Red Salute to the Brave and Fighting People of Nepal

THE people of Nepal are once again making history. The surging waves of people's movement in this Himalayan ‘kingdom' have already forced the thoroughly isolated and infamous king on the backfoot. The autocratic king who had first usurped the royal throne through a gory palace massacre and then gone on to steal absolute power by hijacking the fledgling system of multi-party democracy has now been compelled to promise to ‘return' sovereignty to the people. Many leaders of the movement including CPN(UML) General Secretary Madhav Nepal who had been illegally detained have had to be released in the face of mounting popular opposition. It is now crystal clear that with all his American backing and military might, Gyanendra can no longer rule in his old autocratic way.

This new turning point, which hopefully marks the beginning of a decisive advance for the people of Nepal , demonstrates the great power of a united and determined popular movement. Backing the present upsurge of the people is a very broad alliance of political forces that includes virtually all shades of political streams barring perhaps only the die-hard royalists. This grand political alliance, however loose, has facilitated an unprecedented social polarisation and even soldiers and officers of theRoyal Nepalese Army have to face growing opposition from their own family members. This massive unity of the people is led predominantly by the Nepali Left, comprising both the CPN(UML) and the Maoists and it is powered by a growing republican resolve of the Nepali people that appears to be in no mood to stop with another halfway compromise.

This is where the present juncture marks a distinct step forward from that in 1990. The 1990 movement was inspired more by a desire to end the partyless panchayat system and establish an elected multi-party democracy. This time round, the movement is pitted directly against the king and the key demand goes beyond a restoration of the old arrangement to the establishment of a constituent assembly and thus possibly to the point of heralding a republican future for the country. The people's anger against Gyanendra the autocratic king has clearly begun to grow into a desire and demand for an end to the very system of monarchy. If foreign powers now try to intervene with the agenda of saving the discredited and beleaguered king, the mounting mass anger in Nepal may well explode against these foreign powers as well.

The king's current offer to cede power to an interim government headed by a prime minister nominated by the seven-party alliance to be followed by elections at an unspecified date under the 1990 constitution evades this key question of formation of a new constituent assembly. The people of Nepal do not want another elections just to have another government that the king may again happily dismiss whenever he chooses. They want a new constitution to be drafted by an elected constituent assembly. Instead of the king deciding the future of Nepal , they want the new constitution to decide the fate of the king. The leaders of the movement have therefore rightly snubbed the king's current offer and Comrade Madhav Nepal has rightly pointed out that nothing short of an elected constituent assembly could end the present imbroglio.

What is the Indian response to the present juncture in Nepal ? The Indian state continues to repeat its old twin-pillar policy for Nepal - “constitutional monarchy and multi-party democracy”. The US has clearly expressed its displeasure over the growing coordination between the seven-party alliance and the Maoists. The king's current offer to the seven-party alliance to nominate an interim prime minister and elections under the 1990 constitution is clearly in accordance with the US gameplan of ‘restoration of democracy' in Nepal . Did the Indian Prime Minister's ‘message' to the king of Nepal differ in any respect from this American agenda? Given India 's strategic partnership with the US and the growing Congress-BJP consensus on the question of foreign policy, the answer is only likely to be in the negative.

If the Indian state seeks to save the beleaguered moarchy and prevent Nepal from making its possible transition towards a leftwing republican future, the democratic people of India must oppose such an Indian intervention and stand unambiguously by the fighting people of Nepal and their republican resolve. Quite significantly, the UPA government has chosen a former Indian prince like Karan Singh as its special envoy for Nepal . There are speculations that some Left leaders may also be pressed into this act of mediation. No matter who is chosen as the messenger or mediator, the message from India must be one of emphatic and total solidarity with the people of Nepal . Victory to the brave and fighting people of Nepal !