On Sunday, June 16, 2019, Nepalis had been very glad to welcome back honorable Prime Minister KP Oli, who had so ceremoniously traveled to Geneva, Switzerland, then to Britain and France and Turkey and other Middle East countries on the way for about nine days. Prime Minister Oli was crowned with the two-thirds majority in the parliament, and decorated with the foreign medals and awards. Similarly, Prime Minister rather three-star king Jung Bahadur Rana visited Britain and France in 1850 for seven months after he was crowned as the three-star king of Lamjung and Kaski. However, Jung Bahadur was so powerful in fact he was the king in the sense the power he wielded whereas Prime Minister Oli also had been so powerful he could ignore everybody even the Constitution but provoking the folks into the street protests. Jung Bahadur did not need to face such a situation. He was an absolute ruler at that time.
Jung Bahadur visited Britain almost after a half century since Nepal and the British East India Company signed off a bilateral agreement called Sugauli Sandhi means the treaty done at Sugauli after the two-year war the Nepali Army and the British East-India Company Army fought from 1814 to 1816. At that time the weapons and skills of the Nepali army were on a par with the British army if not superior. After two years of fighting the British East-India Company army opted for the negotiation with the Nepalese Army for ending the war.
Even at the time of Jung Bahadur visiting Britain, Nepal was not less economically developed than Britain. Jung Bahadur and his siblings wearing the glittering crowns encrusted with the diamond jewels had impressed the British monarch and royalties very much but Jung Bahadur and his seventeen brothers managed to lead Nepal to the bottom of the list of the poor countries over the 104 years of their family rule. Jung Bahadur did not need to face any protests upon return to Kathmandu whereas the Kathmandu Valley and beyond had been heated up by the protests against the Guthi Bill, Media Bill, Human Rights Bill and what not when Prime Minister Oli returned back home on June 16, 2019 indicating the communists did not know how to manage the State affairs in the democratic system of governance.
Thereafter, Britain went on to become the world power for more than two centuries leaving Nepal behind to be a poor country under the ruthless rule of the Ranas for more than one century. The Ranas built palaces for them even denying the then king any building that could be called a palace. So, they did a good job of keeping Nepal and Nepalis very poor. Consequently after two centuries of the Nepal-Britain treaty, Prime Minister Oli had to visit Britain as the prime minister of one of many poor countries. So, he had set the target of making Nepal a prosperous country and Nepalis happy. However, meanings of both the words would remain abstract as long as the definition was not crafted. Making Nepal a prosperous country would be possible only after all the laws that favored the bureaucracy were amended and made them people friendly.
After 203 (2019-1816) years of the Sugauli Sandhi, Prime Minister Oli visited Britain not as a king as Jung Bahadur did but as an elected prime minister with the strength of almost the two-thirds majority of the lawmakers in the parliament. Prime Minister Oli was not an absolute ruler as Jung Bahadur was; however, his fellow ministers had been feeling like having the power of Jung Bahadur. Prime Minister Oli did not wear a crown as of Jung Bahadur but wore the uniform called the national dress means a grey coat over the white frock and trousers, and wore a black hat instead of a crown, and black shoes.
When Jung Bahadur made a visit to Britain, he had to walk or ride on a horse from Kathmandu to Calcutta; he had to take all the provisions required for the sea journey and then for the return journey, too. If the domestic gossip about the visit of Jung Bahadur were to be true he had taken several she-goats with him to meet his need for milk. So, he must have taken fodder for the goats, too. Then, Jung Bahadur and his entourage took a steamer at the Calcutta Seaport. At that time, any boat was called a steamer because it ran on the steam generated by the in-built coal-fired boiler. So, Jung Bahadur after leaving Calcutta on April 7, 1850 took a month and a week to reach Southampton of Britain on May 15, 1850.
