This piece is related to "Got Plan B" - Daniela Ponce; Located at the following URL: http://www.nepalitimes.com/issue/349/GuestColumn/13533
As an activist, a student of politics, and an uncompromising advocate of liberal ideals, Nepalis all over the world (and especially the democratic diaspora), have much to thank Daniela Ponce for. Her impassioned appeal for Nepalis to step up and take charge of our own future is inspirational.
For the most part, Daniela's pontifications are sound. She is correct in her characterization of the UN's (in)capabilities, of the continuity of the "bahun-baad" tradition within the Nepali Congress, the continued lack of inclusive politics, etc.
Overall, Daniela's perspectives accurately reflect those of the more vocal sections of both the Nepali diaspora and Nepal's radical student leadership. Her fixation on the feudal monarchy for example, reads like an English translation of any Gagan Thapa speech - everything leads straight back to the king.
The weakness in this line of thought is two-fold: First, it reveals a selective bias that given Daniela's area of research (the role of student movements in Nepal), is not unexpected; Second, by unconsciously inflating its centrality, Daniela's position actually empowers that which she attempts to consciously demonize - the monarchy.
Daniela undoubtedly campaigned in good faith and with a clear conscience alongside the Nepali diaspora. All her efforts on human rights, on lobbying the US Congress, organizing forums, etc., were surely conducted with benevolent intent.
However, as a staunch critic of dominant Nepali parties' exclusionary tendencies, Daniela should realize the hypocrisy epitomized by the gap in her intentions versus their actual outcomes. Daniela's advocacy directly (and indirectly) contributed to the resurrection of the very power structures she writes in defiance of.
Does Daniela realize that her coordinated activities with (elements of) the Nepali diaspora resulted in the appointment of "uncles and aunts" (no pun intended) as MPs in Nepal's interim parliament? Does Daniela recognize that she likely demonstrated in front of the White House with the current Home Minister's nephews and Girija Koirala's nieces?
Armed with this knowledge, how righteous does Daniela feel, to be criticizing the current power structure and at the same time, to have been intimately involved in its (re)creation?
For additional reference, as in Latin America, we in Nepal do not dismiss forces that control the state's armed elements. What we do is, we understand that without a signed order from the Defence Minister, the Army is in no position to offer a 21 gun salute to anyone. Especially not the king.
Additionally, we understand that as the second highest ranking member of the Nepali Congress, Ram Chandra Poudel didn't take kindly to being pelted with slippers and empty water bottles (by the YCL). Similarly, Girija didn't appreciate being degraded by Matrika Yadav.
The events described above all occurred on or around Democracy Day. When considered in the larger context of political developments, these seemingly unconnected incidents make perfect sense. And because they make sense, the Nepali population probably deserves a little more credit than Daniela is willing to give. We understand exactly what position the Nepali Congress is in, what position the Maoists are in and what position the monarchy is in. This is precisely why (unlike those without a real agenda), we are quick to analyze and dismiss the centrality of the monarchy.
Also, we understand that the Defense Minister is adequately empowered by the interim constitution to fire the Chief of the Army Staff, if such a measure is warranted. We also appreciate that an inability to control the armed forces is a sign of strength of the security forces and an even greater sign of weakness of the administration. That is, the same administration that Daniela's advocacy was central to creating.
To address another of Daniela's concerns, the reason the current lot of useless leaders feel so empowered to speak on behalf of the people is because they know (as do the Nepali people), that the immediate alternative is even worse. Ironically, Daniela should also know that advocacy by her (and others like her), played an integral role in empowering the politicians that today, Daniela insists we should have no respect for.
Daniela's citation of Guatemala (as an example of what happens when crimes go unpunished), is excellent. Coincidently, that country's peace process is the UN's only "trophy" in the history of peace-keeping.
Daniels is correct. Impunity is rampant in Nepal for crimes ranging from forced school closures (using the threat of violence) to torture, to assassination and murder. The sheer lack of historical prosecution of known criminals (forget those implicated in the recent Rayamajhi Commission's Report) is preposterous.
But as a student of politics, Daniela must comprehend the enormity of her suggestion - the prosecution, indictment and sentencing of virtually every student leader, politician and government employee (either directly, for negligence, or for guilt by association). Such is the logical outcome of running down the list of crimes committed by Nepal's political leadership, against the Nepali people.
And of course, what about the peaces process? No one likes to ask these questions but, "should we risk prosecuting the Maoist leadership at the expense of peace?" "Would the suggestion of prosecution jeopardize Nepal's hard earned peace?" Is Daniela for peace or justice because "obviously," the two are mutually exclusive in the immediate-to-medium term.
Perhaps the secrecy behind the Rayamajhi commission's report wouldn't come as such a surprise if Daniela knew the names of potential Chief Justices, during the king's rule? Maybe then Daniela would realize how her advocacy contributed to the cycle of impunity she encourages Nepalis to resist.
Daniela should also contemplate how her advocacy against US aid weakened the monarchy temporarily, but empowered the political miscreants (Daniela scorns), indefinitely. Maybe then Daniela would realize that as much as her activism was geared towards creating a perfect and just society in Nepal, it contributed immensely towards creating the YCL.
As for Daniela's opinion of the Maoists, her own writing says it all. But the thought that removing the Maoists from the US terror list will somehow weaken the king's allies, misses the larger point: How will such an action force the Maoists to honour their promises or bring the Maoists to justice for their crimes against humanity?
Daniela advocated against US aid to the palace - "military and otherwise" - and ended up unknowingly advocating on behalf of the Maoists and politicians, she asks Nepalis to hold accountable.
Daniela hopes that her 4 years of Nepali experience permits her to inspire those who have lived and breathed in Nepal their entire lives. She asks for Nepalis to adopt a "Plan B" that makes human rights, a priority; a plan that "democratises, educates and mobilizes."
What Daniela doesn't do very well, is realize that Nepal is already on "Plan B." And, just like everything else Daniela perceived to be the case, the "Plan B" that's unfolding isn't exactly the "Plan B" she thought she had advocated for.