion in In­dia while the events lead­ing up to the 12 Point Agree­ment un­folded in New Delhi. On the other hand, if Pushpa Ka­mal Da­hal and Babu­ram Bhat­tarai ul­ti­mately chose to side with the par­ties against the palace and split the dif­fer­ence, it was the tri­umph of prag­ma­tism over prin­ci­ple. A one-party peo­ple's repub­lic of Nepal was al­ways in­con­ceiv­able, even in the event of a full and for­mal Chi­nese takeover. Prag­ma­tism in in­put im­plies the in­evitabil­ity of prac­ti­cal­ity in the out­come. If Da­hal and Bhat­tarai cre­ated his­tory in the an­nals of rev­o­lu­tion by ef­fect­ing a be­trayal from the top, as Ga­jurel avers, he him­self has grasped the op­por­tu­nity la­tent in let­ting ‘what should be' pre­vail over ‘what is'. China, In­dia and the West – in that pre­cise or­der – have ben­e­fited from new Nepal, after hav­ing com­mit­ted so heav­ily to sup­press the Maoist re­bel­lion on the back of the monar­chy. Each of the three ex­ter­nal stake­hold­ers is still prob­a­bly engaged in longterm cost-ben­e­fit anal­y­sis. If their col­lec­tive ob­jec­tive is to keep Nepal in sus­pended an­i­ma­tion as the sig­nif­i­cant acts of the Great Global Drama con­tinue to un­fold else­where, then they have suc­ceeded. The cy­cle thus con­tin­ues as the new em­pow­er­ment cre­ates new alien­ation. Maybe that's why, in the in­ter­view, Ga­jurel sounded quite san­guine about his aims and ul­ti­mate ac­com­plish­ments. Nepalis ig­nored Da­hal and Bhat­tarai once only to mar­vel at their machi­na­tions. Would we dare ignore Ga­jurel or Ne­tra Bikram Chand? Maybe. Not do­ing so might be the more prag­matic way, though.

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