No further sign
is required of Nepals final descent into an abyss of violence
and repression than the Royal coup of 1 February 2005. Dropping all
pretenses of rule by proxy, King Gyendra dissolved the government he
himself had appointed (following his abrogation of the elected parliament
in 2002) and declared a state of emergency.
Drawing the reins of power close, the King suspended the fundamental
rights of Nepals citizens, including freedom of expression, freedom
of the press, freedom of assembly, the right to information, the right
to constitutional remedy and freedom to form trade unions. Such action
was not possible by the King and the palace cronies alone, but with
the able assistance of the Army protests were quelled (in Pokra demonstrating
students were shot at from Army helicopters), the offices of newspapers
stormed, and political leaders, unionists and students rounded up and
held incommunicado (Royal Coup, Frontline, 12-25
The day the King assumed dictatorial powers all telephone lines were
cut, internet connections suspended and satellite links shut down. The
King then appointed a mélange of anti-democratic opportunists
and royalist lackeys as the new government - many holdovers
from Nepals ice age of rule under absolute monarchy from 1960
to 1990. Claiming that the constitutional political parties had failed
to uproot corruption or defeat the insurgents of the Communist Party
of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M), which has been waging an armed struggle since
1996 and controls 80% of the countryside, the King declared to a citizenship
stripped of any means to reply, that dictatorship was the only way to
Yet, the real character of the coup, and why it portends such a disaster
for the population is to be found in actions of the Kings handmaiden,
the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA). The RNA has earned the reputation, according
to Human Rights Watch, as the worlds worst perpetrators
of enforced disappearances. In 2003 and 2004, the United Nations
Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Dis-appearances recorded that
Nepal held the highest number of new cases of disappearances (1,234)
in the world (Security Forces Disappear Hundreds of Civilians,
Human Rights Watch, 1 March 2005). In 2004, Nepals independent
human rights organisation INSEC, released a detailed report that identified
the Army and police as responsible for two-thirds of the civil wars
10,000 deaths. One-third of deaths were at the hands of the Maoists
(Nepali Times, 13-19 August 2004).
In nine years of civil war the Army has failed to defeat the Maoists.
Rumours circulate of corruption within the army, including the selling
of weapons to the Maoists (Inter Press Service, 13 February 2005).
But the most basic problem of the civil war is that the root causes
are economic, political and social; none of which can be solved militarily.
Nepals gross inequalities of wealth and land distribution provide
a steady stream of recruits to the insurgents. All sides in the armed
conflict have resorted to brutalities fueling a spiraling cycle of violence.
The coup has only accelerated this by utterly freeing the Army to engage
in repression across Nepalese society in toto.
The evidence of this was clear to see in the days following the coup.
Every leader of Nepals two main trade union centres, the Nepal
Trade Union Congress (NTUC) and the General Federation of Nepali Trade
Unions (GEFONT), was in hiding or under arrest. Former Nepali Congress
Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala is being held under house arrest.
Koiralas daughter, who managed to escape Nepal, gave a press conference
in New Delhi where she described Army soldiers pretending to be Maoists
threatening her father (Inter Press Service, 12 February 2005).
Such black operations will be part and parcel of the new
With the army in control of Kathmandu and the Maoists seemingly in control
of the rest of the country, little independent information has otherwise
been made available. Yet, pressure on the King and the royalist regime
has emerged from the outside world.
Nepal in general and the military in particular are heavily dependent
on foreign aid; over 60% of the national budget comes from foreign sources.
In this context, the King probably over-calculated the extent of foreign
support for his misadventure. The governments of the United States,
Britain and India all condemned the coup and Britain and India have
withdrawn military aid. (Unsurprisingly, the Chinese government declared
the Kings coup an internal matter.)
This is potentially the weakest external part of the Kings strategy
to subjugate the population. Without military aid flowing to the Royal
Nepalese Army the regime will find it increasingly hard to prop itself
up. However, other forms of aid can only help the regime. It is necessary
to ask: how, after a coup, could there possibly be any transparency
that aid delivered will not be siphoned off for corrupt or military
uses? To believe otherwise would be naïve in the extreme.
Nepals King has chosen to enter the abyss of repression. The international
labour movement must mount a global popular campaign in support of peace
and democracy for the citizens of Nepal and for the freedom of the trade
union movement in Nepal; this would be the strongest act of solidarity
we could undertake.
2005 IUF Executive Committee Resolution on
Democracy in Nepal
Nepal's Civil War and the Labour Movement:
What Chance for Peace?