The nine days Prime Minister Oli took might be several times more than what Jung Bahadur took seven months for the round trip to Europe and back home if we were to take into account the current status of the communication and transportation means. Prime Minister Oli did not need either to walk or ride on a horse to reach any seaport. He directly flew from Kathmandu to the Middle East, which is a half way to Europe within four or five hours. Then, he reached Switzerland after seven hours or so. He did not need to take any goats for the milk supply but he needed to take medicines on which he had been surviving. So, his spouse was always there with him to take care of all sorts of medicines he needed and then to take them at the precise time the physicians had prescribed for him.
While in Britain, Jung Bahadur studied the British style of governance its parliamentary system, the elections that elected members of parliament, and then of course the election of prime minister, and so on. He had had enough of the lessons on the governance but he did not need the democratic system of governance because he was an absolute ruler. However, he believed that a civil code called Mulki Ain was required to govern properly because the Shah kings had already destroyed all sorts of civil code, laws, rules and regulations the Kiratis, then the Licchavis and finally the Mallas had crafted and set as the rules for the good governance running for centuries before the Shah king took over from them about two-and-a-half centuries ago. So, Jung Bahadur crafted a civil code, and set as the law of the land even though he did not care to follow it nor his successors did, as their word of mouth became the law for all.
While in Switzerland, Prime Minister Oli probably did not think that he needed to learn how the Swiss ran their federal system of governance so well and so nicely; consequently making Switzerland one of the countries of the highest income per capita. So, he rather indulged in advocating the environment apparently he had created in Nepal conducive to foreign investments while in Switzerland, Britain, and France, too. His Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali upon return from the State visit of the prime minister told the reporters that the visit of the prime minister had created an environment conducive to investments ignoring the fact that not the visit of the prime minister but the laws and rules and regulations, and then how clean the ministers including the prime minister, and bureaucrats were so that they could deal with them honestly and reasonably, and they would not need to pay any commissions on anything, would create an investment climate. If the foreign minister were to be correct what he had said then the country could set aside all laws and rules and honesty of the bureaucracy, and take the prime minister around the world and get the investments in Nepal.
Three-star king Jung Bahadur did not need to worry about investments, as he as all the Shah kings did not want to make Nepal prosperous because making the common folks prosperous meant provoking common folks into challenging the absolute rule; so, he rather set the system that made the people as poor as possible making the life expectancy of Nepalis as low as 25 years whereas Prime Minister Oli wanted to make prosperous Nepal and happy Nepalis. Even though Prime Minister Oli wanted to make the people prosperous and happy, he wanted to deny the common folks any sorts of freedom of expression except for singing the songs in praise of the rulers almost similar to Jung Bahadur did. That was why his minister for communications introduced the Media Council Bill, which he said that he would not pull out of the parliament no matter what the entire community of reporters, TVs, newspapers, and radios would say and do. That was possible because his party had the strength of the two-thirds majority, as Jung Bahadur had the strength of his seventeen brothers. Then, Prime Minister Oli could rule the country with a strong hand not as absolutely as Jung Bahadur did but might be very close to him.
Jung Bahadur did not attempt to destroy the Guthi system even though his predecessor five-star king Ranabahadur Shah did try to annihilate it but the poor king did not succeed in his mission to destroy the Guthi system that had taken so deep roots in the Nepalese society. Historians wrote that Ranabahadur was eccentric so his behaviors had been erratic. Jung Bahadur rather built a temple called Kal-mochan at Tripuresvore in Kathmandu to atone for his past sins of causing the Kot and Bhandar-khal massacres, and killing his maternal uncle Prime Minister Mathbar Singh.
