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The Third Constitution Day

Issue September 2017

The Third Constitution Day

Siddhi B Ranjitkar


Today, Aswin 3 (September 19, 2017) our constitution completed two years of its life and turned three, and the entire Nepalese community celebrated this auspicious day, and the heads of the nations of the major countries congratulated Nepal and the Nepalese on the occasion of the anniversary of this people’s constitution. Nepalese had to bear tremendous hardship and had to keep it in their womb for 75 years before delivering it, and had to bear after birth suffering for five more months. However, Nepalese have squarely faced the challenges its opponents have posed, and successfully defended it from the assaults of the in-country and foreign opponents.


A few courageous Nepalese gave their precious and beautiful lives conceiving of the idea of the people’s constitution in 1940s. Four extraordinarily brave men such as Sukraraj Shastri (Joshi), Dharma Bhakta Mathema, Dashrath Chanda, and Ganaga Lal Shrestha gave their lives, other men such as Tanka Prasad Acharya and Ram Hari Sharma faced the life imprisonment for conceiving of the idea of a people’s constitution in 1940s.


Thereafter, political warriors such as Ganeshman Singh, Krishna Prasad Bhattarai, Pushpa Lal and BP Koirala and his brother Girija Prasad Koirala kept on the idea of a people’s constitution the fearless forerunners have conceived of in 1940s. They set up a “mukti-sena” means liberation army to fight against the despots, and sacrificed the lives of hundreds of daring soldiers and politicians to bring down the autocratic Rana family rule that had made the then King Tribhuvan not more than a puppet that was sealed off within the four walls of the so-called palace but not better than the cowsheds of the Rana rulers.


Tribhuvan delivered a speech with a promise to hold an election to a constituent assembly for crafting a people’s constitution, and promulgated an interim constitution after the fall of the Rana regime in 1951. The record of how much blood the Liberation Army soldiers and political leaders and cadre had shed was not kept but quite a lot blood had been shed for the idea of a people’s constitution. With such high price the people had paid, Tribhuvan seized the opportunity of speaking to the people through the radio speech and telling the people that an election to a constituent assembly would be held for crafting a people’s constitution but he did not keep the commitment he made to the people making the sincere people disappointed for not delivering a people’s constitution in 1950s.


In 1955, poor Tribhuvan died prematurely because of the illness he had contracted from the comparatively extravagant life the Ranas had allowed him to enjoy. By that time, the king had been so poor he had to sell the crown the last Rana Prime Minister Mohan Shumsher surrender to him as the symbolic transfer of power, and used the NPR 9 million he received from selling the crown for medical treatment in Switzerland but that money could not save him, and he died in Switzerland.


The idea of the people’s constitution remained in the womb of the people, as his son Mahendra succeeding to a new king did not want to listen to the idea of any constitution not to mention the people’s constitution. He wanted to be an absolute king but the people did not allow him, and forced him to proclaim a new constitution. He did give a new constitution but his own not the people’s constitution. However, people accepted it and even went to elect the people’s representatives for a parliament and for a new government.


Mahendra did not tolerate his own constitution and did not stand for the people’s representatives run the administration. So, he destroyed the constitution of his own creation and killed many people’s representatives and political activists opposing him in 1960s. That was an end to the people’s aspiration for the constitution people’s representatives were supposed to craft. Mahendra ruled by decree for two years


Mahendra demonstrated that he was a shrewd king and he could manipulate the people and the politicians but he never thought that his ambition for the unbridled rule would actually kill the monarchy in the time to come. He gave another constitution in 1962 for setting up a system called panchayat in which he stood on the top of all, and controlled all the politicians and operate the administration to demonstrate none but he was the one that could rule the country.


This was not the first time, an autocrat attempted to deliver a dictatorial constitution and hold down the people’s aspirations for democracy and a democratic rule. A Rana autocrat called Padma Shumsher introduced his constitution in 1947 to keep a lid on the rising people’s movement against the Rana regime but his brothers aspiring for getting the crown of the hereditary Rana prime minister threw him out of office for daring to introduce a constitution that would have even lengthened the life of the Rana regime.


