Nepal: Whose side are you on?

Fellow blogger Mahesh Poudyal sent me a link indicating a hope that Nepal’s big brother might at last, have decided to take peoples’ side now! I went carefully through the Indian foreign secretary Shyam Sharan’s statements that he was alluding to. And although I certainly stand by Mahesh’ sentiments and support his enthusiasm, I may have to disagree with some of his optimism.

What Sharan says in regards to Nepal is two-fold. One, he offers an apology for a diplomatic faux pas. Yes, India had officially chosen to support the twin pillar of ‘monarchy and democracy’. At least one element, the monarchy, was something that huge majority of Nepalese people had got thoroughly fed up of. And Sharan’s recent statement that everything should be rather left for people of Nepal to decide is a poor rejoinder to correct the official stance. Two, even as he said it, this was an apology that was not meant to be. Because Indian administration still continues its big-brotherly demeanor towards Nepal, even within this narrative. I will explain the stances.

Apology:
The twin pillars of constitutional monarchy and multi-party democracy is a hoax. Sharan, and every matured Indian strategist knows that no place can have both a democracy and a monarchy at the same time. Or at least when they are together, the existence is based upon dominance of one over another. In Sweden, the monarchy is a misnomer. And in Saudi Arabia, the democracy is.

The reason why Government of India officially lends support to the twin pillars is to maintain the status quo. For the alternative, long struggled for by the militant leftists, has simply not been an acceptable position for India. So India would rather have a Hindu royal killer call the shots, than have godless landless communists take over.

It was this apprehension that always led India’s cautious stance towards its neighbors and dealing with them through its Shark (spelled SAARC) diplomacy. The ruling elites of India, forever afraid of its own peoples’ movements clearly have never understood the resentments of peoples of neighboring countries against their own ruling elites. Except for a brief period when Indira Gandhi decisively stood with Bangladeshi peoples, India has always continued its apathy towards neighboring peoples’ struggle against their ruling class. And so, the administration’s ‘welcoming’ Nepalese King’s suggestions should not have left Indian foreign secretary chuckling after a day. India rendered a rather much delayed reaction only after the consistently engaged active resistance led by brave Nepalese peoples on the streets that invited global attention.

And Sharan, chose the biggest diplomatic line that’s never practiced, as the quick fix remedy: We have nothing to do with another country’s problems. Let their people decide.

Not an apology:
It’s well known that Indian administration welcomed Nepalese monarchy, even though it did not have a necessity to lend a supportive ear to a brutal anti-democratic regime. And yet, at the same breadth, upon this realization, India has officially never condemned the monarchy for its anti-people stances, even as now, there is a necessity to offer some constructive criticisms, at the very least. When India mouths ‘words of support’ to the unjust regime, then Sharan does not see it as an interference! Only when despite pricking conscience, India decides to remain silent, then the bureaucrat justifies it on grounds of non-interference policy! Nice for the dynasty. Unfair to the people who are braving police atrocities just so that someone will take notice and come to aid.

But with due respects, Mr Sharan’s sentiments are suspect. “Not accepting or refusing” King’s offer does not amount to “not taking sides”. Every diplomat of any worth should know that indifference means taking sides of the present ruling class. By not “condemning” in strongest possible words the police atrocities of Nepalese monarchy, its inhuman curfew impositions that has claimed more than a dozen civilian lives in the hands of perpetrators, and its continued state of emergency that has paralyzed peoples’ liberties –India has actively demonstrated its role in letting things remain the way they are, in effect, in favor of the monarchy.

Not only India has chosen sides to support the monarchy, simply by not supporting the people who are on the streets now, it has also chosen to amplify its anti-people stance too, by condemning the Maoists. Sharan says, “When we said India stands for multiparty democracy and constitutional monarchy, we were reflecting nothing more than what the people of Nepal themselves and the political parties themselves had committed to. So, you should not take this as something that was prescribed by the Government of India.”

