Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Royal Republics 2



By Manuwant Choudhary

You may be wondering what I mean by Nepal electing its King but yes that is exactly what I mean. Even as Nepal's deposed King Gyanendra vacates his Narayanhity Palace today and ends the 240-year-old dynastic rule of the Shah's I am suggesting that Nepal elect its new monarch.
The new monarch will not be Gyanendra again or his son Paras or even the warrior Maoist Prachanda...the new King of Nepal could be anyone...any ordinary citizen of Nepal could be elected as King through a national vote like the US Presidential elections.
Except that the elected person will be called a Raja or King and not a President and he will be allowed to live in the Narayanhity Palace for a fixed term or a life term!
The Maoist proposal to convert the palace into a museum is not the best option. What is a palace without a living King? Imagine a Buckingham Palace without the Queen? Or the White House without the US President?
I am not a royalist when I sugest this rather a democrat and I feel that Nepal would be losing one of its best institutions plus a tourist money-spinner in the royalty.
I have no desire to visit a Narayanhity museum to see the hall in which King Birendra and his family were senselessly and mysteriously massacred.
I have no desire to meet Nepal's new President either or Prime Minister.
But yes as a foreign tourist a king still facinates maybe because they are already a dying breed.
I also believe most ordinary people in Nepal had a genuine respect for their erstwhile royal family and for the past hundreds of years they worshipped their Kings and Queens as they would worship their gods.
From shops to homes to temples the Kings presence could be seen and felt.
In cinema's in Nepal one had to stand up at the start of the film to respect the King.
There was no compulsion. The Nepalese would do so happily and would be proud to their culture.
So when I say Nepal should elect a new King I am being very democratic.
Some would argue that there is no precedence of electing a King.
And I would like to tell them of Minoo Masani a great Indian liberal who was also a member of India's constituent assembly and a freedom fighter.
Minoo Masani left a tremendous influence on me. He was the first person I ever interviewed even before I decided to become a journalist. But I respect Masani for many reasons but mostly for him sharing his prespectives on history and politics.
Masani preferred to write children's books. His first book for children `Our India' written in pre-independent India became an instant best-seller. As a sequel to that he wrote `We Indian's' in the eighties. And in it Minoo Masani tells us that the President of the Republic was elected by the people and he was called a `Raja'. Some states were so democratic that they actually refused to elect a king or even ministers so when Alexander the Great invaded India they had to send 100 to 150 representatives for negotiating treaties!
Masani also writes that Buddha's father was an elected King!
The King was usually elected only for his own lifetime.
And on coronation day the samiti sang songs in honour of their new king.
"This state to thee is given for agriculture, for well-being, for prosperity, for growth.
Firm as the heaven, firm as the earth, firm as the universe, firm as the mountains, let this Raja of the people be firm.
For firmness the assembly here appoints you."
But yes if the King betrayed the trust of his people he could also be sacked!

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