Somnath Ghimire: Why Republic
Our demand: Republic of Nepal, Why?
By: Somnath Ghimire
We are searching for that Nepal, once used to be the only peaceful country in the world that is still hopeful, active, committed to a better world, and involved more in the needs of the world community. We want to see greater pride and respect for our nation, as a result of seeing greater use of other institutions to help achieve a greater standard of living and freedom.
Now the time has come to consider for a non violence revolution to make Nepal, a republic state. We're ready--and yearning as a country--for republican democracy that promotes civic responsibility, community-based solutions, public-private partnerships, socially responsible businesses, a more sustainable environment, and a greater reliance on rule of law and human understanding to improve our lives and the lives of those who we share the world with. Not a party of special interests, but a party of all interests. There's an old saying that, "insanity is repeating the same process over and over and expecting a different result." We have a choice about whether we're going to suffer the same problems and concerns every decade by relying on the same Monarchy System. We don't have to. It's time to organize a national poll for the Constituent Assembly in Nepal on the national ballot.
Political parties and the electoral horse races scarcely matter. They are simply the illusion of democracy, a circus for the masses. Superficial reform and eternal tinkering will never fix the problem. The problem is not who populates our government. The problem lies in its design, its structure, and the distribution of its powers and the power hungry leaders. The solution, the only possible solution, to our many problems is to redesign the system of government with republican set up. "Republican Democracy" offers a true democratic process called consensus democracy and other alterations to our government and society designed to move us beyond our current plutocracy, creating a more perfect union possessing greater justice, freedom and happiness for every citizens of Nepal.
One of the most basic Democratic Principles is that Each and Every person is of equal value. A Social System can not guarantee “Individual Freedom” unless it can guarantee Individual Equality which prohibits individuals being sacrificed for the group. When each and every person is of equal value then Persons become the ultimate value and human rights take precedence over property rights or any other consideration.
In a republican democracy, it guarantees individual rights through the process of social contract. We affirm our own and guarantee the same to other members of the group. Effective political empowerment, participation, and responsibility are utterly lacking in the current system of governance. Late Ganesh Man Singh, our supreme leader had said, "the end result is a general public best described as clueless, powerless sheep easily manipulated, managed, and shorn of their wool". But now we are in the 21st century and we know what we want for the betterment of future nepali generation. We don’t want to be fooled anymore. William Penn said, "Let the people think they govern and they will be governed," but just other way around in Nepal, "Let the people think they have democracy and they will never seek it." Most people today have little or no understanding that Nepal and all of the other so-called democracies in the world today are not truly democracies but plutocracies.
Voting and elections in and of themselves do not constitute Democracy. Democracy is and can only be widely distributed real power within the hands of the entire public. Voting for people you hope will later represent you is not real power. Real power is and can only be one's taking direct action upon something or action resulting from one's directly voting upon society's most fundamental issues.
Having only experienced the meaningless, powerless 'elections' of today and never having participated in a true republican democracy, even of a limited sort, Nepalis have no idea that they are not participating in a true democracy or what even constitutes one. We will have to learn democracy from the ground up. Democracy and politics should be taught both in their highest ideal and in their lowest, foulest practices. Nepalis people have been deliberately excluded from sharing power in the Nepalis political process and have been allowed and even encouraged to sink into a state of ignorance and apathy. According to Paul Valerie, "Politics is the art of preventing people from taking part in affairs which properly concern them." That they may begin to participate in the affairs which properly concern them, the Nepalis people would have to learn what a true democratic process is and how to participate in it.
We can rule out violent, bloody revolution. It only brings new tyrants, new plutocrats. We can also safely rule out change from above. The privileged elite who originally created and who today still populate our government have had more than 45 years to introduce at least some measure of true democracy into our society and have not done so. The change must come from the people at-large, from "we the people."
The people's race is already caught up within a great April revolution; the republican revolution. Nepal is not a true democracy. It possesses merely the illusion of democracy, a little game to hide from the people their true circumstance, their powerlessness and enslavement. The Nepali people have never participated in a true democratic process in which they held real power. The voting and elections that take place in Nepal are meaningless exercises in futility. It does not matter which wealthy or wealth-serving people are carefully selected and groomed by the powerful few and presented to the people for election to office. The current power structure and political-economic order, the current system-governance by opportunists-always remains in place. In their believing what we have today to be democracy, the Nepali people show that they do not understand what democracy really is, unless the current government announces a date for Constituent Assembly immediately. We say sooner the better.