This is the classic case of double-talk. Obviously, for Sharan, ‘people’ must be a different breed. For he and his likes have always conveniently overlooked the people who have been oppressed and murdered because of anti-people regime in Nepal. For, these are not the people who have ever welcomed “constitutional monarchy” as much as Indian administration has fancied.

Naturally enough, Sharan says, “We are in touch with the political parties and we have been in touch with the Palace as well essentially to try and play as constructive a role as we can to defuse the situation. We have not been in touch with the Maoists.” That the Government of India is in touch with the Palace and yet not in touch with the main opposition, the Maoists, says a lot about the governmental bias. For more than decade, Maoists have been the only group of people protesting monarchy on matters of principles, and Indian administration has not just ignored them, but also condemned them from time to time. Within its own territory, Indian government has outlawed any such outfit too. Sharan knows only too well, that unlike anywhere else in the world, Maoists have a huge support base in Nepal among common people. So is there an official line?

Sharan says, “If there are negotiations through which the Maoists can be brought into the political mainstream, but on the basis of the principles of multiparty democracy and on the clear abandonment of violence as a political tool, I think this is something that should be welcomed. So, yes, certainly there is a need for them to be brought into the political mainstream but it has to be on the basis of the principle of multiparty democracy and the renunciation of violence.”

It’s another classic case of big-brother arrogance. First to think that “multiparty democracy” is the solution, is to address the event, not the issue. India, the greatest multiparty democracy in the world, is a cruel joke in the name of participatory governance. Of course the bureaucrats gain the most from such system in India, and hence Sharan may not see the problem as yet. But people in Indian subcontinent know only too well, the fallacies of multiparty democracies in countries that do not have basic living amenities. No country is yet ripe for a true electoral democracy, simply because the developing economies (and large parts of first world as well) are just full of ignorant people devoid of any critical knowledge to distinguish one party from another. In so-called democracies, they merely end up voting one rogue or the other. And because enticing words like ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’ are so addictive, and have a subsuming power to overwhelm people to sense of inaction, they are the least challenged terms as well. They are the most effective way to maintain ruling class status quo and ruling elites everywhere always benefit from such rhetoric.

Secondly, Sharan knows he is beating around the bush deliberately when he talks of bringing Maoists to “mainstream politics” through clear abandonment of violence as a political tool. First this is deliberate because he knows that left wing political activists are not “mainstream” politicians, and neither are they going to preach Gandhism (nor does nuclear power state India does, btw). Second, Sharan needs to remind himself that India is cozily in touch with the “Palace” which is owned by a violent oppressor of the first degree, who is a trigger-happy police-state ruler. Before actually “interfering” with Nepalese peoples’ aspirations of supporting the so-called violent Maoists who get killed every now and then, over the Palace, (out of the 14 deaths, Maoists did not kill a single person. 13 were killed civilians killed by ruling power!), Indian administration needs to mend its own ways.

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Author: Saswat Pattanayak

Journalist, Generalist, Atheist, Poet, Lover, Photographer, Communist, Third wave Feminist, LGBT ally, Black power comrade, Peacenik, Anti-capitalist, Critical media theorist, Radical film critic, Academic non-elite…

2 thoughts on “Nepal: Whose side are you on?

  1. Saswat, what can I say? You have probably hit nail right on the head with your analysis of India’s approach (and the state’s line) on Nepali politics. With regards to Shayam Sharan’s “we’re with the people” statement, again I think pessimism is probably right placed. But, I still have to be optimistic – just because, its probably the first time that a top Indian diplomat has had to retract the state’s line on Nepali issue expressed just 24 hrs prior!

  2. You are right, Mahesh.
    My few degrees of disagreement with your optimism are not as much shades of disappointments (on the contrary, I believe that people really made India “retract” and that by itself is a huge accomplishment), as they are of skepticism…
    And, my position as someone not thoroughly convinced does not come so much from an understanding that democracy will not work (like Churchil’s analogy for India’s independence), as from an understanding that much bigger counter-revolutionary, reactionary forces are working constantly to dismantle peoples’ democracies…

    All the same, lets rejoice, one cause at a time!

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