Thursday, 6 May, 2021

People's Fight For Democratic Rights


Narayan Upadhyay

Democracy in Nepal has taken a firm root. People hailing from all walks of life are extremely watchful about freedom and defending their constitutional rights, no matter what form of political crises our country goes through.
In this era of social media networks and online portals, where populations can access all kinds of news and views with a click of a computer mouse, people are profoundly mindful of their rights and responsibility. The information convergence has occurred to assist the people's increasing understanding, utilising and safeguarding their constitutional rights.

More Informed, Proactive
In today's world, individuals have found online platforms a successful weapon to assert their dissatisfaction or liking about any incident that takes place in the nation's politics, which has their direct bearing on the people's ability to exercise their democratic rights.
For example, ever since the House of Representatives was terminated on December 20, 2019, people of all hues and stripes are caught in communicating derision or support about the issue.
In this modern digitised age, people are swift to tell their minds, which help constitute a forceful wave of loyalty or condemnation to any cause, be it political or social. Masses descend to streets protesting or demonstrating against the authority or institutions because of the expeditious sweep of information via social media systems or other online portals and websites. 
For instance, in a latest incident taking place in Myanmar, the Junta has discovered it arduous to quell people's protest after usurping power from the legitimately elected government. 
To stop the people from gathering or protesting, the junta has employed one of the potent strategies- it has shut down the internet services throughout the country to prohibit the pro-democracy supporters from sharing their information against the junta. 
However, the Myanmar people could hold protests and strikes against the powerful military. The act of the Myanmar junta shows how potent can the outflow of information, news and views via the current-day social media and online portals become. 
The contemporary people, amply aided by new media- the online media and different social media,  are an exceptionally informed lot. 
The convenience of having different media contents and the subsequent impact of sharing of information, news and views proved a potent weapon for  protecting democratic rights. 
However, the Nepali people who lived in the late 19th or early 20th century were less knowledgeable and enlightened. The world was not technologically developed as it is now. 
The oppressive Rana regime survived for a century benefiting the lower collective awareness level of the masses. 

Democracy in 1951
No system of rapid information dissemination or education about the oppressive Rana oligarchs was feasible then. Following the arrival of radio and newspapers and the establishment of schools and colleges, situation changed substantially. The people became more aware about the injustice and brutality of the Ranas, pushing them to raise voices against the despotic Ranas. 
Though the Rana rulers responded against the people's revolution strongly, killing, jailing and banishing many, they could not survive the movement for democracy of 1951. Thanks to their increased awareness, the people for the first time could caste votes and elect the first democratic government in 1958. 
But the then King Mahendra unceremoniously removed the first elected government of popular Prime Minister BP Koirala in 1960 to start his brainchild, the Panchayat system of governance. He banned the multi-party politics and jailed the renowned leaders of the time. PM Koirala who was jailed was the leader who had led the revolution against the hereditary Rana rulers.
The Shah kings' grip on power ended after 30 years. The people's movement of 1990 turned the then king into a constitutional monarch and restored democracy and multi-party polity in the country.
From 1960 to 1990, the people had become more cognizant of the democratic events taking place around the world. 

Struggle For Democracy
The wider reach to the nation and international media such as radio and television channels and availability of domestic and international newspapers made the Nepali people warier about democratic rights while receiving news and insight views about the ongoing struggles for democracy in many countries around the world, inspiring them to take the same route to realise their rights. The fall of many regimes around the world gave our people an impetus to launch their struggles against arbitrary rules. 
An enhanced level of consciousness led the people to hold a massive demonstration and protest in 2006/2007 against the then autocratic rule of the then King Gyanendra. This time around, the people had an extraordinarily strong opinion against the King. The monarch had acted despotically to not only dismiss  the Parliament but proclaimed him the government head to usurp power from the democratically elected government. 
The constitutional monarch's imperious ways impelled the people to mount a strong 19-day protest. The revolution helped restore the  parliament and ultimately ended the monarchy in the country, as the knowledgeable people could not condone the then King's unwarranted moves aimed at subverting all forms of democratic rights. 
The media had played its important part in informing the people about the King's undemocratic moves that tried to gag the media. Aided immensely by the media, the exceedingly cautious people and political parties drove the then Monarch out of power.
The long and hard struggle for democracy in the country has made our people more resolute and proactive against any element that seek to sabotage their democratic rights.
The courage and conviction among the Nepali people is enough to safeguard democracy in our land because the citizen’s enhanced awareness invariably discourages rulers from going against their wishes and aspirations. Democracy in our land will survive  because we have developed into a highly perceptive group who will safeguard and promote democratic and individual rights as preserved in our charter.

(Upadhyay is deputy executive editor of this daily)