People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)

Vol. XXX

No. 19

May 07, 2006

Nepal: People Are Creating History


Sitaram Yechury


MOMENTOUS developments are taking place in Nepal.  The people’s upsurge  which culminated in the process  of restoration of democracy  in the country was truly massive.  South Asia has not witnessed such a massive popular uprising since the days of Bangladesh liberation. 


Following the justified rejection of the offer by the Nepali King asking seven party alliance (SPA) to form  an interim government, the people’s upsurge  turned more massive centering around the slogan  of  a constituent assembly which shall decide upon the future democratic structure in the country.  The crux of this was to define the role of the King.  Clearly, the overwhelming mood of the popular upsurge was in favour of a republican Nepal with the King having no role at all or, at best, a ceremonial role. 


As the popular movement intensified, a roadmap, based on  the historic twelve point agreement between  the seven party alliance and the Maoists, emerged. This consisted of the following:

  1. Restoration of the dissolved parliament;

  2. An interim government consisting of the seven party alliance;

  3. A decision by the parliament to hold  elections for a constituent assembly; and

  4. An official invitation by the interim government to the Maoists to come for formal negotiations. 


This roadmap has had the  agreement of both the seven party alliance and the Maoists as well as  the international community, including India. 


After some initial hiccups, this roadmap has now been finally implemented.  The Maoists on their part, have declared a three-month unilateral ceasefire to help facilitate the implementation of this understanding.  Now that the road has been laid, the journey  has begun  to reach the destination of  electing the constituent assembly.  However, as this is the first journey on this road, there are bound to be many potholes, many ups and downs that the interim government must,  carefully, overcome and repair on the way. 


One of these centres around  the modalities for the election of the constituent assembly. The SPA and the Maoists must, at the earliest, come to an agreement on this issue and set in motion the process of conducting elections on the basis of universal  adult suffrage.  Another connected issue concerns the participation of the Maoists in these elections. This is crucially dependent on the connected issue of  the disarming of the Maoists before the elections.


This is not a simple issue confined only to discussions between the SPA and the Maoists. The Royal Nepal Army  (RNA) still remains under the command of the King.  Any process of the disarming of the Maoists must be  matched to the inch by corresponding steps for the RNA. Therefore, the issue of placing the RNA under civilian control assumes great importance. These may involve the induction of a third party observer to ensure fairness, equality and transparency in these operations.  The SPA and the Maoists in their twelve point agreement have already agreed upon such an arrangement, the common  ground being  to request the United Nations to intercede.


These are decisions that must be taken urgently as they brook no delay. 


Simultaneously,  the interim government led by Girija Prasad Koirala will also need to address  urgently  the rebuilding of Nepal’s economy.  During the last two years, Nepali people were subjected to massive economic hardships. The international community, especially India, will have to  assist Nepal substantially on this score.


While Nepali people, the SPA and the Maoists will begin to address themselves seriously to these tasks at hand, they will have to remain  continuously vigilant of all possible manoeuvres that will be mounted to sabotage this process and ensure that the travel on this road may not reach  the desired destination of a constituent assembly.  One must remember that  twice, once in 1951 and the later in 1990, the Nepali people were denied  after solemn promises a constituent assembly. This cannot be allowed to  repeat. 


The year since the King abrogated democracy on February 1, 2005 has, indeed, been tumultuous for the Nepali people.  Utilising the differences between the political parties and the Maoists and the alienation of the people from both, the King had initially succeeded in consolidating his efforts to reimpose an absolute monarchy in Nepal.  Patient efforts by the political parties and the civil society in Nepal brought about the historic twelve point agreement between the SPA and the Maoists.  The decision by the Maoists to join the democratic mainstream abdicating the politics of the gun is, indeed, historic.  This galvanised the Nepali people into the action. This was in September 2005.


During the same month, a delegation of the Indian Solidarity Committee with the Nepali people visited Nepal at the invitation of the SPA. I still remember the meeting with the political leaders and the civil society of Nepal on September 29, 2005 on the lawns of  the house of the supreme leader, the late Ganesh Mansingh.  It was on these lawns, in 1990, the historic decision to launch the democracy movement was taken.  Within six months, an interim government was then formed which paved the wave for the establishment of  the two pillar – the parliament and King – democracy in Nepal.


On this occasion, speaking to the Nepali leaders,  I recollected  the famous saying of Victor Hugo, “Nobody can stop an idea whose time has come”.  Further, as Marx had said, “When an idea grips the minds of the masses, it becomes a material force.”  Democracy had, indeed,  gripped the minds of the Nepali masses.  It turned into a massive material force forcing the King  to withdraw and, once again, in six months an interim government  has been formed. 


The Nepali people have a turbulent road ahead. However, given their  confidence and the resolve, under the leadership of the SPA and the Maoists,   these challenges should be met  successfully overcoming the  obstacles.  When they do this, they shall create history by transforming this Himalayan Hindu kingdom into a modern democratic nation State based on democracy.