Yogi Adityanath’s elevation to chief minister of Uttar Pradesh may carry its own message in India, but it will be no less significant for Nepal. It has the potential of influencing the ongoing narrative in the face of a failed political experiment that began in 2006: The top leadership of India’s Ministry of External Affairs and Research and Analysis Wing and some intellectuals worked in tandem to author Nepal’s “future” political road map. The leaders of eight political parties in Nepal, including the Maoists (then spearheading insurgency), the oldest pro-democracy party, the Nepali Congress and six others signed a deal that India mediated in November 2005.
As a fallout, Nepal’s monarchy was put under suspension six months later, and then abolished. Nepal was declared a “secular country” without any public debate. An euphoric group of radical leaders, mainly the signatories to Delhi’s mediation, called it a triumph of the “people’s will”. The conservative forces, not too well-organised, feebly protested but those exercising state power refused to allow people the right to debate or vote on these crucial issues.
India, which pushed the Nepali Maoists to the peace and democratic process, took an interest in ensuring that a pre-decided political agenda is followed, but showed little interest in ensuring the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was executed alongside.
The Maoists gained power without being accountable to the peace process. That leaves the families of the nearly 13,000 people killed in the conflict, and many others affected by state and Maoist atrocities, without justice. This disconnect between the peace process and political path is the main reason for the ongoing instability in Nepal.
The Gorakhnath Peeth, which Yogi Adityanath heads, commands a substantial following and respect in Nepal and was given recognition by the state as well till Nepal was a “Hindu Kingdom”. The Yogi has been consistently opposed to the country’s transformation to a “secular republic”. He was not the lone voice within the BJP, then the main opposition at the Centre, to warn that promoting “red terror” in Nepal would invite disaster in the future. L.K. Advani called Indian Naxalites and Nepali Maoists “twin brothers, offspring of the global monster of Communist extremism”. He clearly discouraged the UPA government from legitimising “red terror”, asking instead that India encourage Nepal to make their multi-party democracy “vibrant” and let the monarchy continue as a “symbol of Nepal’s identity and sovereignty”.
Adityanath, during his visits to Nepal in the past four years, and the interactions with people going to see him from Nepal, has rarely concealed his views and anger that the country’s journey to a “secular republic” was something imposed by the Maoists under the influence of external “money and design”: In fact, subsequent events have, in a way, vindicated Adityanath. Western diplomatic missions and some international NGOs not only began funding projects for the promotion of ethnicity-based “identity politics”, but also began pressuring MPs that “secularism will be meaningless without the constitution guaranteeing the right to religious conversion.”
Adityanath’s opposition to the “red revolution” now has many takers in Nepal, largely because its leaders were far less accountable to the principle of democracy and the comprehensive peace agreement. They also failed to consolidate democracy and bring about economic prosperity as pledged in the 12-point agreement. The “red revolution” has clearly lost its acceptability and the hope it once generated when the Maoist leaders came to occupy the seat of power, promising they will transform Nepal into “a Switzerland”.
With the Maoists’ failure to bring about political stability, demands for a review of the radical decisions they took are coming in from all sides. There is no “saffron wave” in Nepal, nor a leader like the one visible in Lucknow or Gorakhpur challenging the “red militancy”. But Lucknow politics continues to dominate the media and political debate here. Is “red militancy” more acceptable and legitimate than “saffron militancy”? The Maoists’ conduct has given greater relevance to this question.
Since Adityanath was the first public face from India to raise these issues, and is head of the Gorakhnath Peeth that enjoys cultural and religious recognition in Nepal, his visibility in Nepal is much greater now. After all, the apprehensions he and Advani raised in 2006, when the Indian government threw its weight behind the Nepali Maoists, have proved true.
The Maoists failed to have their decade-long insurgency recognised or inscribed as the “People’s War” in the Nepali constitution largely because of the harassment, killing and torture of opponents they resorted to during that period. But they succeeded in eulogising violence as an acceptable instrument of political change in the constitution, legitimising the politics of violence in the future. Given what has happened in Lucknow, and the discourse it has triggered in India, Nepal should review at least two issues: Whether violence can or should be accepted as a legitimate instrument of political change, and, if so, whether red militancy is more acceptable than saffron militancy, or vice versa.