When was monarchy abolished in Nepal?
The abolition of the institution of the monarchy on May 28, 2008, marks a turning point in the political and constitutional history of Nepal. This saga of constitutional development exemplifies the systemic conflict between people’s aspirations for democracy and Kings’ ambitions for unlimited power. With the abolition of the monarchy, the process of making a new constitution for the Republic of Nepal had started under the auspices of the Constituent Assembly of Nepal. The end of the monarchy has its long story on going to the throne, massacre, janayuddha and conflicting environment.
Here we analyze three main reasons for the abolition of the monarchy. First, it argues that frequent slights and attacks to constitutionalism by the Nepalese kings had brought the institution of the monarchy to its end. Second, it analyzes the indirect but crucial role of India. Third, it explains how the 10-year-long Maoist insurgency and the second people’s movement (Jana Andolan II) culminated as a final blow to the monarchy. Finally, it concludes by recapitulating the main arguments.
For Plato, philosopher kings were the best kind of rulers. His idea of monarchy was based on the assumptions that a monarchy could be the best institution to promote free will, the rule of law, and the institutionalization of democracy on the nonpartisan basis. Time and again, history has refuted these Platonic assumptions.Monarchies have often caused their own demise by assaulting the sovereign power of the people, ignoring democracy as a way of life, and disrespecting constitutionalism. The Nepalese case of conflict between the king and the people broadly reflects a similar pattern of a clash between the aspirations of democracy and greed for unlimited power at its core. Thomas Hobbes, who justified monarchy as the best possible form of governance, also warned that a monarchy could turn into tyranny.
Throughout its history, Nepal has seen tyranny unbridled and people fell victim to the caprices of the kings. Therefore, the Nepalese people solemnly decided to abolish the source of their oppression, the monarchy. After the people were educated about their right and democracy, they have been against the tyranny of the monarchy and peek out the different series of the Andolan. The 1950 revolution was the starting point for the institutionalization of democracy in the country despite serious challenges ahead. First, the foremost challenge was that the Ranas were still in power and dominating the political landscape of Nepal.
Removing them from power was not an easy task, but it was the only way to end their political domination. Second, for the first time in a century, the king had an opportunity to enjoy state power and authority, resulting in his mounting ambitions, seeking to wield even more power. Since the Royal Nepal Army was loyal to the king, at any time the monarch could step in and assume absolute power posing a serious threat to the democratic aspirations of the people. Third, for centuries the country had been social, politically, and financially exploited by its rulers and desperately needed socioeconomic transformation along with the political change. To accomplish these tasks meant overcoming serious challenges down the road, made even more difficult due to fragile institutions on the one hand and inexperienced political leaders on the other hand.
In general, political parties and their activities were quite new for the Nepalese people, and leaders had never gained any experience organizing political parties. So lack of the skill to bring about the desired change. Fourth, amidst these challenges, the Nepali Congress had the great responsibility of institutionalizing democracy while it was itself mired in internal conflict over party leadership and additionally facing the noncooperation of almost three-dozen political parties, including the Communist Party of Nepal. The road ahead was thus risky and dangerous.
Taking advantage of this on May 8, 1962, the king composed a six-member Constitution Drafting Commission.42 In a period of less than one and a half months, the commission drafted the constitution and submitted it to the king on June 14, 1962.43 The king promulgated the new constitution on December 16, 1962, known as the Panchayati Constitution, which posted all prerogatives in the hands of the king and placed the king above the Constitution.
As a result, it propelled the struggle between the king and the people—represented by their political parties—to a new height. The conflict continued for about 50 years until 2008. During this period, the Shah Kings ignored their promises to the people, undermined the democratic aspirations the people, banned political parties, violated human rights, oppressed civilians, amassed wealth by abusing public resources, and ruled the country as dictators above the Constitution. What is more, the Kings incessantly distributed their images to the people as a living god, deserving unrequited worship, and admiration without rebuke?
