April 14, 2016:Â The year 2072 was the most difficult year in recent Nepali history. And as time passes and historians reflect on the contemporary period, it is very likely that they will identify 2072 as a most momentous year.
This is because it is rare in a countryâ€™s history for so many major events to occur one after another, without offering any respite to a beleaguered population. The April/May earthquakes and big aftershocks for weeks on end, the Madhesi protests and Indiaâ€™s unofficial blockade all caused severe disruption and hardship.
Furthermore, 2072 will also be remembered as a crucial year for politics: The long-awaited constitution was finally promulgated. This charter is intended to set the course for the country until the distant future. The past year will thus mark a new political beginning for the country and historians will analyse whether it set into motion a process leading to stability and prosperity, or rather instability and further conflict.
So far the signs are very much mixed. While the constitution was endorsed by a resounding majority, the subsequent protests surrounding its promulgation were enduring. It was evident that large sections of the population, including not just the Madhesis, but also women, Janajatis and Dalits have been unhappy with many of its provisions. Though violence and mass protests have subsided, there is still a sense of disappointment and underlying tensions in Nepali society. What has exacerbated the situation is the Oli governmentâ€™s continued intransigence about looking into and addressing minority grievances. While opinions about the degree of these grievances could vary depending on oneâ€™s political orientation, there is almost an unanimous feeling that the post-earthquake reconstruction process was marred by major delays and severe politicisation.
Yet, it is still too early to say what the long-term effects of 2072 will be. The actions of Nepalâ€™s leaders in 2073, which began yesterday, will be crucial in determining the long-term impact. After many months of delay caused by political instability, the reconstruction process has now started.
The government and state machinery will now have to dispel the disillusionment and anger of the population by moving ahead in earnest, working in a transparent manner and avoiding politicisation and corruption. The donors and the international community will also need to demonstrate utmost accountability and transparency in the reconstruction process and stop blaming the Nepali state and officials for all the ills.
Also, there is still time for the political parties to address the concerns of Madhesi and other groups regarding the constitution. The constitution will be durable only if this is done. There are certain groups that seem to be reveling in the misery over the past year.
The former king, Gyanendra, has issued a statement criticising the parties for their weaknesses and hinting that he might become politically active again. While Gyanendra has the right to enter politics like any other Nepali civilian, he should be very careful that he does not overstep constitutional boundaries. He should also reflect that while there is public unhappiness with events of the recent past, this does not mean that people want to return to the pre-2006 period, when the king enjoyed a pre-eminent position in national life. The nation has come a long way since then, and any attempt to take it back will not succeed. Let this be very clear: There is no alternative to multiparty politics; yes, the parties and their leaders need to get their act together but going back to the days of dynastic monarchy is most definitely over for Nepal.