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A Kingsize mess

The deepening strife in Nepal is spiralling out of the control of King Gyanendra ? or, for that matter, anyone else.

india Updated: Apr 20, 2006 17:27 IST

The deepening strife in Nepal is spiralling out of the control of King Gyanendra — or, for that matter, anyone else.

Clearly, the more the king tries to quell the current unrest against his direct rule, the faster he seems to be running out of options.

Mobilising the army in Kathmandu to enforce an indefinite curfew has not only pitted it directly against the people, but it has also shut an important window of opportunity of restoring normality.

People had said that the king has done more harm to the monarchy in Nepal in a year since he seized power in February 2005 than what the Maoist rebels may have done in ten.

That may not be quite true, but the king’s management of the crisis — or lack of it — has led to the strengthening of the idea of a republican Nepal.

At the time, King Gyanendra’s argument that the takeover was necessary because political parties failed to deal with the insurgency had many takers — even when he went about dismantling Nepal’s polity, ostensibly to strengthen the fight against the insurgency.

What he needed, he said, were three years to restore peace and democracy. But it has become clear that he is not interested in restoring democracy as much as re-establishing the prerogatives of the monarchy that had been shed by his brother, King Birendra, in the face of the ‘Jana Andolan’ of 1990.

King Gyanendra has only himself to blame for pushing the agitating parties into the arms of the Maoists, as the dismal rounds of midnight raids and house arrests rule out any accommodation between the monarchy and the democratic forces.

The seven-party alliance apparently insists that this stir — dubbed ‘Jana Andolan II’ — would continue until the ‘people’s sovereignty’ is restored.

But the king’s mishandling has now ensured that the Maoists need to be cut into any deal to restore popular rule. India has maintained a silence in the face of current developments, though countries like the US have been openly critical of the monarch.

There is, of course, a lot more at stake for India than the US. But it may be time that the king was given an unequivocal message about the need to restore democracy — or get out of the way.