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Himalayan task ahead

After years of chaos and violence, Nepal appears all set to enter a golden era of peace and stability — unless the Maoists upset the applecart.

india Updated:

After years of chaos and violence, Nepal appears all set to enter a golden era of peace and stability — unless the Maoists upset the applecart. Ever since King Gyanendra lost his grip over the country and democracy made a comeback, the coalition government of Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala has bent over backwards to accommodate the Maoists in a future set-up. Yet, many disquieting elements remain. The Maoists may have come to the negotiating table but they seem averse to giving up their old authoritarian ways. This explains why their cadres seized vast amounts of land that belonged to the king and raised the red flag on them. Undoubtedly, the king has no business to hold on to such quantities of land. Indeed, it should be distributed equitably. But in any democracy, there is a due process under which this is done. Nepal cannot go the way of Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, whose mindless land confiscation operations have left the once rich nation beggared. Mr Koirala has rightfully asked the Maoists to return the land along with property forcefully taken away from others.

The Maoists must understand that having come into the mainstream, they have to play by the rules. So far, they have not made any positive contribution to fashioning a future vision for the impoverished Himalayan nation. Instead, they have sought to subvert the democratic process by deviating from their commitment to lay down arms. In fact, a Maoist MP was recently caught entering Parliament with a weapon. The Maoists also need to get away from their obsession with the monarchy. The king has been cut down to size and will eventually have to contend with the role of a mere figurehead. But at no time should the Maoists be seen to indulge in a witch-hunt against him. This will only generate sympathy for him. Once the interim government is set up, the king can be called upon to answer for his misdeeds within a democratic framework.

The Maoists should get their priorities right. The first task of the interim government should be to stabilise the shattered economy. If the Maoists claim to truly represent the people, they should put the people’s interests above all.