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DHANGADHI, Nepal - Sharad Singh-Bhandari says his younger brother was teaching at a boarding school in western Nepal in 2001 when a squad of Royal Nepalese Army soldiers came to the school and asked for him.When Singh-Bhandari's brother appeared, they tied one end of a rope around his hands and the other to the back of their truck. After dragging him for a distance, they stopped, untied him and shot him dead in front of the crowd that had gathered. Then they simply drove away.Someone, says Singh-Bhandari, had told the soldiers that his brother was a communist."I've had many brothers killed by the army," says Singh-Bhandari. "But this was the only one connected by blood."Sharad Singh-Bhandari on the Communist Party of Nepal's philosophy
Singh-Bhandari looks crisp and fresh despite the wilting heat of the western plains. He wears a signature white shirt and square frameless glasses that look more Munich-hip than rural Nepal. Though born in western Nepal, he studied commerce at a university in Katmandu.He has been a member of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) since he was 15 years old. Now, at the age of 30, he is one of ten top regional leaders in the country as the Secretary of the Seti Manhakali Bureau, in far west Nepal, near the border with India.
He says all of his time is spent working for the party, especially now that the Maoists have formed an alliance with seven other political parties, in the aftermath of mass nationwide protests that forced the autocratic king of Nepal to cede power back to a parliament he dissolved in 2002.
The Maoists have put forth a 12-point "Roadmap for Peace" for Nepal and are pushing for the election of a new constituent assembly. They're also calling for their full political integration into a new government and for the military integration of their estimated 20,000-strong People's Liberation Army into a new Nepalese national army.
I sat down to talk with Singh-Bhandari in the courtyard of the Biyad Hotel in the small western Nepalese town of Dhangaghi. We discussed the recent Peoples' Movement, the Maoists' role in a future government, and their adherence to a Maoist communist philosophy in the 21st Century. The following is a partial transcript of the interview.
KEVIN SITES: What role did the Maoists play in the Peoples' Movement, in which Nepalese citizens took to the streets to demand democracy, with the result of nearly two dozen being killed and hundreds wounded, but also the king ceding power back to the parliament he had formerly dissolved?
SHARAD SINGH-BHANDARI: It might seem that the king's been pushed back a few steps, but the realities are actually much different. Many of his concessions are a direct result of the ten-year-old peoples' war we've waged. The Peoples' Movement, the historical 19-day struggle in Nepal, did play a key role, however, in forcing the king to realize he can't hold power anymore. Our role was very strong during that struggle and if we weren't present, the king would not have taken the steps he did.Our 12-point "Road Map for Peace" is an example of this. We've made our voices heard. Had we not reached agreement with the other political parties we would not have seen these kind of changes in the country we see today.
SITES: Beyond bringing back parliament, what do you want to see happen?
SINGH-BHANDARI: We are saying that democratic republicanism is necessary to bring back peace in Nepal. But the seven-party alliance seems they are satisfied with just bringing back parliament.We (the Maoists) believe we should move forward with the election of a constituent assembly after the formation of an interim government.
SITES: Would the Maoists be satisfied with just being part of that elected assembly or would you, as some fear, want to establish a single-party system?
SINGH-BHANDARI: We want a democracy. No imperialistic powers should be under the illusion that Maoists want a one-party dictatorship.What we are trying to give Nepal is a new concept in that context, especially in the face of the overwhelming influence of imperialism in the world.
SITES: What new concept?"We are trying to bring a new system that will bring security for all."
SINGH-BHANDARI: First, no people around the world should feel the international pressures from imperialist powers.Second, we want to present another economic solution to the new market orientation which has created problems for people, such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, which is just collecting money centrally and making poor people even poorer.The final point, and most importantly, we want to implement Marxism, Leninism and Maoism so we can have real social justice in Nepal.
SITES: How will that bring about social justice?
SINGH-BHANDARI: Marxism, Leninism and Maoism give people a different solution after domination by a market-oriented society.
