The deep rot in Nepal’s key institutions — the judiciary, parliament, bureaucracy and mainstream political parties — has left the people of the Himalayan country completely disillusioned. So much so that the demands for restoration of the monarchy and the country’s earlier status as a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ have started gaining momentum.
Nepal’s Supreme Court is in the midst of a debilitating crisis with all the judges ganging up against the chief justice and demanding his resignation (read this and this); the apex court hasn’t functioned for more than two weeks now.
The Chief Justice is accused of getting his close relative inducted into the federal government headed by Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba. Deuba was installed as the Prime Minister a few months ago in place of the then incumbent premier K P Sharma Oli on the orders of a bench headed by the chief justice.
The installation of Deuba as the Prime Minister has failed to usher in political stability in the country that has been rocked by power games of politicians. Nepal has suffered a lot since the advent of a decade-long Maoist insurgency that cost an estimated 14,000 lives and disappearances of thousands more.
The 2006 peace deal with the Maoists failed to bring about the promised stability and good governance since the Maoists, especially their leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal (Prachanda) turned out to be yet another corrupt and power-hungry politician.
Since then, political instability has plagued Nepal with the communists and the Maoists fighting with each other and among themselves, leading to the dismemberment of the Beijing-blessed Nepal Communist Party after a bruising power and ego battle between Prachanda and (former prime minister) Oli.
The Nepali Congress, which now heads an uneasy coalition of breakaway communists, Maoists and Madhes-based parties, has been beset with power struggles and dissidence. Deep divisions, differing agendas and contradictions within the ruling alliance have hampered the smooth functioning of the government (read this).
Nepal’s political parties have, thus, failed the people of the country (read this). Naturally, the masses have lost faith in the existing political system.
The country’s Parliament has been repeatedly subverted by successive ruling parties and coalitions. Over the past few years, barely any serious business has been transacted by Parliament and successive premiers have preferred to issue ordinances rather than introduce bills that are debated in the House.
A huge number of bills are pending in Parliament, which has been held to ransom by political parties. All parties, say political commentators in Nepal, are equally guilty of bypassing Parliament and disrupting the House at the slightest pretext.
Nepal’s bureaucracy is corrupt and deeply politicised, and often works at cross-purposes. The bureaucracy is also unresponsive and has failed to deliver. The Covid-19 pandemic, and a series of disasters that hit Nepal since the 2015 earthquake, has exposed the country’s administrative machinery as inept, myopic and corrupt.
Even the country’s President, Bidya Devi Bhandari, stands accused of misdemeanours and has often courted controversy (read this and this). The country’s highest constitutional office stands discredited and disgraced due to Bhandari’s actions and missteps.
No wonder, then, that the long-suffering masses in Nepal have started harking back to the days of the monarchy. Pro-monarchy parties and groups have started reaching out to many sections of the people, especially civil society, and have tapped into the widespread discontent with the squabbling and corrupt politicians, a non-functional Parliament, a crisis-ridden judiciary that suffers from deep systemic problems, an ineffective bureaucracy and a disgraced President.
What has made matters worse in Nepal is the deep societal tensions caused by a free run being enjoyed by Christian and Muslim proselytisers who have been luring the poor away from Hinduism. The 2015 Constitution of the country made Nepal, which was a ‘Hindu rashtra’, a secular nation.
That triggered mass-scale conversions, especially after the devastating earthquake in 2015, by Christian missionaries who came in the guise of NGOs to provide relief. The scale of conversions carried out by the Christian missionaries, especially in the rural and remote areas, is mind-boggling.
Islamist clerics and NGOs have been converting people to Islam in the Terai areas bordering India and the demography of vast swathes of ‘Madhes’ (the foothills and the plains areas of Nepal buffeted between India and the Himalayan mountains) has undergone an alarming change.
All this has caused deep societal divisions in Nepal. A resultant pushback by Hindus, who want the nation’s status as a Hindu rashtra restored. More so because the 2015 Constitution, which made Nepal a secular federal republic, has failed to deliver on all fronts.
Thus, as key institutions of the country have failed the Hindu-majority nation, the demand for a return to the era of a constitutional monarchy has gained currency and an increasing number of people, especially civil society leaders, have started expressing support for the erstwhile monarchy.
This trend is being reported in mainstream and anti-monarchy media in Nepal (read this). The rise of pro-monarchy sentiments and demands to make Hinduism the state religion once again — demands that are termed ‘regressive’ by the so-called secular and leftist press of Nepal — are being increasingly reported in newspapers and raised by political analysts and commentators.
Events, including interactions and outreach programmes as well as rallies, organised by the pro-monarchy parties like the Rastriya Prajatantra Party and the Bibeksheel Sajha Party, are attracting increasing traction and support.
“This is inevitable. The new post-monarchy order in Nepal has failed to improve the life of a lot of the people, especially those in the remote and rural areas. Poverty and hunger have, in fact, increased and vast parts of Nepal are plagued by poverty and backwardness. But politicians and bureaucrats do not care and have only enriched themselves. People are now looking for an alternative and a return to Nepal’s era as a constitutional monarchy seems increasingly attractive to the masses,” said Bipin Shrestha, a prominent lawyer and political analyst.
Large sections of the people of Nepal are illiterate and religious, and they blame the advent of Islamists and Christian missionaries and the large-scale conversions from Hinduism to Christianity and Islam as the reasons for Nepal being visited by multiple crises, both natural and man-made.
This has also led to a boost in popular demand for the country reverting to the status of a Hindu rashtra. “Vast sections of the people feel that the gods have cursed Nepal for many people forsaking Hinduism and turning to either communism or the Abrahamic cults. They feel that Nepal’s problems will get mitigated if the country becomes a Hindu nation once again,” said sociologist Pranay Giri.
Commentators point to a seemingly innocuous tea party organised late last night organised by Himani Trust, an NGO run by former King Gyanendra’s daughter-in-law, late last month. At that event, attended by deposed King Gyanendra, a host of prominent civil society leaders — artistes, writers, academics, top professionals, former judges and bureaucrats, ex-army officers and even some prominent editors — spoke openly about how the present system has failed to deliver.
“They openly said that Nepal was much better off under the constitutional monarchy and when the country was a Hindu nation. King Gyanendra heard them sympathetically,” said a senior professor of humanities at Kathmandu University who attended the event.
This has not been the only event where the present political system, judiciary and Parliament were strongly criticised and derided and pro-monarchy sentiments expressed openly. Even at social gatherings in Nepal, people have started talking openly about bringing back the Hindu king.
The buzz in Nepal about reverting to constitutional monarchy and Hindu rashtra is thus growing stronger, aided of course by the dismal failure of all institutions to live up to the expectations of the country’s masses.
Nepal’s tryst with communism and secularism appears to have been a bad nightmare which an increasing number of people of that country seem to be waking up from.
Jaideep Mazumdar is an associate editor at Swarajya.
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