NEPAL: Nepal cut off from world, situation worsening
King Gyanendra dismisses Dueba government, declares state of internal emergency and cuts off phone lines, communication
The Times of India
Tuesday, February 1, 2005
NEW DELHI: King Gyanendra, who ascended to Nepal's throne in a bloody twist to royal inheritance in 2001, is known to be an astute businessman, almost autocratic and very impatient.
The impatience of Gyanendra surfaced yet again on Tuesday morning when he dismissed the Sher Bahadur Dueba government, assumed absolute powers for the next three years in the name of democracy and people's welfare.
Nepal thus plunged into yet another period of uncertainty and instability. According to reports, the King has declared a state of internal emergency, placed politicians under house arrest, cut-off phone lines.
The King's decision comes at a time when Nepal is reeling under a bloody Maoist insurgency that is fast spreading across the country.
More than 10,000 people have been killed in the violence that is posing serious threat to the authority of Kathmandu over the impoverished Himalayan kingdom.
Poorest of the country side are joining the ranks of the Maoists, while the authorities try and withdraw in to protected cities.
The King's decision comes also at a time when mainstream political parties are agitating demanding elections to the 205-member House of Representatives and restoration of full democracy without King's interference.
Double trouble for Deuba
Dueba, who was reinstated by King Gyanendra in June 2004, was originally sacked two years earlier by the King.
Then and now the King's accusations against Deuba government have been almost the same: failure in dealing with Maoist insurgency.
This time around, the King is also accusing Deuba of failing to make arrangements for elections.
In fact Deuba had set a deadline of January 13 for talks with Maoists, but the latter did not respond even as it kidnapped hundreds of students and teachers in remote parts. And no serious arrangements were being made for the polls.
The King's concerns are genuine. But the way he went about sacking the government is a serious set back for Nepal's fledgling democracy, and the resultant chaos has only added to the troubles of world's only Hindu country.
Ever since the King's first crackdown against the Deuba government, the political parties have been agitating, boycotting most official functions, and demanding restoration of democracy.
In fact, King Gyanendra's decisions stand in contrast to that of his brother and late King Birendra who was patiently nurturing democracy amidst corrupt politicians and chaos.
Voicing "grave concern" over the recent development, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement, "These developments constitute a serious setback to the cause of democracy in Nepal and cannot but be a cause of grave concern to India."
The developments in the Nepal came a day after a senior Indian official expressed concern about the security situation in that country and emphasised that there had to be a political solution to the Maoist problem.
India is not only the biggest strategic partner of Nepal but it is also the most important supporter of Nepal in its fight against Maoists.
When King Gyanendra dismissed Dueba government first time, the then National Democratic Alliance government in New Delhi was seen to be rather soft on the tampering of democracy.
That stood in contrast with India's critical role in the past in bringing democracy to the Himalayan kingdom.
Tuesday's action of the King raises several questions for New Delhi. The King's decision comes a few days after Nepal shut down Dalai Lama's offices, saying it was for 'one' China.
That would have definitely pleased the Chinese government which may go silent on the King's action.
So far India is concerned, with over 2000 kilometres of common border, and an intensely interlinked history with Nepal, India has to tread cautiously. Neither can it alienate the politicians nor can it be hostile towards the King and push Nepal away.
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AsiaMedia's Nepalese press partner, Nepalnews, is offline. For more information about communications and the current situation of the press in Nepal, see the Reporters Without Borders press release and a New Kerala/IANS article from today.
Date Posted: 2/1/2005