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Democracy Day In Nepal

Issue February 2018

Democracy Day In Nepal

Siddhi B Ranjitkar


Every year the State erroneously marks the democracy day on Falgun 7 (February 19). The then leaders had the illusion about ending the autocratic dynastic rule, even though they had ended only the Rana hereditary prime ministerial rule on this day. However, the end of Rana prime ministerial rule was not the end of the Shah dynastic rule. That was where the then strong leader of Nepali Congress BP Koirala failed in understanding the politics in detail and the consequences of the failure had been too much for the Nepalese people, as they had to lose so many beautiful lives while fighting against the Shah dynastic rule causing tremendous sufferings to the common folks not once but again and again. BP himself had to suffer throughout his life.


The then Nepali Congress (NC) launched the armed movement against the autocratic and hereditary prime minister. The army was called Liberation Army. A number of armed soldiers died. The armed revolution ended the Rana prime ministerial rule in 1951. It was similar to the Shah kings ending the 30-year rule of Prime Minister Bhimsen Thapa stating a false charge against Thapa for putting him behind the bar and then insulting him to death, and then killed Prime Minister Mathabar Singh, as the king could not remove him.


The monarchists gave every possible credit to King Tribhuvan for the fall of the Rana prime ministerial rule. They said that the king had risked even his crown to make the country a democratic. He came back triumphantly from New Delhi in India on Falgun 7, 2007 (Feb 18, 1951) after taking a shelter for about three months when the Liberation Army had already closing in to end the Rana prime ministerial rule.


Tribhuvan became the hero of the people’s revolution even though he did nothing rather King Tribhuvan passed a death sentence on four extraordinarily brave youths such as Sukra Raj Shastri, Dharma Bhakta Mathema, Ganga Lal Shrestha and Dasharath Chand for speaking up against the dynastic rule.


The irony is that Tribhuvan’s son Mahendra put up his statue above the four martyrs’ on whom Tribhuvan had passed a death sentence, which the Rana prime minister simply enforced. How could a man ordered to kill the four brave youths who had fought against the autocratic dynastic rule be not only on a par with the martyrs but even above them?


The then political leader BP Koirala had the false impression of ending the Rana prime ministerial rule means the end of the autocratic rule. He knew that the Ranas were only the prime ministers who had enforced the Shah dynastic rule setting the Shah kings aside because the Shah kings had been very weak and very poor, too. BP could not understand or arrogantly ignored the fact that the real autocratic rule had been the Shah dynastic rule.


Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru of India as a matured politician and democrat advised the stakeholders of the Nepalese power to set up an interim parliament with the appointed members representing the NC, King Tribhuvan and outgoing Rana Prime Minister, and let the parliament appoint a new prime minister, and hold an election to a constituent assembly that would craft a new constitution. Obviously, King Tribhuvan did not agree on it, and BP could not insist on creating an interim parliament. BP even could not think that the political power would be automatically transfer to King Tribhuvan in absence of a parliament.


BP agreed on the tripartite agreement on ending the Rana prime ministerial rule, and making the then Rana Prime Minister Mohan Shumsher a new prime minister again of a coalition government of NC, the king and the Ranas. Thus, BP and Tribhuvan took the power from Rana Prime Minister Mohan Shumsher and then gave it back to Mohan Shumsher as the first prime minister of the so-called democratic Nepal. Once again, the political power remained with the Rana prime minister. It must be just a trick of Tribhuvan for buying time to prepare himself for taking over the absolute power, as did the Ranas in the past.


Ganesh Man Singh sitting in the Kathmandu jail had vehemently disagreed on this tripartite agreement of the BP, Mohan Shumsher, and Tribhuvan on setting up a new government under Mohan Shumsher with the participation of representatives of the NC, of the Ranas and Tribhuvan. BP did not listen to Ganesh Man Singh. Consequently, instead of a parliament or the total victory of the Liberation Army, Nepalese got a new coalition government that was what Tribhuvan wanted; and he got it in the name of democracy thanks to BP.