Probably, Prime Minister Oli did not need to atone for such grave mistakes done in the past except for killing the feudal lords during the Jhapa movement in 1970s. However, his colleagues: former Maoists had been instrumental to the death of as many as 17 to 20 thousands innocent folks from 1996 to 2006 period of the people’s war the Maoists proudly called. Currently, Prime Minister Oli’s minister for communications has been trying to kill all the fundamental rights to expression introducing the Media Council Bill, which has been to shut up the mouths of the entire populace. If the Media Council Bill were to pass in the parliament and then the president to sign it off then the independent reporters not to mention the critiques of the prime minister and his party would dare to write anything because the law would have many arbitrary articles that could put anybody stating the truth in jail for five years and then would force to pay the hefty fines. Who would dare to endure such penalty for speaking the truth?
Jung Bahadur needed not to craft any such laws to repress the folks his sword and his brothers’ swords were enough. His successors under the system Jung Bahadur introduced had repressed the common folks for 104 years. They introduced the nighttime curfew, and used all sorts of State intelligences to spy on the common folks. One of them was someone to go round every neighborhood in turn blowing a conch shell at night fortnightly or monthly on the pretext of driving the evil spirits. Then, every household paid him in kinds for blowing the conch shell. In fact, it was to keep the common folks in terror perpetually indicating someone was coming even at night. This conch shell blowing at night has been the part of the culture and it has continued even today.
Then, Prime Minister Oli’s another minister for land management put forward the bill on ending the Guthi but popularly called the Guthi Bill for killing all the Guthi systems prevailing in the country since the Kiratis’, then Licchavis’, and Mallas’, and finally the Shahs’ rule even though some of the Shahs attempted to do so, and did to some extent but could not annihilate the Guthi system. Now, Minister for land management, and some of the NCP lawmakers were determined to snatched the land from the guthis (NGOs) and then distribute the land to the farmers who might be either the cadres or would be cadres of the communist party. The Guthi land belonged to the ministry of culture rather than the ministry of land management; thus wrongly interpreting the ownership of the Guthi land, some lawmakers including the minister for land management had been engaged in grabbing the Guthi land for their own interest; so, the Guthi land should come under the ministry of culture, and should be out of the ministry of land management, some experts said.
Three-star king Jung Bahadur did not need to indulge in such campaign on destroying the Guthi system because he was well off not touching the prevailing systems among the locals rather he himself set a Guthi for running the temple he built at Tripuresvore. His successors did not dare to touch any prevailing system even though some of them expropriated the Guthi land for building their beautiful (practically incompatible with the local architecture and culture, and even the climate) western styled palaces. The consequences had been that the despotic Rana rule collapsed as the house of cards when the common folks rose against it. So, the Rana rule was not so mighty as everybody thought at that time. What would happen if the two-thirds majority of the NCP were to collapse, as did the Rana rule?
Unlike Jung Bahadur and his successors, Prime Minister Oli had to face the next general election in three years’ time. Voters could vote him and his party out of power the next time if he were not to keep the voters pleased. That might be one of the reasons why his supporters tended to seize the guthi land and then distribute it to the farmers who would surely become the party cadres or workers. Maoists did the same thing during the people’s war capturing the land of the large landowners and then distributing the land to the farmers who turned into the Maoist army became ready to kill anybody who spoke against them. Currently, NCP lawmakers wanted to take hold of the guthi land using the two-thirds majority of the NCP in the parliament not thinking the next time when they would be out of the parliament and the governance, and then some folks would simply reverse the law and put the Guthi back in its past status.
Jung Bahadur and his successors did not need to call the Guthi system as a feudal system because they were the feudal lords, and feudalism was their goal. They were well off with the prevailing system. They did not need to disturb the aged old guthi system. They rather enjoyed the local festivals the local guthi owners had ran, and even issued an order to put all the beautiful women on the windows and not any men so that they could see the most beautiful ones when going to watch a festival and then send the good messengers to pick them up and present them to the lords. However, the prime minister’s minister for communications boldly said that the guthis were the relics of the feudal system; so, it needed to be destroyed that was why the Guthi Bill was at the National Assembly.
