Nepal: People Continue To Defy Threats

4-23-06, 8:55 am

  Let's invert an old saying. When rats start running away, you may be rather sure that the ship is about to sink. In Nepal, Americans are behaving the same way. The US has issued an advisory to its citizens --- those touring Nepal must come out pronto and those planning to do so must desist. Most of the US embassy personnel in Kathmandu and their families have been evacuated; now the establishment is running with skeleton staff.   This means, precisely, that US imperialists have lost hope of Gyanendra’s survival --- of their safest bet in the country over the last five years.     Going by the way the pro-democracy movement has developed in the last one year, and gathered further momentum in the last two months, it was only to be expected. And one of the fastest to learn a lesson was the Bhutan king who, before a similar situation developed in his country, announced that he would relinquish powers in favour of a constitutional monarchy and hold elections. If there was anyone still unwilling to learn a lesson, it was Gyanendra. It was only on April 13 evening that the beleaguered king announced to hold general elections next year and hold talks with the opposition.   However, there was no wonder if the opposition, i e the seven-party alliance plus the CPN (Maoist), rejected the offer with contempt. The alliance rightly dubbed the announcement as a move to derail the pro-democracy movement, and reiterated its resolve to continue the struggle till victory.   Gyanendra’s announcement lacked many desirables. For example, he did not make clear whether the talks would include the Maoists or not. Similarly, there was no promise of releasing the political prisoners or withdrawing false cases before the elections were held. Nor was there any promise of giving compensations to the kin of those who died or to those injured because of police barbarities against the movement. If at all Gyanendra had been serious about his promise, as a first step he could at least have released the leaders of pro-democracy parties, including the CPN (UML) general secretary Madhav Nepal. Nothing of the sort was done.   On its part, the seven-party alliance has begun to assume the aura of authority. It, for instance, announced that once it scored victory, the hospitals and dispensaries treating the injured protesters free would be duly compensated. This displays the alliance’s confidence that the victory is close at hand.   And the victory seems to be close at hand. School, college and university teachers, journalists, lawyers, doctors, traders, transporters and many other sections have joined the protest. The royal government offered full army protection to the trucks bringing goods into the country and Rs 3500 to every truck reaching the capital. But to no avail. The closure of so many markets is depriving the monarchy of a big source of revenue. When the alliance called for non-payment of power, telephone and other bills, the monarch ordered the employees to go out and collect the dues. But numerous employees have refused to do so. As a cumulative result of many such developments, the economy is now dangerously close to bankruptcy. Yet the people are ready to bear the shortage of goods and services instead of giving up.     The depth of the protest can be gauged from the way the UNICEF has expressed concern over the children’s involvement in protest actions and over the injuries caused to them by firings and other police actions. The UNICEF said children have simply no job to be there in protest actions. True. But if even 12 to 16 year olds are out there in the streets, is it not something ominous for Gyanendra & Coterie?    On April 17, as a last resort to stem the crisis, the king threatened to impose emergency a second time. But this threat has already been there since the recent four-day strike commenced, and reportedly the draft of an emergency proclamation is ready. However, so far the king has failed to gather the nerve to sign it. Martial law is also being contemplated. But such threats have plainly failed to deter the people who, like so many heroes, continue to defy them.   On the same day, the king also invited the former prime ministers for informal consultations, and three of them responded. But they too failed to suggest a way to diffuse the crisis. Media reports showed them unsatisfied with the concessions the king was willing to offer. But the important thing about these three ‘luminaries’ is that they lack credibility among the people. All the three were among the props of late King Birendra’s so-called non-party democracy that the people brought down in 1990. Nay, two of them were parts of the cabinet that took over after the king dismissed the Deuba government on February 1, 2005.     As one of the latest developments, families of many serving or retired army personnel have come out into the streets and begun to issue appeals to the security personnel to join the protest. This means the last prop of the monarchy is also tottering.    The ship is about to sink --- truly.

From People's Democracy