The coalition government of NC, Ranas and Tribhuvan was mandated with holding an election to a constituent assembly, and institutionalizing the democratic setup. However, Tribhuvan invited the Indian civil servants for setting up a strong secretariat at the palace rather than at the Singh durbar: the secretariat of a new coalition government. He entirely disregarded his commitment to hold an election to a constituent assembly for crafting a constitution for institutionalizing democracy.


Tribhuvan knew that the coalition government would not last long, and he did not want to hold an election to a constituent assembly for crafting a new constitution. He had his representatives on the coalition cabinet. He made them his agents to destabilize the coalition government so that he could do away with the election to a constituent assembly, and soon take over the political power.


At that time BP was quite a young man. He could not demonstrate a political maturity and could not analyze the political situation and the consequences of the political events that had been happening so fast. So, BP also unknowingly became the agent of Tribhuvan indirectly for tearing down the coalition government anticipating after the fall of the Mohan Shumsher government the power would fall on the BP’s hand automatically.


So, BP did not care about holding the election to a constituent assembly for crafting a new constitution, and then holding an election to a parliament. It would be a long process for him to achieve his political ambition of gaining the position of prime minister. So, BP simply disregarded the suggestion of the then Prime Minister Mohan Shumsher of the coalition government to hold an election to a constituent assembly. BP was Home Minister at that time. So, BP also was responsible for not holding an election to a constituent assembly for crafting a people’s constitution in 1950s.


BP was a strong leader and he had the habit of not listening to anybody. Tribhuvan and his son Mahendra knew it. So, Tribhuvan and Mahendra were looking for a weak politician for making him a contender for the position of a prime minister. They found BP’s half brother Matrika Prasad Koirala the most suitable rival, and made him a prime minister bypassing the BP, which BP thought was impossible but happened.


Thereafter, the political event took a new turn. Tribhuvan’s son Mahendra became the new king after the untimely death of Tribhuvan in Switzerland in 1955. Tribhuvan was so poor; he had to sell the crown Mohan Shumsher had surrendered to King Tribhuvan as the transfer of power in America at NPR 9 million for treatment in Switzerland.


King Mahendra was shrewd and he did not want to craft a new constitution rather tried to run the administration, as did the Ranas in the immediate past. BP and his colleagues had to launch a peaceful movement called ‘bhadra-abagya andolan” demanding to craft a new constitution. BP did not realize that he did not only miss the holding of an election to a constituent assembly but also the chance of crafting a new constitution; and then he had to launch a movement to force the king to craft a new constitution.


Common folks at that time were still fresh from the people’s war and the revolution against the autocratic rule, and they had felt the freedom of speech, and they had enjoyed the fundamental civil rights after the fall of the Rana prime minister in 1951. So, BP did not have a problem of mobilizing the people’s support for the movement. Soon, King Mahendra realized that he could not go on running the administration without giving some sorts of rights to the people, and then he agreed on crafting a new constitution but in his own terms and conditions.


Again without analyzing the possible consequences of the constitution Mahendra would craft for the people, BP simply accepted and agreed on holding a parliamentary election following the constitution King Mahendra had given. BP forgot about the election to a constituent assembly; and Mahendra deliberately did not hold an election to a constituent assembly because he knew what would be the results of such an election and of a new constitution the constituent assembly would craft.


The king held an election to a parliament in 1959. Common folks overwhelmingly voted for the NC, and NC had two-thirds majority. BP could do whatever he wanted. However, he did not take this opportunity rather indulged in the dirty politics of corruption causing irregularities in the administration and in running the development projects thus BP wasted the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to consolidate the political power for the fast economic development. Consequently, BP and his party NC became infamous for corruption and even became the synonymous with corruption in a very short time.


Those irregularities in the administration and corruption in the politics were what Mahendra was waiting for because such conditions were favorable to taking over power. Within one-and-a-half year, Mahendra was sure that BP had lost the grassroots support because of his policy on narrowing down the circle of the NC leaders and cadres that had wield overwhelmingly power for running the administration. Local NC leaders became so powerful that the State administration could not do anything without the green signal of those local NC leaders. Common folks suffered very much. Thus, BP alienated the common folks.