On April 16, 1990, King Birendra restored multiparty democracy and agreed to be a constitutional monarch due to the pressure from people and political party. On November 9, 1990, a new constitution was promulgated that legitimized democracy and modestly brought the absolute monarchy into the limits of the Constitution. The Constitutional Recommendation Commission (CRC), formed on June 1, 1990, for “the preparation of a draft constitution with a view to strengthening Constitutional Monarchy and Multiparty Democracy” prepared the draft of the 1990 Constitution. But this could not sustain the freedom of people.
There were continuous autonomous practice in the name of the democracy and so on the similar step was done. When the House of Representatives was dissolved on May 25, 2002, the National Assembly was conducting its session. The king prorogued the National Assembly as well and never summoned its session. In this way, King Gyanendra started ruling the country without a parliament. King Gyanendra obsessively tried to follow in his late father King Mahendra’s footsteps. It was the fundamental principle of a constitutional monarchy that the “king can do no wrong,” and therefore, the Council of Ministers should take all responsibilities for both the constitutional and unconstitutional acts perpetrated by the kings.
During the 17-year history of the 1990 Constitution, the kings undermined and violated the Constitution several times. However, no governments took any responsibility for the unconstitutional acts of the kings. Rather, each government, willingly or unwillingly, became a silent spectator of these acts. Instead, one of the former ministers. It develops the new underground revolutionist group Maoist and revolt against the government from the barrel of the gun. After 10 years of the commencement of “ janayudha” following the November 2005 Agreement, the people’s movement broke out all over the country like a blazing fire. King Gyanendra kneeled down before the power of the people on April 24, 2006, announcing that the sources of state power were the people and that sovereignty inherently belongs to the people alone.
The king also reinstated the Parliament, which had been dissolved on the recommendation of the former Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba on May 22, 2002. The Maoists joined the parliament and government, and the parliament promulgated a new Interim Constitution in January 2007. The Interim Constitution provided that the fate of the monarchy would be decided by the first meeting of the Constituent Assembly. Elections were held for the Constituent Assembly. No party secured a majority, but the Maoist secured a position of the largest party in the Constituent Assembly.
Following the CA elections, the CA met for the first time on May 28, 2008. In its first meeting, the CA declared the abolition of the monarchy, and Nepal became a republic. Finally, the conflict between the king and the people concluded with the abolition of the institution of monarchy.The saga of the constitutional development in Nepal is a case of systemic conflict between peoples’ aspirations for democracy and Kings’ ambitions for unlimited power.
During the 240 years of monarchic rule, the rulers suppressed free will, took away liberties, denied democracy, impeded development, fostered poverty, and sustained injustice. The abolition of the institution of the monarchy on May 28, 2008, marks a turning point in the political and constitutional development of Nepal. Following the abolition of the monarchy, the Nepalese people had an opportunity to engage in institutionalizing democracy, entrenching liberty and free will, building the nation on the basis of democracy, promoting development, ending poverty, and securing the rule of law and justice through writing a new constitution. These aspirations of the Nepalese people are basic, dear, and undeniable.
It can be predicted that if the Ranas had not usurped power from the Shah Kings in 1846, perhaps the monarchy would have been abolished earlier. The reason is simple: the burden of blame for the misrule, despotism, nepotism, and exploitation of Nepal was solely heaped upon the Ranas instead of the kings. But after the abolishment even today, the feudalistic undemocratic culture has immeasurably imprisoned the vision of institutions, political parties, and leaders. No matter who they are, communists or so-called Democrats, they all commonly share this feudalistic undemocratic culture.
The monarchy is abolished, but the feudalistic undemocratic culture is the pandemic. Unless this culture is uprooted, the vestiges of monarchy will keep ruling the country. It seems reasonable that the conflict between the king and the people will finally be settled with the abolition of the feudalistic political culture. The feudalistic undemocratic political culture is the stumbling block both for the institutionalization of constitutionalism and fostering the pace of growth and human development. Democracy needs a culture of diligence, perseverance, as well as the pursuit of knowledge, innovation, industriousness, honesty, and self-respect. Peace can only be built on constitutionalism, justice, the rule of law, and the democratic way of life espoused by a rights-based approach.