Wishful thinking, Gyanendra
Pillars that once upheld monarchy have crumbled, and the probability of its revival are near zero
JUL 15 -
In local understanding, Nepali time stands for something happening late or something not happening as per schedule. But this time the clock seems to be ticking backward. First, there are groups of former MPs, after losing their lucrative jobs, who are lobbying for the revival of the dead CA. They are arguing that CA needs to be revived, even for a day or two, to affect necessary changes in the Interim Constitution so that we can go for the next round of elections. Notwithstanding the difference in the context and the situations, they take reinstatement of dissolved Parliament in April 2006 as precedence. Even Comrade Prachanda is lured by the CA reinstatement idea. Second, there are also voices, albeit small, expecting the reinstitution of the Constitutions of 1990. They reason that with no provision for second rounds of CA elections, the Constitution has failed. So the only logical move is to revive the 1990 Constitution. Third, with the dissolution of CA and failure to draft a new constitution; and with so much discord between and within political parties, pro-monarchists—including pro-Hindu, anti-secularists and anti-federalists—are speaking louder.
On 24 October 2007, I contributed an essay to the Post (“Counting the days of monarchy”) giving reasons why Nepali people were eagerly waiting to see off a more than two-centuries old, outdated and equally corrupt institution. The system was not just corrupting the things around it; it was also rotting from within. What we saw on the fateful night of June 1, 2001 was a total collapse of the system. With the intensification of the Maoist war and signing of the pact with seven political parties, monarchy was destined to go. When our Southern neighbour, India, started to rethink its concept of twin pillar, the whole edifice crumbled. The then US ambassador’s sceptical comment about not wanting to see the ex-king “clinging to a helicopter” must have come as a final blow. If we were so sure that the monarchy would go, what about its comeback?
The probability of reviving a monarchy is near zero. Former king Gyanendra may be bolstered by the mass gatherings of onlookers, colourful sadhus and especially the mass meeting of pro-monarchist Kamal Thapa in Kathmandu. But his dream of making a comeback is nothing more than wishful thinking. Monarchy in Nepal is long dead. Reviving the monarchy would be like winding back the clock. Nepali people are in no mood to accept even the concept of a ceremonial king, and forget about Gyanendra’s dream of becoming a guardian king.
If the gatherings of people are an indicator of his popularity, far more people attended when a series of felicitation programs were organised in his honour after his coming to power in 2002. Forget about the common people; even Nepal’s tycoons felicitated him at Hyatt Hotel at the middle of the night. In the wake of People’s Movement in 2006, the rented crowds simply vanished into thin air. Rich businessmen, who once erected—as a show of chakadi—more than life-size pictures of king Gyanendra at the Durbar Marg, have switched sides with the slightest change of winds.
Nepal’s monarchy was fundamentally based on the foundations of: (1) Hinduism, (2) centralized state, (3) the concept of single language, culture and identity and (4) exclusionary character. During the last six years, all these foundations have been effectively weakened or pulled down to the ground. It is one thing that we have not been able to build a new structure, because we are still arguing over the foundations. But this is not to imply a return to monarchy.
Take the case of Hinduism. In spite of religious tolerance and coexistence, Nepal was forced to be a Hindu Kingdom. (Remember the controversy over the forceful insertion of a comma in the Constitution of 1990 by the then Prime Minister Krishna Prasad Bhattarai.) This was purposively done to draw sympathy for Hindus living in secular India. It is ironic that the successive regime of this country survived not on internal, but external legitimacy. Hinduism, as a religion, is practiced at a much higher level in India than in Nepal. If Gyanendra is wise
enough, he should be visiting Hindu shrines and temples, offering pujas and prayers for his reinstatement, not in Nepal, but in India. That would have entailed some degree of effectiveness. Similarly, other foundations of monarchy have also been destroyed. I have specifically highlighted Hinduism because this is the plank Gyanendra is currently using to make his comeback. Anyone who has visited Narayanhiti Museum could see why and how Nepal’s throne is made to be protected by the voodoo-like paintings of Kalis overhead.
Ostensibly, the former king must be thinking of the 80 percent Hindu population. The problem with Hinduism is that the other foundations of monarchy, listed above, are closely linked with Hinduism. Take the case of current debate on ethnic federalism. The primary feature of Hinduism is the caste system, which is essentially exclusionary in character. The problem is that in monarchy, there is no room for inclusive democracy. Rajja (king) may be sajha (common to all), but successive Hindu kings of Nepal failed to become the kings of commons (sajha ko raja). There are no explanations on how the monarchy would survive under the proposed federal structure. Basically, former king Gyanendra is facing a Catch-22 situation. The more he makes noise about his possible come back, the more he helps his disputing rivals come together to denounce his moves. Alternatively, if he keeps quiet he may fade into oblivion.
Posted on: 2012-07-15 08:39