Surely, communist lawmakers would not dare to order to display the beautiful women on the windows during the festival, as the Rana kings did but one of the communist lawmakers boldly said that he could descend hundreds of thousands of supporters on Kathmandu to counter the ongoing protests against the so-called Guthi bill submitted at the National Assembly. No doubt about that he could do so, as his party must have billions of rupees required for bringing so many folks to Kathmandu. To descend one hundred thousands folks on Kathmandu would cost one billion rupees on a simple arithmetic of requiring 10,000 rupees per person for a single day show. So, the NCP lawmakers even though representing the proletariats must have a humongous amount of money probably making the rumors of irregularities of billions of rupees in purchasing the wide-body airplanes, and in smuggling gold in a huge quantity, the really true facts.
The Rana kings of three stars never indulged in such irregularities in spending the State revenue in fact they did not need to do so because the savings of the State revenue went to the pockets of the Rana kings by the law they made or simply by their word of mouth. Unfortunately, NCP lawmakers could not craft such laws, as the opposition and the common folks in general would not allow them to do so; even then, they did not care about the Constitution while crafting bills for making laws otherwise they would not craft the Guthi Bill, Media council Bill and Human Rights Bill that clearly went against the provisions made in the Constitution. Thus, a great obstacle on the way to their interest probably making as of the Rana kings was the Constitution. That might be the reason why they needed to use the backdoor or other means of making money for descending so many folks on Kathmandu.
Jung Bahadur sent the Nepalese army to suppress the Indian Rebellion of 1857 in support of the British East India Company rule in India. When the situation became worse and worse, Jung Bahadur himself led another army and went to India to put an end to the uprisings. After putting down a rebellion, Jung Bahadur on the way back home let his army loot the Lucknow riches, and brought with them a large catch. Jung Bahadur received an Indian Mutiny Medal from the British in 1858, and also a chunk of land in Terai the British army had captured during the two-year war Nepal and the British East India Company had fought from 1814 to 1816 as a reward for what Jung Bahadur did for the Company Government in India.
Prime Minister Oli did not need to repeat the history Jung Bahadur had made, as the British has the Gurkha battalion that had been put in front in every war the British fought on the Falklands Island, in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the world. Thus, the Nepalese soldiers had been shedding the blood for the interest of the British even in the 21st century. However, Prime Minister Oli had been helpless to do away with the tripartite agreement among Nepal, India, and Britain done in 1947, as the British did not like to amend the agreement, he told the public upon the return from the visit to Britain.
Upon return from Britain and France, Jung Bahadur went to Pashupati purify his mind and body from the sins he had committed visiting the Christian states eating the meals probably touched by the Christians, and surely he had lost his high caste Hindu status. However, the Hind priests at the Pashupati temple put his lost Hindu caste back intact for a certain fee, and Jung Bahadur became again the regular Hindu, and the three-star king.
However, Prime Minister Oli did not need to follow the rituals of getting back his Hindu caste even if he were really to be a Hindu (a rumor has it that he is actually a convert Christian) in the 21st century, as did Jung Bahadur in the 19th century. Probably, Prime Minister Oli as a communist and as a believer in communism did not believe in the caste and the religion. So, he did not go to Pashupati to wash off his sins caused by the touch of Christians in the holy water of the Bagmati River. If he were really a Christian then he did not lose anything.
Unlike Jung Bahadur, after his safe return from the Europe visit, Prime Minister Oli had found the Kathmandu Valley was burning with the protests, as the torch processions in the evening and the protest marches at the day time across the valley cities, towns and beyond because of the unwise so-called guthi bill the land management minister had submitted to the National Assembly, were going on. Some of the communist cadres had managed to put some farmers on the streets in the western Nepal in favor of the guthi bill. Thus, there were other demonstrations in the western Nepal.
