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Himalayan Blunder

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The King of Nepal, Gyanendra, who came to power after the royal massacre three years ago, has sacked his hand-picked government, stifled the nascent democracy in the Himalayan kingdom and cut off access to Nepal. Oh, and he has assumed absolute power for three years.

Updates and breaking news at NepalNow – somewhat partisan

The Royal Nepal Army has laid siege to the television stations, radio stations and shut down air traffic, stranding hundreds. Phone lines are dead and Internet connectivity snapped, with web sites blacked out. The Army has taken up position on the border at Birganj, checking all vehicles entering the kingdom.

Democracy – Nepal style

Nepal has been grappling with a Maoist insurgency for many years, with a few districts under the suzerainty of the Maoist guerrillas. The King’s statement expresses the opinion that the government has failed to achieve breakthroughs with the Maoists.

The monarch, in a televised address to the nation, accused the government of failing to restore peace and not taking steps for the conduct of parliamentary elections.

“I have decided to dissolve the government because it has failed to make necessary arrangements to hold elections by April and protect democracy, the sovereignty of the people and life and property,” the king said.

“I have exercised the rights given to the crown under the present constitution and dissolved the government for the larger interests of the people, country and protection of sovereignty,” he said.

Accusing political parties of ‘indulging in factional fighting’, the monarch said, “In fact, all the democratic forces and political leaders should have united to protect the country’s democracy, national sovereignty, people’s life and property and also protect the country’s economic infrastructure.

“Innocent children were found massacred and the government could not achieve any important and effective results. The crown traditionally is held responsible for the protection of national sovereignty, democracy and also people’s right to live peacefully.

“It is the duty of the crown to protect all these segments of society,” he said.

Interesting thought – authoritarianism in the defence of democracy

The UN, the United States and big brother India have all expressed concern and displeasure over these developments. Nepal has long had strong authoritarian tendencies. I blogged briefly about this last year.

Long perceived as a crucial buffer state between the elephant and the dragon, the Hindu kingdom of Nepal has acutely felt the pressures. Pre-independence, the British did not push too hard for annexation of the kingdom, preferring to retain a resident for economic and political purposes. The capital, Kathmandu, became a nexus in the Great Game between the colonial powers. Just post-independence, India encouraged a long-suppressed desire by the King of Nepal to escape from the de facto rule of the Ranas, providing a safe haven and transit to King Tribhuvan, until the Ranas capitulated and ceded governing authority to the titular monarch. In more recent times, India has been more interested in preserving access to Nepalese trade and maintaining the status quo against the Maoist rebels, who have been propped up by China. The massacre of most of the Nepalese royal family in 2001 is still shrouded in mystery, and allegations of collusion by everyone from the CIA to India, and China.

King Gyanendra is perhaps the only king in history to have reigned twice – separated by a span of fifty years. When King Tribhuvan escaped to India, the young child Gyanendra was crowned in his stead.

More details on events in Nepal here. Fine summary on Nepal’s struggles with democracy here. Possible spillover into India discussed here.

Most links on this page to *.np sites do not work currently.

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  • RJ

    What’s the population there? Like 5 or 10 million?

  • According to the latest census of 2001, Nepal’s population was 23,151,423 as of June 2001. The annual average growth rate of population during the last decade i.e. 1991-2001 was 2.25 percent (CBS 2002). The census also revealed that the sex ratio i.e. males per 100 females was 99.8. In other words 49.95 percent of the total population was male, while the females comprised 50.05 percent of the population.

  • RJ

    Thanks for the info! 🙂

  • Optical fiber to connect Nepal, China (Interesting)

    by jamyang on 01/02/05 17:42
    User #79 Info | http://openflows.org/

    Tuesday, December 07,2004: KATHMANDU POST: With the proposed inception of Arniko Highway Optical Fiber Project, Nepal could soon be connected to the outside world via China. Moreover, with this project and the existing East-West Optical Highway project, which is partially completed, Nepal could soon have alternative to the existing satellite communication means.


    “With this project, we will be able to connect Kathmandu to Hong Kong via Beijing and this will provide alternative to existing satellite communication means,” said Goel.


    Moreover, NT is seeking assistance from Indian government for the second phase of the project, which will cover Birtamod to Kakarvitta and Lamahi to Mahendranagar- a total of 900 km. Both phases of this project would link Nepal to India via multiple connecting points.

    “Both the Arniko Highway Project and the East West Highway Optical Fiber Project will provide alternative communication routes, and, as a result, we won�?t have to rely only on the existing satellite communication channels only,” said the senior engineer.


    According to the estimation of the NT, the total cost of the project would be around 260 million rupees, all of which is to be provided by Chinese government. . .

  • JM

    There never was real bourgeois democracy in Nepal, the King always controlled the army.

    The situation is tense over there, and it seems clear the only hope for th Nepalese people is the Maoists.

    I was reading the reports of someone who traveled with the maoists for some weeks and though I would share them here.


  • RJ

    “it seems clear the only hope for th Nepalese people is the Maoists.”

    Are you serious?

  • No – he’s a Maoist

  • RJ

    “No – he’s a Maoist”

    Heh… 😛

  • blogdai

    First off, nepalnow.blogspot.com has an open line of communication to Kathmandu during this crisis. If you are concerned about the whereabouts of friends and loved ones in Kathmandu, go to nepalnow.blogspot.com

    If you yourself have or know of open e-mail, satellite or phone lines to Nepal, please post on nepalnow.blogspot.com our resources are already stretched.

    Now, it’s easy to sit back in our western hubris and recoil against anyone recinding anything called a “democracy.” The truth is, none of you live or work in Nepal. Just because something bills itself as a “democracy” doesn’t mean it is a democracy or even follows democratic principles. Nepal’s democracy experiment of the last 10 years was quickly turned into a license to steal by those in power. Furthermore, the Maoists were emboldened by the government’s corrupt incompetance. For example, last month, former PM G.P. Koirala pleaded that it was his right of dissent that allowed him to piously ignore a subpoena by the Supreme Court of Nepal. Such is the nature of democratic theory in Nepal. Get away with as much as you can under the banner of freedom.

    I’m tired of you cursory, armchair Nepal “experts” so, here’s your last morsel: Gyenendra played the China card; India is mad because all the little Maobadis have fled to Bihar and Uttaranchal and can no longer be used to destabilize and reinforce Nepal’s dependence on its big brother to the south. Deuba’s “democratic” government should have been so lucky.

    Quit posturing and do some real research.

  • Eric Olsen

    super roundup and info Aaman, thanks. The thread is fascinating too – I know absolutely nothing about any of this so I shant comment further

  • Eric, thank you. What do you think of the related cartoon on my other post – Dubyaman?

  • bb

    king has done absolutely write things in Nepal. i really support wat he has done for us.
    dirty politicians are the responsible for all this events.
    i am really sorry for those politician who are now crying for the oppertunites for themselves not for the seek of nepalese people.
    especially Girija babu and Madav sir.