| Prachanda in parliament. (AP)
Kathmandu, Jan. 15: It was not only the sun which transited into the Northern Hemisphere today, marking the end of long winter on the auspicious Hindu religious day of Makar Sankranti. With the Maoists entering parliament, Nepal also began its historic transition towards inclusive and representative democracy.
This marked the end of a 10-year-old insurgency, which left about 20,000 Nepalese dead.
It was a momentous day in the history of Nepal — an event for which the world has waited with bated breath. Nowhere else have such a large number of insurgents said goodbye to arms and to violence in a peacefully negotiated settlement to participate in competitive democracy.
As Nepal’s House of Representatives, restored after the people’s movement of April 2006, unanimously adopted an interim Constitution, dissolved itself and paved the way for the Maoist insurgents to enter a new and reconstituted interim parliament, yet another transition was taking place elsewhere in the country.
At two of the seven specially designated camps — at Chitwan and Nawalparasi — the soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army of the Maoists began depositing their weapons for locking up in containers monitored by the UN.
The process of locking up arms will be completed at eight locations — including one for the Nepal Army — over the coming days.
Today, the 238-year-old creaking and outdated monarchy of Nepal also experienced a transition of sorts. The institution was given one more push towards its possible elimination through its irrelevance in today’s developments.
“This is not Makar Sankranti but Maoist Sankranti,” remarked a smiling Raghu Pant, an MP of the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist Leninist). Since “Sankranti” means to go from one place to another or change direction, he was not wrong.
The day began early for Nepalese parliamentarians as the House of Representatives met at 9.20 am.
The discussion on the statute went on till late in the evening, even as the 73 Maoist MPs along with 10 other MPs nominated by the Maoist leadership from the Civil Society gathered in a nearby building waiting to enter the reconstituted 330-member interim House.
They had been escorted into the Singh Durbar complex where Parliament is located in three mini-buses. Led by their top leaders Prachanda, Baburam Bhattarai and C.P. Gajurel, who themselves are not joining parliament, they were received by home minister Krishna Prasad Situala, a key negotiator of the peace settlement.
Inside the “Gallery Baithak”, an ornate building once used by the Nepalese monarchs for ballroom dancing and receiving non-Hindu guests, the old parliamentarians debated the interim Constitution and proposed amendments.
There were those who wanted the untrammelled powers of the Prime Minister checked. Others argued against delaying the process of adopting the interim Constitution and the entry of the Maoists into parliament.
After day-long deliberations, it was left to the octogenarian Prime Minister, G.P. Koirala, to plead with the MPs to withdraw their amendments while promising them that he will never deviate even an inch from democratic principles.
“The proposals you have forwarded for amendment are now the parliament’s property. Based on this property, the interim Constitution will be improved. Please don’t harbour any suspicion or misgiving in this regard. My sincere request to you is to please withdraw the amendments,” he said.
Koirala was magnanimous in his praise of the MPs saying: “The Maoist weapons are going into containers, minutes later the Maoists themselves will be entering parliament. Is not this a momentous achievement' The credit for this goes not to any one particular person, but to all you parliamentarians.”
While some heeded his advice to withdraw their amendments to the interim Constitution, others insisted on a voice vote — all such amendments were defeated. Only when the procedural and paperwork was complete and the interim Constitution accepted by a 185- to-zero division, did the House dissolve itself.
The interim parliament met thereafter with the Maoist MPs being included in it. The new parliament has adopted the interim constitution.