SITES: But the 20th Century is filled with failed communist states. And in this century, North Korea's people are starving and China has fully embraced capitalism in all but name.
SINGH-BHANDARI: There's an illusion that there's a communist system in North Korea, China and Cambodia. There's no communism in these countries though the world thinks so. But the base of the development of Russia was established under Lenin and Stalin.And Mao provided the real basis for the development of China, with his polices before 1976.The current reformists that are revising China's policies are a deviation from the real communism. We have learned from that and have to implement the original Marxism in a new way.That is why our ten-year's people war has been successful.
SITES: But why model yourself after movements in which millions were killed, both under Stalin and Mao's Cultural Revolution?
SINGH-BHANDARI: That's a fraud. That's a kind of defaming of communism — the massacres of Tiananmen Square were done in the name of communism but it was not communism. As far as the Cultural Revolution, it was good since it was only the rich that were dealt with.
SITES: People were killed for completely negligible reasons.
SINGH-BHANDARI: No, people weren't killed during the Cultural Revolution, but yes, during Tiananmen.
SITES: People were killed during Mao's Cultural Revolution. A member of my staff's own father was killed as a result of the Cultural Revolution. But I think the point here is, once in power, will you use violence to achieve your social goals and economic goals?A brigade of Maoist rebels in western Nepal
SINGH-BHANDARI: There were limitations during those times (Stalin) and you can't find examples of so many people being killed during Mao. But after Mao there were leaders and rulers that carried out those actions. And [during the] time of Stalin more people were killed because of the Second World War.But our party in Nepal is moving ahead, reforming and learning lessons from those past limitations.
SITES: So you're saying that the middle class, the educated and businesspeople don't have anything to fear from your potential participation in a new government?
SINGH-BHANDARI: No one should fear — not the middle class, not the higher class, not even capitalists — just the feudals. What we are trying to bring is the new system that will bring security for all, even the middle class and capitalists. Security for everyone.
SITES: By feudals, who are you referring to?
SINGH-BHANDARI: In context to Nepal, this deals with the monarchy and powers associated with that.
SITES: How will you deal with the monarchists in the advent of real democracy in Nepal?
SINGH-BHANDARI: We will do what the Nepalese people demand and what our party requires, although that hasn't been determined yet.
SITES: In this ten-year civil war, international monitors say there have been numerous human rights abuses, both by the Royal Nepalese Army and by the Maoists.Do you agree with this assessment and do you think there should be a truth commission like the one set up in South Africa, post apartheid, to investigate these cases?
SINGH-BHANDARI: Absolutely. We believe the abuses that have occurred on our side were not a matter of policy but have been done by individuals acting independently. However, we think all the allegations of human rights abuses, including those by the feudal forces (Royal Nepalese Army) should be investigated.
SITES: What about the land that the Maoists have seized from individuals in the course of your rebellion?
SINGH-BHANDARI: All the land that has been seized will be returned, with the exception of feudalists, and those owning more than 100 acres. We will return them all.
SITES: What about the so-called "donations" the Maoists have extracted from the population — what others call extortion — to support your cause?
SINGH-BHANDARI: We have formed a separate government and a separate army. People will be influenced by the policies of that government which requires funding.We don't have a policy of terrorizing people by extorting money from them forcefully. But we do have sister organizations that collect from people willing to support us. For example we recently raised money for those injured in the Peoples' Movement.
SITES: How optimistic are you that the democracy movement will take root and that there will be peace in Nepal?
SINGH-BHANDARI: We are very hopeful that the seven-party alliance, along with Maoists, will move ahead successfully, but only if there is no interference from foreign powers and the palace (the king). We will be able to establish a democratic republic in Nepal.But if there is interference in the form of a coup, the first step will be to take to the streets again in peaceful protests like we did during the Peoples' Movement. After that we have to see what happens.
SITES: When you say "interference from foreign powers," the Maoists usually seem to be referring to the United States. What's your concern there?
SINGH-BHANDARI: America has been supplying the feudal forces (Royal Nepalese Army) with arms, training, vehicles, petrol, for years. Without that, our forces would've defeated them years ago. The American people and foreign people should understand, Nepal wants peace and the army doesn't need more arms.