Nepal, Democracy and the King

At times diplomacy at local level does work. King Gyanendra of Nepal seems to be finally bowing to international/domestic pressure to restore democracy in his picturesque mountain country, home to the legendary Mt Everest, and trekkers’ paradise, now stricken with Maoist rebellion and pro-democracy bloody agitations.

Indeed, prior to the king’s television appearance, US Ambassador to Nepal James Moriarty warned that Gyanendra could be forced to abdicate in the next few days were he to refuse to step down.

“His time is running out,” Moriarty told reporters. “Ultimately the king will have to leave if he doesn’t compromise. And by ‘ultimately’ I mean sooner rather than later.”

The Friday compromise offered by the Nepali king may end up being enough. “With the help of elections,” Gyanendra said, “we want to revitalize the electoral bodies according to the 1990 constitution of the kingdom of Nepal. We invite the political parties to forward the name of a prime ministry candidate as soon as they can.”

Meanwhile The Independent of the UK reports…Britain, the US and India used to back King Gyanendra against the Maoists, fearing a communist state in Nepal. But as he has dismantled democracy in Nepal and taken the absolute powers of a medieval king, they have distanced themselves from him.

“If the King doesn’t act immediately … the constitutional monarchy may no longer be on the table,” the British ambassador to Nepal, Keith Bloomfield, said yesterday.

India dispatched a special envoy for urgent talks with the King yesterday, at which he was believed to have delivered a stark message from Delhi…

Interesting that monarchy is under attack in Nepal at a time when Britain celebrates 80th birth anniversary of her Queen.

Nepal’s constitution was promulgated on November 9, 1990, and is technically Nepal’s fundamental law. The constitution guarantees certain rights to all citizens, protects individual liberties, and establishes Nepal as a “multiethnic, multilingual, democratic, independent, indivisible, sovereign, Hindu and Constitutional Monarchical Kingdom� with a parliamentary government and an independent judiciary.

However King Gyanendra (r. 2001– ) dissolved both houses of parliament in May 2002 as well as three subsequent interim governments composed of a prime minister and a Council of Ministers. The last interim government was suspended on February 1, 2005, and King Gyanendra has since ruled with full executive powers assisted by an appointed 10-person crisis cabinet.

Author: SWARAAJ CHAUHAN, International Columnist

Swaraaj Chauhan describes his two-decade-long stint as a full-time journalist as eventful, purposeful, and full of joy and excitement. In 1993 he could foresee a different work culture appearing on the horizon, and decided to devote full time to teaching journalism (also, partly, with a desire to give back to the community from where he had enriched himself so much.) Alongside, he worked for about a year in 1993 for the US State Department's SPAN magazine, a nearly five-decade-old art and culture monthly magazine promoting US-India relations. It gave him an excellent opportunity to learn about things American, plus the pleasure of playing tennis in the lavish American embassy compound in the heart of New Delhi. In !995 he joined WWF-India as a full-time media and environment education consultant and worked there for five years travelling a great deal, including to Husum in Germany as a part of the international team to formulate WWF's Eco-tourism policy. He taught journalism to honors students in a college affiliated to the University of Delhi, as also at the prestigious Indian Institute of Mass Communication where he lectured on "Development Journalism" to mid-career journalists/Information officers from the SAARC, African, East European and Latin American countries, for eight years. In 2004 the BBC World Service Trust (BBC WST) selected him as a Trainer/Mentor for India under a European Union project. In 2008/09 He completed another European Union-funded project for the BBC WST related to Disaster Management and media coverage in two eastern States in India --- West Bengal and Orissa. Last year, he spent a couple of months in Australia and enjoyed trekking, and also taught for a while at the University of South Australia. Recently, he was appointed as a Member of the Board of Studies at Chitkara University in Chandigarh, a beautiful city in North India designed by the famous Swiss/French architect Le Corbusier. He also teaches undergraduate and postgraduate students there. He loves trekking, especially in the hills, and never misses an opportunity to play a game of tennis. The Western and Indian classical music are always within his reach for instant relaxation. And last, but not least, is his firm belief in the power of the positive thought to heal oneself and others.