Then, came the sudden end of the NC and its leader BP on December 15, 1960. King Mahendra took over from BP the first overwhelmingly elected prime minister; all ministers went to jail, and BP and Ganesh Man Singh had the residence within the military camp at Sundarijal in Kathmandu, as the corruption made them so weak and baseless they could not do much. Political parties went into hibernation, as Mahendra declared them illegal.


Common folks did not rise up against the killing of democracy by Mahendra, as they knew that the NC had been nothing but the party of BP and his sycophants and their party did not work for the common folks but for themselves. They shared everything among them keeping the common folks not better than used to be. Consequently, Mahendra found it very easy to take over. Nepal was back to under the absolute dynastic Shah rule.


Common folks anticipated that Mahendra would run the corruption free administration but he did not live up to the anticipation of the people. He seized everything, even the private schools and libraries to keep the people as ignorant as possible as did the Ranas in the past. Thus, Mahendra turned the clock back to the time of the Rana prime minister.


Mahendra grabbed the private land without paying any compensation for constructing the residences for his three daughters at Kamaladi just behind the clock tower in Kathmandu. He expropriated land for constructing Police Club, Bhrikuti Mandap, Rastriya Sabha Griha, National Trading stores and offices in Kathmandu. These were only a few example of how Mahendra unscrupulously took the private land for constructing whatever he wanted causing many families destitute. Mahendra removed the large stone Chaitya from the Mahaboudha area in Kathmandu to widen the road.


Nobody could speak out against the excessive land grabbing Mahendra had done. Mahendra became so powerful that anybody speaking anything even indirectly hinting at criticizing him or complaining about his administration, could go straight to heaven. So, common folks had felt the return of the autocratic dynastic rule again. Folks would lose everything if they were to dare to speak out against the king’s administration as if they were again in the regime prevailed during the Rana period.


Mahendra declared, “one language and one dress code” for all Nepalese denying the national dress of the ethnic people residing in the mountains, hills and terai: flatland in the south. Mahendra also declared ‘khas’ language, which was also called ‘Gorkha Bhasha’ as a ‘Nepali’ language, and made it the State language for all Nepalese. Thus, Mahendra stole ‘Nepali’ from the entire Nepalese to make it his own. Then, in 1965, he stopped the Radio Nepal programs on Nepal Bhasha because Mahendra did not want to listen to any other languages other than the ‘khas’, which he made it a ‘Nepali’ language. In fact, ‘khas’ is only one of the so many Nepalese languages spoken in Nepal.


Mahendra was so poor that he sold the Narayanhity palace to the State but his family and he continued to live in it. He could not inherit anything tangible from his father Tribhuvan except for the crown, as the then one Rana prime minister after another paid King Tribhuvan only a subsistence allowance and kept all the State revenue in the private pocket of the Rana prime minister. So, the longest serving (29 years) Rana Prime Minister Chandra Shumsher made a fortune for himself and his sons and even grandsons to live like princes for many generations keeping the entire Nepalese impoverished.


Then, came the time for King Mahendra to leave this mundane world for the heavenly abode. He did so on January 31, 1972 leaving behind not only his kingdom but also his widow queen. Thus, his first son Birendra got the opportunity of becoming a next absolute ruler: the king Birendra. Birednra’s brothers such as Gyanendra and Dhirendra went to cremate their beloved father Mahendra at the holy Aryaghat in Kathmandu while Birendra was crowned at the palace to enjoy the unique power of an absolute ruler.


Then, Birendra took the turns of killing anybody raising voice against his kingdom. Birendra killed opponents a number of times more than what his father Mahendra did during his 16-year term of office. Birendra’s policy on deliberately taking the political prisoners from a jail in the name of transferring them to another jail and then taking them out of the police van and shooting them at the point blank worked a number of times. The police said publicly that they had to shoot at the prisoners because they escaped from the police van. Birendra and his police believed that the common folks were so stupid to believe in the hand-cuffed prisoners could run away from the police van only to get killed by the police fire.


