For nearly 250 years, Nepal was a kingdom. Shah kings ruled the country with an iron fist. Their strength came not from the people’s prosperity and the country’s progress but from despotic ideas. The people were nothing more than hapless mass-who deserved no freedom.
Prithivi Narayan Shah united different princely states and created modern state of Nepal in 1778. He is considered to be Nepal’s founding Father. A straight forward man, he strongly disliked corruption and promoted diversity and tolerance among his people. His successors, however were far lesser men.
Greed and factionalism divided Shah clan after Prithivi Narayan’s death. By 1846, the Shah dynasty was on verge of collapse. It was then a young soldier named Jung Bahadur Rana managed to stage a bloody coup and grabbed the country’s reins. The King was reduced a paper tiger and the Rana Prime Minister was the power center.
During the Rana regime, Nepal was pushed to the extreme. People had no rights; they only had duties-to serve the Rana family and to pay taxes on time. Ranas and the Shahs enjoyed all the benefits, while the Nepali people lived in abject poverty.Health care and education was for the Rana and Shah clan and their friends only. Slavery was practiced openly, and people would be hanged for speaking out against the Rana rule.
Year 1953, the nightmare of Rana autocratic was over. But Nepal was cheated once again. Instead of establishing a democratic system where people have the final say, the country was forced to accept a “constitutional monarchy”. It was a fraud, the Shah clan and the establishment had no intention of sharing power with the people. The exercise did not last long. Couple of years later, Nepal returned to an autocratic rule. King Mahendra established the “Panchayati” system, where he reigned supreme and the people’s wishes were of no consequence.
Mahendra’s son Birendra was slightly less autocratic and tried to bring some form of democracy in the country. He was pushed to accept constitutional monarchy and limited rights and privileges after the pro-democracy movement of 1990s. As the country was trying to establish a form of functioning democracy in coexistence with constitutional monarchy, the Maoist launched insurgency movement against the state in 1996.
Nepal was thrown into a cycle of bloody violence and chaos. King Birendra then was trying to act as a stabilizing force while the political establishment and the Maoists were dueling. Cycle of chaos started spinning faster when King Birendra and his entire family was massacred, allegedly by his son prince Dipendra in 2001.
Birendra brother Gyanendra was crowned King following the tragedy. A man not fit to be a minor civil servant, Gynandra was given the country’s reins.His past life was filled with allegations of massive corruption and various illegal activities. His reign ended in 2008 after Nepal’s newly elected constituent assembly declared the country a Republic.
Throughout the tumultuous history of monarchy in Nepal, you will not find a single instance where the King genuinely believed that he is there to serve the people. One after another, Shah Kings came to power, used the country’s resources to benefit themselves and their clan. Country’s development and the people’s prosperity were never a priority.
King Birendra did attempt to push the country forward but his programs were never meant to be effective. They were just for show. He did get lot in return though for his show moves-throngs of die hard supporters and groups of powerful yes men around him.
While the Royals and their friends enjoyed the good life, Nepal lagged behind its neighbors in every aspect. India emerged as the nest Asian tiger, China staked its claim to the superpower title-Nepal just limped ahead.
In nearly 250 years of Shah rule in Nepal, the country was pushed back in every way to exist as a feudal princedom. The Kings did not have a vision for the country, they only had an obsession to rule.
And now the monarchists are taking advantage of Nepal’s political turmoil to push for constitutional monarchy. Kamal Thapa- a die hard monarchist with no regard for democratic rights of the people is the leading the “monarchist revival”.Mr. Thapa gained notoriety in Nepal following his stint as autocratic Home Minister in government lead by King Gyanendra. His corruption exploits during the Panchayati system is also fresh in the people’s mind. Mr. Thapa and his followers say that monarchy is what Nepal needs to keep the country from disintegrating.
Their assertion does not even pass the laugh test. What monarchy are they rooting for? The one that kept Nepal in the dark, isolated and poor for centuries? the one that treated people as “subjects”? Kamal Thapa and his fellow monarchists want Nepal to slide back and accept being a feudal princedom? He wants the people to lie down and accept being trampled on? They want the King to return but have they thought for a moment what would happen to the country?
It is indeed incredibly dishonest of Nepal’s monarchists to call for revival of constitutional monarchy after the country has suffered through all these years under the Shah dynasty. Perhaps they did not get the people’s memo-Nepal is no longer willing to be a servant to his Majesty.
Previously published at Sri Lanka Guardian