The Taliban government in Afghanistan indiscriminately destroyed hundreds of if not thousands of Buddha idols, and Hindu deities idols in the Kabul Museums, and then went to Kandahar to destroy two in-built large stone Buddha idols: one of 50 meters, and another of 55 meters high in a cliff in 2001. They put the explosive in the Buddha idols and blew them off on camera, and then they even denied the Sri Lankan folks to collect the broken pieces of the Buddha idols. Not even a year had passed since the Taliban blew off the Buddha idols, the American army chased them away, and the Taliban had been in hiding since then.
Those lawmakers, who supported the guthi bill, and those who would vote for it and the minister for land management probably would not face the same fate of the Taliban in Afghanistan but they would surely have a little chance of coming back as lawmakers after the next elections. Probably, the hard-hit lawmakers would be those who are representing the Kathmandu Valley in the next elections.
If anybody would take a look at the history of the Nepalese voters, they would find that the Nepalese voters had been very matured.
Nepalis exercising the franchise for the first time overwhelmingly voted for the NC in the first general elections held in 1958, the then NC leaders as of probably the today’s NCP leaders thought that nobody could move them out of power and became so proud of their strength they did not see the need for counting the voice of anybody. The result had been 30 years of the despotic Panchayat rule.
Then the voters again gave comfortable majority to the NC in 1990, this time the NC leaders formed a government but they could not keep their own party top leaders happy not to mention the opposition. Some advisors must have misinformed the then prime minister to go for the mid-term elections to have the two-thirds majority in 1994; the real result was the loss of even the simple majority the NC had.
Voters turned to the then CPN-UML and gave the party the majority in the elections held in 1994 but a bit short of forming an independent government; however, it claimed to form a government following the majority seats it had garnered in the parliament. It boasted its strength but its leaders did not care for the voters.
Voters turned back to the NC again in the next general elections in 1999. Then, the chaotic political situation followed the palace massacre on June 1, 2001, and ultimately, the new king took over from the politicians only to lose it forever.
Finally, the voters awesomely voted for the Maoists in the constituent assembly cum parliamentary elections held in 2008. They got the first positions but lost it in the next elections held in 2014 because of the power and strength boast, and unable to meet the people’s aspirations for the socio-economic development.
In the next constituent assembly elections held in 2014, voters again went to vote for the NC and the CPN-UML leaving the Maoists in the third place. However, both the NC and the CPN-UML had no majority to form an independent government giving again the Maoists a unique chance to have a power play in the Constituent Assembly and in the governance.
As recently as in 2017, voters gave the mandate of almost the two-thirds majority to the combined force of the CPN-UML and the Maoists in the general elections held following the brand new constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal. However, the leaders had been bragging the unbelievable strength the communists had gained almost for forever, and they had been doing what the voters had not asked for. They really wanted to introduce the communist dictatorship if anybody were to analyze the recent bills such as the Media Council Bill, Human Rights Bill and the Guthi Bills and so on they had prepared and submitted to the parliament. They did not care for the people’s voices against such anti-people bills presented clearly violating the Constitution because of the two-thirds strength boast.
The next elections would be surely the decisive one for the communists. Probably, none of the communist lawmakers representing the valley folks would have a chance to go back to the parliament as the lawmakers, and the so-called communist leaders would be shelved in the history after the next elections depending on how the opposition parties would cash in the current government running the State affairs in the disorderly manner.
Jung Bahadur ran his administration through his seventeen brothers because those seventeen brothers were the strength as equal as of the two-thirds majority of the current NCP. So, Jung Bahadur had even set the new tradition of the hereditary rule of the three-star kings passed not from father to son but from one brother to another to keep all his brothers happy and loyal to him. However, it had been the curse for not only to his sons, and grandsons but also his seventeen brothers because of the power struggle among the brothers.
Prime Minister Oli certainly did not have brothers as Jung Bahadur had to depend on but he had the comrades who worked so closely with him. He had so many ministers who worked for him. However, most of them had been causing havoc because they had been probably working for the lobbyists (mafia: locally popular word) doing the things they should not have done.