Birendra enjoyed the mundane life several hundred times more lavishly than his father did at the cost of the common folks. Birendra spent at least a month in the far western region every winter, and used the army helicopter for the daily ride to the mountain region on one pretext or another, and then every evening his queen and he enjoyed a drink-and-dance party at the royal camp in Surkhet. An engineer extended the temporary power line to the royal camp for light and for other purposes at the camp. Everybody including the sweepers working at the royal camp received a award at the time of an annual award ceremony. Birendra lived as a real king as told in the fairytales.


Birendra needed to have a wish; the Nepal Army met it immediately. For example, one day, Birendra asked at the time of the regular meal whether the green leaf vegetables called ‘chamsur palung’ are available. Next morning, the Nepal Army helicopter flew the vegetable from Kathmandu to Surkhet just to get in time for cooking for the regular meal. Anybody could guess how much the Nepal Army spent on such minor things to please the king.


While millions of common folks had to live in poverty, and had to go to bed with empty stomachs because the Rana prime ministers, then King Tribhuvan, and his son King Mahendra and then King Birendra stole the state treasury for spending on their lavish private life styles rather than on the economic development and not to mention on the welfare of the common folks.


Consequently, common folks became the residents of the poorest country in the world. As Ganesh Man Singh liked to say common folks had been not even citizens because they did not have the civil rights to live like citizens; they simply became the subjects of the king. So, they deserved to be poor and hungry and diseased.


The royal administration even sold the poverty for unlimited donations mostly gone to the luxurious lives of the royalties and of those living on the leftovers of the royalties. Birendra and his administration received donations from the international donor community whatever they needed for even a minor thing. Thus, they also lived on the charity of the international community.


Birendra amassed huge wealth and property. He has a huge land area in his name exposed after his violent death in the palace massacre reportedly committed by his son crown prince Dipendra on June 1, 2001. His brother Gyanendra who became the king after the death of Birendra and Dipendra in the palace massace gave 16 ropanis (one ropani=75’x75’) of land worth billions of rupees to his daughter as a dowry but the Nepal Trust opened up for taking over all the assets of Birendra got the land back through the ruling of the Supreme Court.


Informally, the public knew that anybody willing to open up a factory or a big company in Nepal needed to give free shares in the companies to the palace people including the king or his queen otherwise company owners would not be able to operate their business smoothly. One of the main tools the palace people used was the tax law. They used different tax laws to harass the companies that did not meet their wishes.


Some students wanted to submit a protest note to the Pakistani embassy in Kathmandu against the hanging of the former prime minister of Pakistan Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1979. The police stopped the students at Lainchaur on the way to the Pakistani embassy in Kathmandu. Students and the police scuffled; the students tried to break up the police cordon when the police stopped them there.


Apparently, this minor incident not concerning with the national issue took a serious political challenge to King Birendra. Students rose up against Birendra, and they wanted to abolish the monarchy in totality. Suddenly, Birendra was on the verge of getting out of the position of the absolute king. No matter whether Birendra used his own head or someone else he declared the referendum on choosing between the improved panchayat system and the multi-party system. That effectively cooled down the students’ uprising.


Birendra’s father Mahendra introduced the no-party panchayat system in 1965 to run his absolute administration. Birendra simply continued it rather even harshly and with more restriction to the public welfare and the fundamental human rights. So, common folks found it very hard to live under the panchayat regime Birendra and his sycophants ran.


Obviously, under the direct control and instructions of King Birendra, Prime Minister Surya Bahadur Thapa held the referendum on choosing between the improved panchayat and the multi-party political system in 1980. Thapa and his boss Birendra used the standing trees for making money for using in the referendum. Not only Thapa and Birendra made money but also those involved in cutting the trees causing tremendous deforestation.


