Just a brief summary of the events that have brought Nepal back into the world headlines, much to the embarrassment of many Nepalis.
Almost a year ago, King Gyanendra seized absolute power in Nepal, suspending civil liberties and sacking the government. You may recall that Gyanendra only came to power when the King and Queen were slain along with several others, by their own son. Since last February, the country has been steadily degenerating, but Maoist rebels have been growing in power for several years now. An estimated 12,000 have died in the last decade – a result of the Maoists campaign for a communist state. The rebels abandoned a four month unilateral truce earlier this year. Civil war.
This week street protests have boiled over into violence, with the police using tear gas against pro-democracy and anti-monarchy campaigners, who they insisted had been infiltrated by Maoists – a claim denied by the protestors. Placards carried slogans such as “Down with autocracy, we want democracy”. Many were arrested. A dusk-till-dawn curfew is in force all over Kathmandu; it’s been described as a ghost city.
The republican movement also enjoys new support in Nepal, somewhat galvanised by the King’s autocratic behaviour. But as long as he commands power over the police and army, the rebels are the only real opposition to the King’s rule. Last year Gyanendra even created his own government anti-Maoist militia. The average Nepali is divided between unquestioning support for the King and wanting to see an end to the monarchy. Most are tired of the political fighting, with the monarchy, opposition parties and Maoists all enjoying reputations of being untrustworthy and corrupt.
Just last week, over 100,000 people marched against the King in a provincial south-eastern town. The curfew has been very effective in stifling large-scale activity in the capital. In fact it has brought the city to a standstill. Most phone lines remain down and hundreds of people have been held without charge. South Asia casts its mind back to Indira Gandhi’s state of emergency (’75-’77).
Nepal currently has one of the worst rates of people disappearing in the world, the state of humans rights is woeful. The Seven-Party (opposition) alliance has just called for a nationwide general strike on January 26th.
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Filed in: Current affairs,Party politics,South Asia,The World