Poor Mahendra also had not many years to live so he died in 1972 leaving the kingdom he so meticulously created, and the wealth he amassed selling his palace to the State, to his foreign educated son Birendra who had once said that he preferred to get elected rather than inheriting the crown. When he sat on the cozy thrown and wore the jewel-embedded crown he forgot what he had said when he was a crown prince. He tightened his absolute rule and sent anybody hinting at his uncontrolled rule, to formal or informal death. In fact, his actions had shortened the life of the panchayat his father had set up, and caused the heavy damage to the reputation of the monarchy and put the monarchy at the risk of dying.


The death came to the panchayat in 1990 when the people rose up against it under the command of Supreme Leader Ganeshman Singh. A group of the legal experts prepared a constitution putting an end to the Mahendra’s constitution of 1962. It was a great humiliation to the absolute king but he had not gone, yet. Birendra gave the feeling of his presence swapping the constitution the legal experts had prepared, and the then interim government submitted to him for proclamation with his own causing a great dismay to the people and political leaders.


Supreme Leaders Ganeshman Singh went to the palace and challenged Birendra either to accept the constitution the interim government had prepared or face the dire consequences of not doing so. Birendra capitulated to the Ganeshman’s strong voice, and half-heartedly promulgated a constitution of 1991 that recognized the constitutional monarchy. It was a fifth constitution. Legal experts and politicians had labeled the constitution as one of the best constitutions as it saved the monarchy and gave the rights to the people to chose the people’s representatives for the democratic governance.


His entire family and Birendra perished in the palace massacre on June 1, 2001. It must be the results of Birendra failing to keep the track of what the palace conspirators had been doing. Birendra had in his name thousands of hector of land, as a trust set up to find out the assets of Birendra and bring the assets under the trust, found after Nepal became the republic in 2008. The question was from where he had so much of land if he had not registered the public or the State-owned in his name, as he had not inherited those lands from his father.


After Nepal became a republic, a team of different State agencies and the local people opened up the treasury room that had remained closed at the Humandhoka old palace for so many centuries, and found that two boxes of treasury were missing. The team guessed that somebody must have opened the treasury at the time of Gyanendra during the period of 2001 to 2006 when Gyanendra was an absolute king. Malla kings had stored the valuables and restricted to open it up and used the valuables for purposes other than the extreme cases of the calamities such as famine, war, and other natural disasters.


One autocrat died only to give the birth of another. His brother Gyanendra took over what he left behind. From the very beginning, Gyanendra sidelined the elected parliament and the elected government, and set up an investigation committee on finding out what really happened in the palace on the night of June 1, 2001 when the entire family of Birendra wiped out, and many other relatives of Birendra also lost their lives. The unchallenging activities of Gyanendra had been instrumental to the demise of the monarchy. He followed the path his father Mahendra had paved in 1960s to take the monarchy to the grave. However, it took more than 55 years to reach the cemetery of the monarchy.


Gyanendra boasted that the fate had thrust the crown on his head twice. The then Rana Prime Minister Mohan Shumsher crowned Gyanendra as the king after Tribhuvan with all the family members except for Gyanendra fled to India in December 1950 when he was sure of the Liberation Army and the people’s movement toppling the Rana autocratic regime but India did not recognize the boy king, and Mohan Shumsher had to negotiate with Tribhuvan. After 50 years, Gyanendra again wore the crown his brother Birendra left dying in the indiscriminate killing of all royalties that had gathered at the Narayanhity palace on the last Friday of the month following the Nepalese calendar in 2001. Birendra had set the tradition of assembling all the members of the royalties at the Narayanhity palace on every last Friday of a month to enjoy a drink-and-dance party.