Millions of supporters of the multi-party system stood in the sizzling sun for hours to vote for the multi-party in the referendum. If the votes were counted immediately after the polling then the multi-party system would have won the referendum in a huge margin. However, again Thapa and his boss Birendra took several months to transport the ballot boxes to the district headquarters for counting votes. In between, they printed a large number of ballot papers, and inserted the fake votes into the ballot boxes. At the same time, they used the royal astrologers to predict the results of referendum. Thus, they deceived the voters only to produce the faked results of the referendum as desired by King Birendra.


On the night of Thapa and his boss Birendra won the referendum, Prime Minister Thapa celebrated the event with the loud noisy music and singing at the Baluwater official residence disregarding the inconvenient caused by the noisy music and songs to the neighbors for the whole night. As a neighbor living about 200 meters to the north of the official residence of the prime minister, we could not sleep the whole night thanks to the Thapa’s celebration of the panchayat winning in the referendum.


Prime Minister Thapa must have a large sum of leftover money received from selling the forest products, and after using them in the referendum, to wine and dine his cadres for the whole night. Thus, Thapa and Birendra not only destroyed the forest but also the people’s aspirations for the multi-party political system.


After a win against the multi-party system in the referendum on choosing between the improved panchayat system and the multiparty system in 1980, Thapa and his boss Birendra indiscriminately used the State resources, and administration to repress the people’s aspirations for democracy and democratic rule, and to strictly enforce the one-man autocracy. Consequently, corruption in the administration and in the panchayat reached the peak.


Within a decade of arbitrary use of the State resources for the capricious administration of King Birendra created an environment conducive to the people’s movement to end the monarchy, which has been highly noxious to the lives of the common folks. So, the political parties officially banned had another chance of coming to life again.


Following the doctrine of the need for the democratic party and the communist party jointly fighting against the monarchy, as propagated by the founding father of the Communist Party of Nepal (CPN) Pushpa Lal in 1960 when King Mahendra toppled the democratically elected government, the then president of NC Ganesh Man Singh asked the splintered communist parties to unite into a single party to go along with the NC for fighting against the panchayat in 1990. They did fight and toppled the panchayat but not the root of the autocratic Shah dynastic rule.


Certainly, Supreme Commander of the people’s movement in 1990 Ganesh Man Singh and the communist collaborators had mistaken the panchayat for the monarchy as the political hurdle to democracy and the people’s sovereignty and ultimately the people’s welfare. So, they were happy after King Birendra agreed on reinstating the multi-party democratic system dissolving the panchayat. They thought that the autocracy had gone forever. In fact, it did not.


Consequently, within a decade, the head of the autocratic king surfaced again. After the death of two kings in the royal palace on June 1, 2001, Gyanendra became the king. Gyanendra in his public address even told the common folks that the kingdom of Nepal was the earning of his ancestors. Gyanendra thought the State was his private property earned by his ancestors. Nobody needed to go beyond that to be an absolute king.


The then crown prince Dipendra reportedly shot dead his father King Birendra, mother Queen Aishwarya, his brother and sister, and many members of the extended royal family, and then he shot himself but could not kill and remained in coma for several days, according to the palace version of the news.


The murderer crown prince became the king in coma. While Dipendra was lying in coma at the Chhauni Military Hospital in Kathmandu, the Privy Council called ‘Rajshabha Standing Committee’ declared the heinous criminal Dipendra in coma a new king. Thus, an assassin became another Shah king of Nepal in 2001 again.


After declaring the killer of parents, siblings and other royal family members Dipendra as a king, the Privy Council declared the assassin king’s uncle Gyanendra as a crown prince: the next on line to be a king. Then, the slayer King Dipendra lying in coma was declared dead paving the way for Gyanendra to be the next Shah king.


Finally, the Privy Council crowned Gyanendra a king destined to be a last one. King Gyanendra did not see the need for getting the endorsement from the parliament. Rather Gyanendra aimed at dissolving the parliament as he felt it was an obstacle to his autocratic rule the Shah dynastic rules had adopted for two-and-a-half centuries.


The then elected Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba became a useful tool for Gyanendra to achieve his ambition of being an absolute ruler so that he did not need to follow the parliamentary decisions and recommendations made by the prime minister in other words he could do whatever he would like remaining above the constitution and other laws as did his ancestors and immediate predecessors.


