Despite claiming that Nepal was a land of tolerant philosophies, the tale of Nepal for the last few centuries has been that of moral decline where intellectual descent was not tolerated. Understandably, those enjoying the power wanted to keep the status quo while the deprived ones sought to bring a change. Only unfortunate side of that inconvenient reality was that the discourse could not take a path of civility. For long, rulers acted as the gatekeepers of “truth” creating a dangerous antagonism between those who already embraced a new truth and those who will eventually end up embracing it tomorrow.
Aspirants of revolutionary change in the 1950s were vehemently suppressed just until the Rana regime was toppled. Panchayat regime suppressed the socialist and democratic forces until it was brought down by a popular movement in the 1990. Repeating the same pattern, the post-1990 regime sought to suppress the minority aspirants of change and challenged them to dare to rebel, and we know what the result was.
Unable to learn from the loss incurred from years of war, the keepers of the state conveniently declared the rebels seeking to abolish the monarchy as terrorists in November 2001, only to find a total reversal in the position in 2005 when the then King Gyanendra gave the mortal blow to the regime by abrogating the elected parliament. Even after 2005, leaders of the formerly ruling political parties attempted to retain the monarchy until they succumbed to the pressure from their own youth wings. Nevertheless, amidst all this hopelessness, a number of events have emerged in recent times that signal towards intellectual and moral revival in Nepal.
Since the scary moments of truth presented to Nepalese society by the then King Gyanendra’s actions in 2005, we have seen an overall rise in tolerance amongst antagonist sides in the society. The coming together of all major political parties, formation of an alliance, inter-party collaboration, and rise of an unprecedented grassroots movement throughout the country is something historically noteworthy.
Most of all, co-existence of former antagonists who carried fresh bitterness from being engaged in violent war with one another and the recognition of the plights of the formerly neglected and marginalized groups of people are something worth noting. Securing a peaceful transition of the country and curbing the war a lot before it had reached a conclusion were something that happen so rarely in history. How reluctantly it might have been done, treating the opponents with respect required tremendous amount of ego burning on the side of major political leaders, especially on the sides of the Seven-Party Alliance and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists).
Considering that war hungry leadership factions still exist in sizable numbers in all those parties, some leaders from all sides had to prevail to steer Nepal away from the war. When ministers in ruling coalition so thoughtlessly call the former rebels who have entered into peaceful and competitive politics to go back to jungle, perhaps in a bid to enjoy the Nepalese treasury and stay forever in power if the peace and democracy did not prevail, the importance of leaders seeking peaceful coexistence is ever more evident. In that sense, it is time to pay respect to those who embraced the change at last, irrespective of the twists and turns they went through to arrive at that point.
That treating an opponent with respect can only happen in times of moral growth, it may be rightful to say that at least some of the Nepalese leaders have had learned some lessons from their past experiences and embraced the path of tolerance and co-existence. And the octogenarian Girija Prasad Koirala was one of those leaders. Today, that he has passed away, I take my hats off to him for taking courage to engage in dialogue with the vary opponents whom he had sought to militarily crush a few years ago. Let us hope the remaining leaders who brought us this far into the peace process will prevail over those who dream for a military rule and speak the languages of the yesteryears. Let us hope the remaining leaders deliver the aspired era of peace and prosperity to the people of Nepal.
The journey of Girija Prasad Koirala from an armed rebel involved in violent struggle, plane hijacker, militant party worker, dictator of his party, to a tolerant statesman is something worthy to be noted by every political aspirant in Nepal. He will be remembered for leaving behind an era of tolerance and revival in Nepal. Our tribute to late Koirala and thoughts of sympathetic contemplation to those devastated by his departure!