By S.R. Ramanujan
Suspension of democracy, consequent abrogation of fundamental rights, dismissal of elected governments and declaration of Emergency are all nothing new to democracy itself. While established democracies resort to this as a bitter pill for a shorter duration faced with threat to the integrity of the nation, for dictatorial regimes, suspension and so-called restoration of democracy are just frequent pastimes. We have seen this with our neighbours quite often. Why talk about neighbours? What did Indira Gandhi do in 1975 when she wanted to upturn the Allahabad High Court judgement? Every ruler, whether presiding over a democratic regime or authoritarian dispensation, exercises this option of tinkering with democracy in his self-interest citing national interest. We have seen this in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Indonesia.
Why then this worldwide condemnation when King Gyanendra dismissed the government headed by Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and assumed power for himself? Like any ruler does under such circumstances, the King also made pious statements. He said that he was taking over the reins of administration to restore peace and effective democracy and also to conduct parliamentary elections. Does this sound too familiar? Yes, we hear such politically correct statements whenever democratic regimes are overthrown by military dictator across the border.
The reason for singling out Nepal for all-round condemnation is that it has a constitutional monarchy that does not have the backing of two most important religious faiths of the world. America will have no qualms in dealing with dictatorships, whether it is Sheikdom or Sultanate so long as it suits its national interests. India has no uneasy feelings when it deals with Islamic countries that are allergic to democracy. India is quite comfortable in dealing with Pakistan though Musharraf is no great lover of democracy.
If Pakistan does not have a full-fledged democracy and experiments with military juntas every now and then, it is considered to be its ?internal? matter. What did India do when President Musharraf dismissed a duly elected government and ensured the exile of two elected Prime Ministers representing two important political mainstream parties of Pakistan? Pakistan, a theocratic state, belongs to the Islamic world and an important member of the Organisation of Islamic Countries. You can'ttake on Pakistan without incurring the wrath of other Muslim countries. So, ?might is right? as the United States has proved time and again.
Nepal does not enjoy that ?might? and hence it is most vulnerable to universal condemnation. The Indian External Affairs Ministry expressed its concern over the safety and welfare of the political leaders. India also wants that the political parties are allowed to exercise all the rights enjoyed by them under the Constitution. Let us reverse the roles and see. What will be India'sreaction if Nepal criticizses the Indian government whenever the latter dismisses a duly elected state government or when the Governor of Goa dismisses an elected government after it won a vote of confidence? Can the Nepal King appeal to Jayalalithaa to release the Shankaracharya of Kanchi without inviting the charge of ?interference??
True, India has a ?longstanding and unique relationship with Nepal, with which it shares an open border, a history of strong cultural and spiritual values and wide-ranging economic and commercial links?. Does this give the right to India to poke its nose in the internal affairs of this tiny, land-locked country?
The only country that behaved with some sense was China, but again, in its own self-interest. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said: ?As far as we are concerned, it is Nepal'sinternal affair?. Nepal has more than 10,000 Maoist rebels, who draw inspiration from Mao Zedong, and control large parts of Nepal. China might be keen that these Maoists succeed in their mission in converting the monarchy into a socialist State.
India, too, has its own self-interest. According to the political grapevine, India is more concerned about the Maoist challenge to the Himalayan kingdom which is already spilling over to India. This is the greatest threat confronting the Indian State. What is amazing is that while India is seriously concerned about the Nepal Maoists and their ability to cause incalculable damage to Nepal'sfuture and the monarchy itself, it is turning a blind eye to the Maoists in its own backyard!
Recently, Maoists from Bihar, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh had a secret strategy meeting deep inside the Nallamala Forests and the Greyhounds (a special task force set up to deal with Naxalites) encircled them. When the topgun of Maoists, Ramakrishna, was trapped, it was the state Home Minister who, under tremendous pressure from the Centre, ordered his safe passage. In the Indian government'sview, Nepal Maoists are perhaps more dangerous than Indian Maoists.