Gyanendra incited Deuba to dissolve the parliament and set a date for the next general elections. Deuba did so without even consulting his party President Girija Prasad Koirala not to mention the leaders of other political parties, for Which, Party President Koirala fired Prime Minister Deuba from the party membership. Gyanendra got what he wanted and needed while Deuba became the victim of the political intrigue. Deuba proved that he was a smart guy but not the competent politician.


Then, Gyanendra had been waiting for a chance to fire Prime Minister Deuba. Soon, Gyanendra got it, too when Deuba went to the palace recommending King Gyanendra to postpone the general elections set for the November in 2002. Instead of following the recommendation of the sovereign elected prime minister as required by the provision made in the then constitution, Gyanendra labeled Deuba as an incompetent prime minister and fired him for the incompetence going beyond the provision made in the constitution.


Thus, Gyanendra trashed the constitution, became the absolute king practically following the political path his father Mahendra had taken 40 years ago. The only thing has been Gyanendra remained short of banning the political parties.


Then, Gyanendra brought back the political lieutenants of his father Mahendra believing even though these guys were quite old could perform a miracle as they did in 1960s to keep Mahendra afloat at the time of the critical political situation. They were Tulsi Giri and Kritinidhi Bista. These guys became the deputies and left and right hands of Gyanendra.


Consequently in 1990, the people’s movement launched the second time coinciding with the date of Nepal declaring democracy on Falgun 7 (February 18) did not work. Many youths had already shed their lives for democracy but the second time Nepalese lost the democracy to Gyanendra. So, the question is celebrating Falgun 7 as the democracy day makes any sense when the day had been only for removing the proxy for the autocracy not real autocracy of the monarchy that betrayed Nepalese killing democracy not once but thrice. First King Tribhuvan betrayed Nepalese in 1951, then his son Mahendra in 1960, and ultimately his grandson Gyanendra in 2002. What more Nepalese needed to end the monarchy forever.


In May 2008, the then Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala proposed to end the monarchy forever so that Nepalese youths would not need to shed their blood anymore for reinstating democracy again and again means the monarchy had been an obstacle to democracy, and to declare Nepal a republic at the constituent assembly, which also had the people’s mandate to work as a parliament, which almost unanimously adopted the resolution to declare Nepal a republic ending the monarchy. Thus, Nepal became the republic.


Even today some people talk about the need for reinstating the monarchy for getting what the monarchy did in the past. The consequences of reinstating the monarchy would be the possibility of getting cut the noses, ears and even mouths of those people, who would claim justice for the common folks as the history had been that the Shah dynastic rulers had cut the noses and ears of their opponents, and then Tribhuvan killed first four youths making them martyrs in 1941, his son Mahendra killed Durga Nanda Jha even though he was Brahmin by birth not allowed by the Hindu religion to the death sentence, many more illegally in 1960s, and Birendra killed hand-cuffed political prisoners on the pretext of escaping from the police van in 1970s, and 80s, and finally King Dipendra killed his own parents and siblings and other royalties on June 1, 2001.


Other consequences would be Nepalese would be always at the risk of losing their land and homes to the royalties, as the Shah kings had expropriated land and homes of the common folks for making the bungalows for their sons and daughters, and any other structures they wanted to construct.


Do Nepalese really want these things to happen? Surely, they did not want it to happen again. So, Nepalese would never reinstate the monarchy again. They had had enough of the monarchy in the past, and common folks had suffered more than what they could tolerate.


Once again, some folks might ignorantly like to have the monarchy back. If they were to get back the Shah king then they would get back the possibility of losing their property: land and house, and their mouths shut up, as the Shah kings had habit of not liking to listen to the people’s criticism. Then, folks would find “one language one dress code for all” again. Then forget other Nepali languages, speak only ‘khas’ language, which became ‘Nepali’ stolen from the entire Nepalese people. Those who like such terms and conditions could bring back the monarchy.


February 19, 2018

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