Category Archives: Guest Column 2

The Royal Disconnect: Monarchy in Nepal

Why Nepali people hate monarchy?
UWB received this article from Zhao Mei. And we enjoyed reading this.

There will be many postmortems on the decayed cadaver of the royal Rana and Shah families. The clause in the 1990 constitution of Nepal that bars criticism of the royal family and effectively places them above the law will have to be removed in a new constitution, and witnesses to the inner workings of the palace will have to be granted immunity from prosecution, before the full story of the tragic events of the past decade and the ongoing tragedy before our eyes can be fully told. What is known throughout Nepal but never openly expressed, includes the following:

Unlike the royal families of India, the Shah and Rana families never considered it necessary to prepare their children to serve a useful function in the modern world. They never sent their children out to the villages of the hills and the terai to come to understand the hardship, suffering, and despair of the great majority of the people of Nepal. They didn’t send their sons and daughters abroad to get a first class education so they could come back to Nepal and be productive contributors to Nepal’s development. In their family owned businesses, they never considered following modern business practices but relied on their political power and wealth to coerce and bribe, to deny opportunity to others, and to prevent any competition. If tobacco, alcohol, and gambling are the most profitable sources of personal revenue in Nepal, so what if it violates the central tenants of Vaishnaism and undermines the core claim to legitimacy for Nepal being a Hindu state with a Hindu king; all the better to retain a monopoly as far as possible. Rather than invest their profits in Nepal, they have stashed their profits away in foreign banks. In short, their business interests, rather than stimulating the economy, put a break on economic development.

Nor did the royal family ever interact with Nepal’s intellectuals, writers, poets, scholars, or political leaders unless they bowed and scraped and said and wrote what the palace wanted to hear. Any intellectual whose understanding of what was happening socially, culturally, or economically in Nepal led to the conclusion that change was necessary; found themselves without a job, censored, denied a visa to travel, and if they persisted, they ended up in jail. This total lack of interest in ideas and aversion to debate, resulted in Nepal’s rulers living in an intellectual vacuum. I will leave it to experts in genetics and behavioral psychology to assess the impact of one hundred and fifty years of inbreeding on the intellectual capacity and social behavior of the princes of the royal family whose reported activities have violated the moral conscience of Nepal. Mentally, as well as physically, the royal family has lived in isolation from the rest of Nepal. They do not appear to have ever made an effort to break out of the total isolation forced upon then during the Rana period, nor give up the pleasures and vices they were offered as an alternative to holding power. It appears they never understood that they could only have one or the other, but not both. As a result, they lost the moral authority to play the traditional ceremonial role as preservers of tradition and never acquired the knowledge or skills to be a positive force in the political and economic development of Nepal.

In the realm of politics, the royal family has never shown any ambition beyond holding onto, and in the case of his monarch, expanding royal power. Corruption was never an issue unless it could be used to bring down an enemy, otherwise, it was accept as “business as usual.” Any effort at social or economic reform was seen as a threat to the status and wealth of the royal family and thwarted with a combination of threats and bribes wherever necessary. Had the Palace been less reactionary in thwarting social and economic reforms, including the desperate need for land reform in western Nepal, the demands of the early 90”s in parliament for social reforms and expanded opportunities for Nepal’s minorities could have been met and the present civil conflict between the Palace and the Maobadi avoided.

Nothing could provide greater proof of the total disconnect between the Palace and the people of Nepal than King Gyanendra’s televised speech on Friday evening, April 21, 2006. Beginning his speech with “beloved countrymen” he seemed totally unaware that the feeling was not mutual, that throughout Nepal hundreds of thousands of his beloved countrymen were marching on government offices in district centers and on the Royal Palace calling for an end to the Shah dynasty. The vehemence of the curses of his subjects as they watched the broadcast, locked in their homes by a curfew and orders to “shoot on sight’ anyone venturing out, reflected the pent-up rage of a people fed up with more lies. The “meaningful exercise in multiparty democracy’ was not, as he claimed, the royal coup of February 1, 2005, but a revolution taking place at that very moment on the streets of Nepal demanding full democracy. Was the king aware that his “civil servants demonstrated [their] sincerity towards their duties” while he was speaking by deserting their offices and joining the demonstrators on the street? Did the king know that at the very moment he was praising his security personnel for “upholding their glorious traditions” his police were clubbing to death innocent women and children and his soldiers were using live ammunition and shooting to kill his beloved countrymen for daring to exercise their fundamental right to speech and assembly?

Was the king’s speech an extraordinary example of self deception? Certainly no one else in Nepal was fooled. Western reporters may be excused for not knowing that in Nepal “the Prime Minister and council of Ministers which will bear the responsibility of governing the country in accordance with the Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal- 1990” have no control over the military, and that the kings of Nepal , as Commander in Chief of the Royal Nepal Army, have never hesitated to use the army to overthrow any government that threatened their hold on power as has the present king. Did the king think that the leaders of the political parties, after being dismissed from office and thrown into prison under the king’s interpretation of the 1990 constitution, would be such fools as to fall into the same old trap again?

Serious questions are raised from listening to King Gyanendra’s speech. If the king truly believed what he said, can a monarch so ignorant of the will of his people be allowed to control an army and use it against his own people? Has the king by his own actions so undermined his own moral authority that the monarchy in Nepal has become an expensive anachronism that an impoverished Nepal can no longer afford? If this is the case, then the king has no choice but to take his entire family and go into exile.

If we assume that the king, through his extensive intelligence network knew exactly what was happening while he was speaking, and will say anything, and do anything, to hold on to power; then, prosecution rather than exile may be his fate. In attempting to turn back the clock to an earlier and more regressive period in Nepal’s history, time has run out on the monarchy and the verdict from the street is that it has no place in Nepal’s future. What ever happens to the royal family, it will certainly be the coroner’s verdict that death was caused by self inflicted wounds.

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