Category Archives: Comment of the Moment

Nepal Needs to be Hindu Nation with Monarchy

UWB doesn’t agree with some of the ideas put forward by the writer of this comment, Dirgha Raj Prasai, which originally appeared here as a response to a UWB commentator. But we like to hear all kinds of opinions.

Dear Basti jee !

Why would there be a need of a King if Nepal can survive without it? But Nepal should not be compared to other nations. Monarch is Nepal’s alternate power. Nepal does not demand an autocratic royal institution but a pro-people institution. The institution of monarchy is such a force that fights off imperialist force to create a greater Nepal. The King of Nepal never sold the nation, pleaded before foreigners nor killed the people and will never do so. I wouldn’t have said so if I was a citizen of Japan or any other nation, I would have said that the nation will survive without the monarchy, but I am in Nepal. The geographical and class reality of Nepal is such, that the absence of monarchy would mean there will be no Nepal. Continue reading

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Daughter of a Maoist Comrade Defends Her Chairman

Posted on December 12th, 2007 by UWB

Excerpts of an article by Manushi Bhattrai, daughter of Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, in today’s Kathmandu Post titled A false alarm perhaps! that explains and provides perspectives to a controversial statement by Maoist chairman Prachanda

By Manushi Bhattarai

A statement made by Prachanda on December 4 in an interaction with the Federation of Nepalese Journalists created an apparently emergency uproar in political circles. So it may be of some significance to ask why Prachanda’s recent statement on unity with “nationalist royalists” has troubled so many minds, and what the implications of this call are.

First of all, there has to be some clarity and uniformity about what Prachanda actually said. The reports are utterly confusing. For example, the main headline of the day reads “Prachanda for tie-up with “nationalists’ royalists” [Kathmandu Post], followed by the very first line saying Prachanda “has stressed the need to forge an alliance of royalists, parliamentary parties and his own party.”
If words started getting eaten in the very first line, what would happen by the end of the report! If one is to treat the issue with more seriousness and responsibility, then it cannot be doubted that what Prachanda called for was a national unity among nationalists, democrats, and leftists.

The only issue to have pricked some people was the term royalist glued with nationalist. In the process, the weight of the entire statement has been reduced to a ‘Maoists are forging an alliance with monarchists’. Whether this is a deliberate digression from the main issue is not so much of an importance as is the need to understand why the recent emphasis on tripartite national unity is so striking.

As to why the Maoists should now talk of allying with traditional class enemies like ‘national bourgeoisie’ or even worse ‘nationalist royalist’, there is perhaps a need to shed cliched prejudices and do some homework on the Maoists. Otherwise one can continue the ramblings and sigh ‘God knows why Prachanda is saying this!’

Understanding the limitations imposed by present-day national and international situation the Maoists had entered into a new stage of peace, dialogue and diplomacy. The tri-polar antagonism was reduced to a bi-polar struggle between monarchy and democratic republicans. As the republican agenda is sure to be established at the end of the day with only procedural disagreements remaining, it makes a perfect sense to talk of other important agendas because the Constituent Assembly is not only about making Nepal a republic but making it ‘new’ in other sense as well.

The confusion about nationalist royalist is needless. Just as it makes sense for ‘baby-king’ protagonists to exist within the so-called ‘democratic’ party, and for stooges of imperialism to exist within ‘nationalist’ and ‘leftist’ forces, it should not be so difficult to find some sense in existence of nationalists among ex-royalists! Also it has never been a secret that the Maoists have some relationship with people in the Nepal Army and it has been said repeatedly that there are republicans within it. I thought all along ‘democratic’ forces were having difficult time teaching the Maoists the significance and art of peaceful reconciliation and negotiation. I didn’t know they had exchanged roles!

Another fear has been that the alliance between the Maoists and the ex-royalists is aimed at hoodwinking democracy. First of all, such an alliance is an assumed, nonexistent one. It is true that nationalism has often been pitted against democracy by autocrats, as was done during the Panchayat era. But it is precisely to avoid such an abuse that the word ‘democrats’ is deliberately inserted between ‘nationalists’ and ‘leftists’.

Click here for the complete version of the article. Manushi is a student of political science, MA, in TU.

Quitting Nepal Parliament for a Madhes Party?

Posted on December 11th, 2007 by UWB

madhesi leaders What does that mean? Who is the real convener of this force?

