New Internationalist

The crowning victory

Issue 379

Silencing Nepal’s politicians and media is not stopping dissent against the King.

KING GYANENDRA of Nepal dismissed his country’s Government on 1 February 2005. Declaring a nationwide state of emergency, the King suspended both people’s rights to assemble and freedom of the press. Armed soldiers and police were put on the streets and a new 10-member cabinet composed of royalist supporters was appointed, with the King as the head of the Cabinet.

Such drastic steps are necessary, claims the King, because the Government has been incapable of resolving the civil war with the Maoists (the Maobaadi) that has taken more than 11,000 lives since 1996. In addition, the King accuses the Government of not moving fast enough to hold elections by April.

Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, members of his Government and leading politicians, such as the leader of the Nepali Congress Party – the country’s largest political party – have been placed under house arrest. A leader of the Nepali Congress claimed several days after the coup that perhaps as many as 500 of his party members had been arrested. Against this backdrop, the King nevertheless assures the world that democracy and peace will be restored to Nepal within three years. The world may have difficulty in believing such assurances. The monarchy sacked a government led by Deuba on similar grounds in October 2002. Parliament – which was dissolved at that time – has not met since then.

The King has also ordered that no reports critical of the monarchy and the new Government be carried in the media for six months. FM radio stations have been ordered to play only music. Within days of the coup, armed troops were stationed in the offices of all print and electronic media to censor their reports and ensure that the King’s edict was obeyed. A journalist disappeared after being summoned to an army barracks. Other media professionals were arrested and questioned. One was the editor of the Nepalese magazine Himal Khabarpatrika, Kanak Mani Dixit. Freed in March this year, he has subsequently refused to bow to either the royal edict or the threat of further detention. Writing through the online journal, freepressnepal. net, he says: ‘Over the last nine years, the hopes of the people of Nepal have been massively compromised by the violence brought on by the Maobaadi insurgency. [But] King Gyanendra has taken the people of Nepal on a disastrous course, using the excuse of fighting an insurgency to compromise democratic rule. In order to stop a complete unravelling of the Nepali future, political parties backed by civil society must wrest the state back from the palace and military administration. Only the political parties of the suspended Third Parliament have the legitimacy to lead the charge. [They] must present the palace with a fait accompli in the form of a fully formed interim government. If King Gyanendra will not loosen his grip on the state, the state will have to pry it from him.’

Asian Human Rights Commission – Nepal

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