Nepal: King struggles to keep control

The recent ceasefire in Nepal has ended as a result of increasing attacks by the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA). The People’s Liberation Army, under the political direction of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), had responded by intensifying missions against the police and security forces. On 15 January 12 policemen were killed in an attack on two police posts and six RNA soldiers were killed in a battle close to the strategically important Kathmandu valley.

These actions in the countryside have come against a backdrop of closer unity between the countryside insurgents and the city-based political parties (see FRFI 188). The Seven Party Alliance has called for a boycott of municipal elections announced by King Gyanendra for February. Nearly all of Nepal’s political parties oppose holding the polls because they consider local conditions do not permit free and fair elections and that the King will manipulate them to bring credence to his absolute rule.

Of increasing significance is the rise in militancy on Kathmandu’s streets. The capital is now under fluctuating states of curfew that the King imposes and lifts at will. The curfews and restraints on basic freedoms are symptoms of desperation by a politically suicidal monarch suffering from delusions of omnipotent grandeur. Before a planned mass rally of the Seven Party Alliance on 20 January the King imposed a full day curfew on the capital and placed leaders of the main parties under house arrest. The house arrests ended after several days of demonstrations (predominantly by students) and violent clashes with the police. On 20 January over ten thousand opposition activists defied the curfew to demonstrate against Gyanendra; an estimated 260 people were arrested.

In Delhi US Under-Secretary of State Nicholas Burns reiterated imperialism’s concerns at the King’s refusal to enter the political process; it fears that he will isolate himself and leave the door open for revolutionary forces. Britain and India, who maintain an arms embargo on Nepal, hoping that this will twist Gyanendra’s arm, echoed this. China has taken over supplying the ruthless RNA and it is this military backing which has allowed the King to ignore calls for a change in tack. But with an increasing and unified insurgency it is a luxury that he may not have for long. Watch this space.
Andrew Alexander

FRFI 189 February / March 2006

 

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