The news: A senior cabinet minister and three influential parliamentarians from the tarai resigned from all their party posts and public office yesterday to lead a new political front in the tarai. Senior Nepali Congress leader and Minister for Environment, Science and Technology Mahantha Thakur (middle in pic) leads the new front which is yet to take final shape. Lawmakers Hridayesh Tripathi (Nepal Sadbhavana Party-Anandi Devi) (left in pic), Mahendra Prasad Yadav (CPN-UML) and Ram Chandra Roy (Rastriya Prajatantra Party also announced their resignation from the interim parliament and from their respective parties along, with Thakur. Rastriya Janashakti Party Spokesman Sarvendra Nath Shukla, former MP Anish Ansari (NC), Ram Chandra Kushbaha (NC) Brishesh Chandra Lall (NC) and Srikrishna Yadav (CPN-UML) also quit their parties to join the new group. Addressing a press conference in the capital, the Madhesi leaders said they were forming a new political front in the tarai to launch a fresh struggle and ensure self-rule for Madhesi people. “People in Madhes want their separate administration, legislature and a separate judiciary to settle their disputes, but their demands have been rejected so far,” said Thakur, justifying his move to lead the campaign. “In essence, the Madhesi people want to end the present colonial relationship [between Kathmandu and the tarai]. (source)”

The Questions: Is that really so? Isn’t here the great role of our great southern neighbor? This talk of new front (where members of different parties in Terai have joined) wasn’t really a surprise because the rumor about that had been circulating in the political circle for quite some time. Some gossipers were suggesting us that India was trying to create a Terai force by stealing people from various mainstream political parties. This development has proved those people. Now what? Fresh rounds of agitations? Additional instability in Terai which will threaten the national integrity of Nepal (which in turn will only benefit our great southern neighbor?)

One Response to “Quitting Nepal Parliament for a Madhes Party?”

1. sagarmatha, on December 11th, 2007 at 4:33 pm Said:
Yes.. SPA’s and their followers’ Delhi durbar…..the game plan was started when 12 points agreement prepared in Hindi…

Royal Challenge to Democracy

Posted on December 10th, 2007 by UWB

The last (and suspended) king of Nepal isn’t just hibernating. He is playing games against democracy from inside the palace. An editorial from the Kathmandu Post

So King Gyanendra is not only swigging drinks and taking dips in the “heated” swimming pool waiting for the day when he will be ousted from the royal palace. Last week’s political developments have proved that the king has been quite busy rallying pro-monarchists in all the parties under the pretext of nationalism. It seems he has become quite successful in swinging Nepal’s fluid politics from one extreme to another. First it was Prachanda who said that people supporting the monarchy were also nationalists, and that they should also be taken into confidence. His party cadres are now busy defending his stance, but they have not been able to convince the people why they were attacking royalists throughout the 10-year insurgency if they were nationalists. The press and democratic groups have not spared Prachanda and the Maoists in criticizing them, and a group of senior Nepali Congress leaders has shown one-upmanship by speaking in favor of the monarchy. It seems the monarchy in Nepal is not yet a spent force.

History tells us that the Nepali Congress is the only party that has been trying hard to keep the monarchy to its size and establishing a true democratic political system. The leftists have never been reliable on this issue. During the 1980 referendum, the communists played a crucial role in defeating the multiparty system in favor of the partyless Panchayat. In 2007, the force that waged an armed struggle for over 10 years with the loss of over 14,000 lives in the name of establishing a republic has also shown its true colors. Interestingly, the NC is also not well shielded from royal infiltrations into the party. The royal palace has always stolen NC leaders or created factions within the party. King Mahendra successfully won over a number of NC bigwigs when he staged a coup in December 1960. King Birendra followed in his father’s footsteps and in 1994 played a major role in dividing the party into two groups of 36 and 74 parliamentarians, which led to the mid-term polls and the consequent political crisis.

It has hardly been a couple of months that the Nepali Congress became united, and a strong fissure has already emerged within the party in the name of a pro-monarchy group. What these leaders have been saying openly is convincing many within the party and also the public. They have been saying that the Maoists should be checked and cut down to size. But the extension of their opinion is that in order to control the Maoists, the king should be taken into confidence. The Post despises both ideas. We believe in establishing democracy through people power – neither by appeasing the monarchy nor by giving undue credit to the Maoists. The NC should not compromise on its stand in support of elections and multiparty democracy. If it takes a single step towards any extremist force, we will not be able to achieve the democracy that the people fought for in 1990 and in 2006. Let us see how it deals with the newly emerged royal challenge. (source)

The End Game: Maoists Fail to Abide by the Peace Agreement

Maoists are unquestionably the primary political party in the alliance. Unfortunately the violence and brutality perpetuated by them has not subsided. Going by the government’s lack of policy, the indications are that in any event, the Maoist will capture state power- either through forcing fraudulent elections or by brewing public discontent against the government.