Mohan Shumsher lost his hereditary prime ministerial crown to Tribhuvan that emerged as the sole winner of the people’s revolution, as Tribhuvan got back the absolute power his grandfather had lost to the first Rana Prime Minister Jung Bahadur Kunwar in 1847. Tribhuvan could grab the power thanks to the then not visionary NC leader BP Koirala in 1951.


Gyanendra was no less ambitious than his father Mahendra, and he simply followed the political maneuvers of his father in 1960s not actually realizing that the time and the folks were not of 1960s but of 2000s: the twenty first century; majority of the young folks have had the basic education and they have the political awareness, too. Surely, the common folks were not for tolerating any absolute rule of anybody.


Following the footsteps of his father Mahendra, Gyanendra discarded the constitution of 1991 and took the absolute power in his hands and ran the administration whimsically in 2005. He appointed Tulsi Giri and Kritinidhi Bista to the positions of his deputies believing that these guys would perform as they did in 1960s. Both were the lieutenants of his father Mahendra. In appointing those old guys, Gyanendra demonstrated how much politically naive he was.


Gyanendra did not understand that he was putting his crown at the risk of falling from his head. He scrapped the constitution of 1991 that had the provision for the constitutional monarchy, and he became the despot. Destroying the constitution that had the provision for safeguarding the monarchy, Gyanendra had practically gone ahead to put an end to the monarchy.


In November 2005, Seven-party Alliance and the Maoists joined hands reaching a 12-point understanding to fight against the autocratic rule Gyanendra imposed in the 21st century. They jointly launched a peaceful protest movement, and forced Gyanendra to reinstate the parliament he had dissolved in early 2000s. In 2007, the parliament crafted and promulgated an interim constitution that paved a way for setting up a new parliament with the participation of the Maoists for forming a new government to hold an election to a constituent assembly for crafting a people’s constitution. Maoists had 83 lawmakers in the new parliament.


People elected the constituent assembly-cum-parliament in April 2008. In May 2008, the first thing the constituent assembly-cum-parliament did was to vote for ending the monarchy and driving Gyanendra out of the Narayanhity palace. By that time, he had been a helpless fellow losing everything he had grabbed after the massacre of Birendra. He became one of the common folks. He was lucky that he did not need to face the fate of his brother Birendra, and could live as a human for the rest of life enjoying benefits even more than the common folks.


The constituent assembly completed its mission to finish off the monarchy but it did not succeed in its mission to craft a people’s mission. Crafting a constitution acceptable to all the political leaders in particular and the common folks in general was not so easy and could not be done in a short period of two years and even fours after extending its life twice for two more years.


Nepalese elected another constituent assembly in 2013. The composition of the newly elected constituent assembly drastically changed. The Maoist shifted to the third position in the new constituent assembly from the first in the previous constituent assembly. NC held the first position having the maximum number of its members in the constituent assembly, and CPN-UML became the second.


Finally, the constituent assembly delivered the people’s constitution in September 2015. The people’s president proclaimed the constitution. It took 75 years from its conception in 1940 to its delivery in 2015. It cost the lives of thousands of the political warriors starting from the 1940 and ending in 2006. Thousands of warriors became martyrs but many more have lost their lives as the unrecorded number of the soldiers of the Liberation Army in 1940s, and then 17,000 soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army from late 1990s to mid 2000s also lost their lives for making the people’s constitution a reality in 2015.


The delivery of the people’s constitution was not so smooth, too. Common folks had to undergo the after-delivery pain for five months, as the in-country and out-of-the-country opponents attempted to choke the Nepalese imposing the economic embargo obviously for suffocating the infant constitution. However, determined to save its baby constitution, common folks stood up to the challenges posed by the opponents of the new people’s constitution, and saved not only the infant constitution but also the sovereignty. Thus, this event proved that Nepalese could unite behind the people’s constitution, and safeguard it against any assaults from inside and outside, and keep the sovereignty intact.


September 20, 2017

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