Nepal

A hope is born

Wednesday 28 May 2008, by The Himalayan Times

The Shah dynasty died yesterday. It was 239 years, eight months and three days old in unified Nepal. Many may not believe their eyes that its demise has come — much sooner than they had imagined.

The nation has observed a public holiday, but not to mourn for the monarchy. Few tears were shed. On the contrary, the Nepali people celebrated the occasion with great fanfare and festivity. Hundreds of thousands of citizens poured out on the streets of Kathmandu and the rest of the country to rejoice. Fireworks lit up the sky, the crowds sang songs and chanted slogans in a gay and triumphant mood, and the houses were illuminated. None of those who had sworn their loyalty to the monarchy till the other day came out to speak out for it. So discredited had the royalty become that even the former monarch and his supporters could not perhaps have fathomed its depth. Now, the hereditary reign has become history. It is gone - gone for good.

With the fall of the monarchy, the principal symbol of feudalism has fallen. But feudalism still pervades Nepali life, including politics, in its so many manifestations. Efforts should be stepped up to erase that. Now, the people have supplanted the monarchy as the core of Nepali nationalism and national unity. This epochal change complete, attention must now be directed to the tasks at hand - to consolidate the gains of the Nepali people’s long struggle for freedom, peace, good governance, development, justice, equity, and inclusiveness. The challenges are daunting but not insurmountable.

Everything will not automatically fall into place just because of the birth of a republic. The political parties and everyone else who counts need to strive hard to replace the wrong practices and wrong political and governing cultures with the right ones, and institute a sound mechanism for exacting accountability from public officials in all sectors. To make the political revolution or the peace process complete, a new constitution and general election have to be realised within the set timeframe. We also need to resolve other issues like the adjustment of the Maoist arms and army. In the past, too, particularly with every successful people’s movement, the political leaders had publicly pledged that nobody would be able to usurp their freedom any longer and good governance would be practised. But they could not keep their promises.

Threats to democracy exist even in a republic, as we have seen in Bangladesh and Pakistan. Unless the Nepali leaders wake up to this danger in its true proportions and put in place enough safeguards, through measures such the restructuring and reorienting of the security forces, the danger will continue to lurk in the wings. Even extraneous forces with contrary interests will then find it easier to meddle in the mess. The political forces owe it to the nation to guarantee that the Nepali people will not have to fight for the same things once again.

To safeguard the country’s vital interests, our political leaders will also have to learn to evolve a consensual approach to several key issues of national interest, such as those relating to Nepal’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, its foreign relations and security, the development and utilisation of its important natural resources. A republican order should mean better things to come. Today’s jubilation will have been repaid several times over if this dream comes true.

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