By Siddhartha Thapa
Comment of the Moment (originally posted in this blog)

“The mere absence of war is not peace”, said J. F. Kennedy during the Cuban missile crisis. This statement is relevant to Nepal’s context today. Despite repeated assurances from the Maoists that they have retracted from violent politics, the reality is vastly different. Clearly, the Maoist have made a travesty out of the peace process and arms management. It has become obvious that the elections to the Constituent Assembly cannot be held in the stipulated time frame for mid June. This unfortunate circumstance is mainly due to the failure of the government to confine Maoist to peacetime politics. This failure consequently led to the rapid deterioration of law and order. The ramification of the postponement of the elections is immense – a fluid political vacuum.

The government still has not learnt from the Maoist war. It is this war, which forced the nation into a grinding halt. It is also the Maoists who have distanced the country from peacetime democratic politics. Deeper understanding is needed to comprehend the issues plaguing the country’s transition into a peaceful nation with a sustainable democracy.

Our portly political pundits need to understand that the discontented ethnic groups that have been staging agitations across the country are just now in the initial phase of their revolution. The issues of seclusion and minority rights have the necessary ingredients for the brewing of a greater revolution. Therefore, the continued dillydallying and delay in addressing ethnic issues, has the potential to push country into further quagmire– with the rise of a series of mini and counter revolutions, which could lead to the disintegration of the nation state. The ethnicity dilemma could and should have been solved at the beginning of its insurrection but unfortunately, the demands set forth by the various agitating groups have soared due to continued negligence from the government. On the other hand the Maoist insurgency has served an ideal benchmarking model for agitating groups to attain political limelight and power through the use of arms and violent politics. Continue reading

Bahunists and Bahunism: Caretakers of Nepal’s Feudal Tradition

Comment of the Moment: Originally Posted Here by Dinesh Koirala (Courtesy: Sano Baje)

[UWB: We do not necessarily agree with the following piece but decided re-publish it here mainly for two reasons: One, we respect voices from all sides. Two, the article cites two of UWB posts as "excellent examples of Bahunists in action" though the word "excellent" doesn't come for us as something to be proud of. We are strongly against any discriminations based caste and ethnicity. We support the empowerment of all communities in Nepal.]

For those of us who have lived with this phenomenon all our lives, what is described below is no big revelation. However, for the benefit of those who think Nepali politics boils down to a struggle between Royalists and Maoists, or democrats and autocrats, or centrists and extremists, they are only partially correct. There is one other critical grouping that serves as chief sponsor of the political turmoil in Nepal – the Bahunists.

Who are the Bahunists?

So who (what) exactly are the Bahunists? Well, those who believe in Maoism are Maoists; those who believe in the Royal tradition are Royalists. Similarly, those who believe in the “Bahun-baad” tradition, are the Bahunists.

What is the “Bahun-baad” tradition and who precisely are the Bahunists? Ask any Janajati, Dalit, Newar, Madhesi (or non-Brahmin individual) – he or she will provide you a dissertation on what “Bahun-baad” is and exactly how much damage the Bahunists have done to the idea of liberal democracy in Nepal.

Ask the Chhetris, the Thakuris, the Ranas, the Thapas, the Mallas, the Shresthas, the Tamrakars, the Kayasthas (etc.) the same question, and it is likely they will give you a different answer. Members of these groups are sure to know who the Bahunists are, but they probably don’t understand the phenomenon that well.

Why? Because for centuries, Bahunists have successfully performed as the mechanism that enables (and amplifies) Nepal’s feudal traditions; at the same time, the Bahunists have been successful in portraying the non-Bahunists as either the face, or the victims of feudalism.

Why are the Bahunists so Angry and Dangerous?

It is important to note that not all Brahmins are Bahunists. Just like not all Chhetris are Royalists and not all Janajatis are Maoists. This being said, all Bahunists (like other minority extremists), are bad news. Just like the hard-core Royalists give the Chhetris a bad name, the hard-core Bahunists give the Brahmins a bad name.

At least when Royalists have disagreements with other Royalists, all they do is publish trashy articles about each other in the media. When Maoists argue with other Maoists, the one with the bigger balls puts the other one in detention and then India steps in and sorts things out. Continue reading

Ethnic Assertion, Constituent Assembly Elections and Defensive Maoists

By Siddhartha Thapa
Comment of the Moment (Originally posted here.)

Even as the Terai starts to breathe again, various ethnic groups across the country have renewed their calls for further protests. The latest turmoil in the Terai is a direct consequence of the murky politics envisioned by the Maoists; the same ideologies that provided the base for the Maoist revolution – inciting of minority groups on the thesis of “self determination.”

