April 20, 2006

Striking for Democracy in Nepal

Striking for Democracy in Nepal

Over a year has passed since the “constitutional” monarch decided to become an absolute one and assumed direct powers on February 1, last year, and the situation in Nepal has visibly deteriorated. And as the months go by with no apparent progress in the country’s security situation and towards restoring democracy, hope keeps on slipping further and further away. It is still not too late. Let us hope against hope.

Mahesh Thapa, Kanunisanchar and Bahas, in a letter to Open Source, 4/16/06
Protestors in Jorpati

People are defying the curfew to protest the king’s government [Nayantara/Samudaya]

Arrest on the Eve of the Strike

Lawyers and journalists were rounded up on the eve of the strike [Bikash Karki/United We Blog!]

Nepal’s recent history reads like an Oliver Stone script. A ten year long Maoist insurgency has left the country divided and 12,000 dead. In 2001 the Crown Prince brutally murdered the rest of the royal family before shooting himself. The King who then ascended the throne has since supressed the country’s nacent democracy, dismissing the government and declaring a state of emergency.

Apparently the Nepalese have had it. The general strike that began two weeks ago was supposed to last just four days, but people across Nepal continue to take to the streets in protest against the government, despite an all-day curfew and the deaths of 13 protesters killed by security forces firing into the crowd. We reached out to bloggers in Nepal and in the Nepalese diaspora to learn more about what is going on, and where they think the country is headed.

Increasingly the majority feel that the monarch is on its way down. We earned our democracy in 1990, which was snatched by the king, citing security concerns and the Maoist insurgency, in February 2005. The democracy we had may have been imperfect or incomplete, but the people want it back nonetheless.

Democracy is inevitable, it’s only a matter of when. The demand on the street is for a Democratic Republic (as opposed to a Constitutional Monarchy), and regardless of whether or not the current protests will lead to that, a Republic seems likely at one point or another, especially because the Crown Prince is possibly the least popular figure.

Sarahana, Samudaya, in a letter to Open Source, 4/17/06

Unless we reform the existing undemocratic structure from the grassroots level to the top, the realization of democratic environment seems impossible.

We believe that power should be controlled by the people of Nepal. The constituent assembly is the only solution to establish people’s supremacy, bringing an end to the King’s autocracy. Nepal is burning in political conflict, and the safe way to get out from this conflict is talk.

Mahesh Thapa, Kanunisanchar and Bahas, in a letter to Open Source, 4/16/06

Protestors in Chabahil

Protestors in Chahabil [Todd Krainin/United We Blog!]

The police administer a beating

Police administer a beating at Gongabu, where protestors were also shot [Shruti Shrestha & Santosh Acharya/United We Blog!]

There is a strong civil society in Nepal, as well as strong support around the world among Nepali diaspora, who have been grappling for years now with the challenges that would be presented by running a democratic state in the Nepali context. There is also a strong groundswell of public sentiment now for that democracy to be … a “people’s democracy” rather than a “democracy of elites”, and this sentiment is also backed by “teeth” provided by the armed Maoist rebels who have committed to be part of a multi-party democracy but only if it proves to be a very progressive democracy that addresses the many dimensions of inequality in Nepali society.

Sage Radachowsky, International Nepal Solidarity Network, in a letter to Open Source, 4/16/06

Thanks to Global Voices for their extensive coverage of Nepal.

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