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Myths about Monarchy in Nepal

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#1 sunil


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Posted 28 September 2006 - 08:01 AM

This article "Myths about Monarchy in Nepal" by U Bajracharya is really worth reading.

Myths about Monarchy in Nepal

By Uday Bajracharya

The recent military coup in Thailand has jolted awake the people of Nepal. The question on everybody’s mind is: will it happen in Nepal too? The Prime Minister has ruled out such a possibility but other leaders including Madhav Nepal and Bamdev Gautam aren’t so sure. They have advised caution.

Despite a clear mandate from Jana Andolan-2 to abolish the monarchy, certain forces, most notably the US, Girija Koirala and some of his colleagues in the Nepali Congress have been pushing for a ‘ceremonial’ monarchy. Girija has even reportedly advised the king to remain silent at this point because time is the greatest healer (from public hatred). The reinstated parliament has taken steps to curb the power of the king, to make the monarchy more palatable to the people. People are being made to believe that the monarchy is necessary for the unity of the nation or to stop the Maoists from coming to power and that a ‘ceremonial’ king can do no harm.

Myth about monarchy unifying Nepal

Prithvi Narayan Shah and his successors conquered the land and their relationship with the people was that of the victor and the vanquished. They saw Nepal as their ancestral property, as mentioned several times in the king’s address of 1 February 2005. Nepal’s “Unification” is an imagined myth created by the state-sponsored historians of the Panchayat regime.

The Shah kings have always been cruel to the people. Widespread repression during the royal coups of 1960 and 2005, and the brutal suppression of popular uprisings in 1962, 1990 and 2006 are recent examples of this.

The Shah kings have always suppressed the minority languages, cultures, and religions. King Mahendra did this in a systematic way through state nationalism, an ideology that was practised by dictators like Mussolini and Franco. Under King Mahendra, state nationalism mainly meant one language (Nepali), one religion (Hinduism), one dress (Daura-Suruwal and Topi) and glorifying the monarchy in various ways. Anyone who disagreed with this policy was an “anti-national element”. State nationalism flourished during the Panchayat regime. A whole generation of Nepalis grew up with these values that have now become a part of Nepalese culture to the point where doing otherwise is considered un-Nepali. I call it the Panchayat Culture. Most political parties subscribe to it today (the Maoists haven’t done so yet) and most people don’t see anything wrong with it. Undoing state nationalism is the biggest challenge for democracy in Nepal.

State nationalism restricts individual liberty and minority rights, which are some of the basic principles of democracy. It divides the people and promotes ethnic, language or religious nationalism in a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and multi-cultural society like Nepal. This is the reason why the Maoists have been able to form Maoist affiliated liberation fronts among most ethnic groups in Nepal, including the Magars who form the bulk of their army. Clearly the monarchy has divided the nation rather than united it.

Myth about monarchy stopping the Maoists

BP said his “neck was joined with the king’s” against the communist onslaught. Some sections of the Nepali Congress still consider the communists as their number one enemy. However, the Royal coup of February 2005 forced Girija to join hands with the Maoists to bring in Jana Andolan-2. As a result, the Maoists gained legitimacy and widespread support, especially among the minority communities. This has become possible also because the monarchy has made sure that the state army remained loyal to it thereby forcing some people to trust the Maoist army rather than the state army for their security.

The Maoists took up arms in 1996 and their movement grew, largely because they could recruit people who were alienated by royal rule.

The US and others are alarmed at the rise of the Maoists in Nepal and want to marginalise them while supporting the monarchy. This is like treating tuberculosis with cough medicine. They ignore the fact that the root cause of the Maoists’ rise in Nepal is the monarchy.

Myth about ‘ceremonial’ monarchy being harmless

The monarchy bounced back to power after living like a virtual prisoner of the Ranas for 104 years. It didn’t take long for King Tribhuvan to gain power after 1951, thanks to the squabbling among the politicians. BP dropped the demand for a constituent assembly and agreed to hold elections in 1959, thinking that an elected government would be invincible. Soon King Mahendra sacked the elected government and sent the politicians to jail and into the wilderness of the Panchayat regime for 30 years. After the popular uprising of 1990, the politicians wrote a constitution in which the ‘constitutional’ monarch didn’t have the power to sack the elected government. That didn’t matter; King Gyanendra sacked the elected government in October 2002 anyway and went further by ruling directly from February 2005 until he was forced out by another popular uprising in April 2006.

This shows that the monarchy can get back power from seemingly impossible positions. The current situation of the monarchy is far better than during the Rana regime and yet some people are talking about “giving space to the king” via a ‘ceremonial’ monarchy.


Nepal’s situation is different than Thailand’s as Girija said, but the Nepali army cannot turn fully professional if the monarchy remains in any form. Nepal could have abolished the monarchy in 1951 and 1990, but didn’t. It mustn’t repeat the mistake now.

The parties in the government, especially the Nepali Congress should stop thinking that they can marginalize the Maoists and the latter should stop dreaming about an October revolution. They should implement immediately what has already been agreed between them. Any further delay may take them back to Square One. In the process, they may have to ignore international pressure, like they did after the king’s first proclamation during Jana Andolan-2. After all, the Nepali people should decide their own destiny, shouldn’t they?

Posted on: 2006-09-26 09:15:46
Myths about Monarchy in Nepal
Sunil Kumar Joshi
WNSO - Nepal, Kathmandu

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