Despite the successful conclusion of the April revolution, ethnicity has been (and remains) an unrealized but gargantuan niche in Nepalese politics. While political pundits belonging to various political systems have ignored the sentiments of ethnic minorities, the Maoists on the other hand had (till recently), masterfully exploited the niche as a catalyst to storm into power.

The nucleus of the political crisis in Nepal is the continued neglect of minority rights, primarily of the socio-cultural variety. If Nepal’s politicians continue to ignore the rights of minority groups, the ethnic issue has the potential to lead to the disintegration of the nation-state. Up to now the challenges of ethnic equality have only received moral acknowledgement. The government’s procedures to tackle these challenges are short on substantive ideology, concrete policy and as always, big on rhetoric.

The tear in Nepal’s fraternal fabric is primarily a result of Maoist policies. To begin with, the Maoists espoused the policy of ’self determination’ that proposed autonomy for minority groups (based on ethnic dimensions). As a result, the overwhelming majority of Maoist combatants hail from ethnic minorities.

But herein lies the paradox – the ethnic combatants have fought for the Maoists for equality along social, cultural, political and economic lines. This they expect to achieve through the medium of democratic dispensation which eventually will prove contradictory to the Maoist school of thought – radical communism. A classic mismanagement of expectations versus delivery capacity – the Maoists radicalization of the Nepali population has finally caught up with them.

Even after the conclusion of the April revolution, the Maoists have failed to retract from the path of violence and the Maoists remain wed to their cause of establishing one party communist republic, thereby defying the norms of multi-party democracy.

In hindsight, the political parties’ commitment to ensuring and institutionalizing an inclusive political structure remains questionable. This is mainly due to the construct of the existing internal social structure of the major political parties.
First, the ethnic representatives in the major political parties are on average, old enough to be grand parents for the newest additions to the voting population. These leaders have been completely absorbed into the Kathmandu bourgeoisie. The passion and determination to impact changes is dormant.

It is also worth noting that the majority of the ethnic leaders that belong to major political parties have for long stayed away from their home constituencies and are thus, out of touch with rural and ethnic issues. But the crux of the problem is that the leadership remains overwhelmingly caste conscious with Hindu male domination and with Brahminisation as the most distinctive feature of the entire political sphere. These leaders fear that revamping the social structure within their parties (and within the larger political context), could eventually lead to the waning of their influence, power and their future in politics.

What is also foreboding is the fact that the prelude to Constituent Assembly elections will be marred with violence. It is also predictable that elections will be fought along ethnic, geographical and religious lines, contradicting principles of secularism, ethnic integration and national harmony. Determined tongue lashers of various ideological backgrounds will stress on theocratic values that will eventually dominate the election manifestos of major political parties. But if the problem of ethnic minorities remains unaddressed (prior to the elections), the eventual outcome will be a discontented mass, no matter which party wins.

It is a foregone conclusion that the Maoists’ will keep their true intentions closely to their chest prior to attaining an electoral victory. It is by design that the Maoists will fight the elections promoting equality for minorities and promising autonomies. But the election promises contravene the principles of Maoist communism. In their bid to promote equality, Maoists like Pol-Pot in Cambodia, Chairman Mao in China and CCCP in Russia and finally, the Maoists in Nepal will also cut a swathe through social and cultural structures in effort to usher egalitarianism among the masses.

However, Maoist aspirations for equality could get compounded if the minorities fear that they are losing their cultural and social identity. The minorities will revolt to protect their religious rights, right to private property and human rights. These issues could form the basis for a new revolution. The gravity of the problem could mean that the country would have to witness a cycle of anarchy and face the threat of possible disintegration, prior to an eventual mass-based revolution against the Maoists. If the Maoists are true to their cause and are able achieve an electoral victory; it is doubtful that the radicals within their rank and file, will resist pursuing their radical ideology.

On the other hand if the political parties win, namely the Nepali Congress, the domination of the high caste Hindu male elite will continue. All state tools that can invariably affect the election results are disproportionately Chetri, Brahmin and Newar dominated – more so Brahmans. But Brahmanisation in itself is only a part of the problem. The fulcrum of the problem is the reluctance of political leaders to diversify; the fear of being displaced.

Therefore, the move towards inclusiveness will progress sluggishly causing concern to many. This lethargy heralds a scenario of further unrest. Ethnic minorities will battle hard to be heard and to preserve their social and cultural identity. And increasingly, the political direction will move towards an inclusive Nepal. However the social, cultural and more importantly the human cost of impacting changes, in an inclusive democratic Nepal will be dear.

Either way, in hindsight, it becomes abundantly clear that the April uprising was only the beginning to a long, drawn out process, intended to bring about a “new” Nepal. The uprising was just the beginning to a series of mini-revolutions and counter-revolutions that have no discernable end in sight.