For example, the minister for land management put forward the guthi bill with a proposal for expropriating the guthi land in favor of the farmers probably putting the cultural heritages in peril causing the massive protests. Legal experts said that the guthi land should be under the ministry of culture not under the ministry of land management. The guthi bill had already burnt up the protagonist of the guthi system, and burnt out the fingers of the minister for land management, who submitted the guthi bill to the National Assembly, and of the minister of communications, who said that the guthi was the relic of the feudal system. He would not have said so if he had a bit knowledge of the guthi system, and the culture.
The minister for communications had submitted the Media Council Bill that would entirely kill the freedom of expression of the Nepalis including the prime minister, ministers, lawmakers and certainly the rest of the populace. Was it necessary to replace the current Press Council Act? Certainly, not if it were to keep the freedom of expression intact.
The need had been for amending the Public Procurement Act, Forest Act, Labor Act and many other Acts that had hindered the foreign and national investments in industries; and of course those laws that had been favoring the bureaucrats to indulge in corruption rather than engage in service delivery. Even the changed procurement rules the concerned ministry had brought out had to be quickly amended under the pressure of the contractor lobbyists. So, the ministers had not been able to do what actually they needed to do but they were trying to do something not possible in the democratic system of governance.
Not surprisingly, the ministry of drinking water could not complete the remaining three percent work left undone by the Italian contractor on the Melamchi Drinking Water project even after six months the contractor left the country. Consumers asked why the concerned State agency could not complete the remaining work on the Melamchi Drinking Water Project; they had been waiting for the Melamchi water for decades, their patience for waiting had been running out; and they had been coming out on the streets why the Melamchi water had not been supplied so far. Some folks believed that the water companies that had been providing the consumers with water at fantastically high prices and making a huge profit out of it had been lobbying for delaying the delivery of the Melamchi water.
Similarly, farmers did not receive the fertilizers at the time of transplantation of rice. Again the lobbyists had been working to delay the fertilizer delivery. They took the advantage of the billions of rupees given to the subsidy on the fertilizers but the poor farmers who were supposed to benefit from the subsidy did not receive even the subsidized fertilizers on time not to mention the subsidy.
Jung Bahadur and his successors had kept their administration clean. None of the State employees could dare to misuse the State revenue or spend irregularly if they were to do they had to refund those amount from generation to generation up to seventh generation. However, Jung Bahadur and his successors were corrupt and they used all the State revenue for their luxury and for the jewelry of their queens and concubines.
Currently, the positions of the rulers and the bureaucracy on misusing the State money had been probably reversed. Prime Minister Oli used to say he had zero tolerance for the corruption (recently he had stopped saying so publicly); he himself would not indulge in corruption, and he would not others to indulge in, too. However, if anybody needed the State services including the connection of electricity, and water line, hardly anybody could have so without greasing the hands of the concerned officials. The State bureaucracy had been so transparently corrupt because all the laws had been crafted to this end. Unless and until those laws were scrapped, and news laws were crafted and introduced to end all possible irregularities in the administration, the chance of making the bureaucracy as clean as that of the Rana rule would never be possible.
One-thing NCP lawmakers and the ministers had been successful was to divide the people and then probably to rule. This trick had been old enough. Probably, it would not work in the 21st century. They needed a new trick that would really work. Nobody could be Jung Bahadur again. That was for sure. So, it would be futile to try it, too. The two-thirds majority might come and go as the periodic elections were held one after another. The best way to resolve the current problems of protests and counter protests was to follow the democratic norms and values rather than trying to override them so that no lawmakers would have a chance of labeling the honest protestors as hired ones. Let us not put the democracy and federalism at risk strictly following the interest of some lobbyists (mafia?). Probably, some of the lawmakers must be lobbyists or members of the lobbyists, as some of them had been openly advocating for them.
Siddhi B Ranjitkar
June 19, 2019