Pro monarchy groups demanding restoration of constitutional monarchy, and establishment of a Hindu state in Nepal forced its capital to shut down. The streets of Kathmandu, usually a bustling city of about a million people, wore a deserted look on Monday as businesses and schools were closed. Nepali language blog Mysansar has pictures of the city's major thoroughfare during the protest.
Called by pro-monarchy party Rashtriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) and lead by former Home Minister Kamal Thapa, the protest has once again posed the question – “is there future for monarchy in Nepal?”
After nearly three hundred years of monarchy, Nepal was declared a republic following a peace agreement between the government and Maoist rebels. King Gynandra was a pretty unpopular figure when he was deposed in 2008; but the relative success of RPP called protest and the way people received the King during a recent religious festival indicates that some people are willing to give the King a second chance.
United we blog for democratic Nepal, a blog maintained by a group of journalists, reported on the religious festival:
“A lot of ex-royalists and general people out of curiosity had lined up this time on the roadside to get glimpse of the ex-monarch. Some people cheered as king passed by. There was a group of people who sang bhajan to welcome Shah. Some people screamed slogan Raja Aaau Desh Bachau “Come King and Save the Country” The same slogan chanted by staunch royalists. Gyanendra Shah tried to mingle with the people…he sometime shook his head, waived his hand and joined his palms to honor the elders, according to Kantipur. A woman who was standing by the street complained “Hajur…there is no peace in the country.” Gyanendra Shah who stayed in Panauti for one and half hour prior he returned to the capital only said, “I wish there is justice and no one faced difficulties.”
Some loyal royalists have also been doing rounds of international publications to turn the border perception on their side. Dirgha Raj Prasai-former member of parliament, writing for Sri Lanka Guardian, argues that Maoists and various political parties are destroying Nepal and only monarchy can save the country.
The debate over Nepal's status as a secular state has also been pushed to the spotlight. Prasai in his aforementioned article, calling for monarchy to be restored, injects religion into the debate; saying that a secular Republic will destroy Nepal's character as a unique blend of Hindu and Buddhist traditions.
Blogger Maila Baje speculates that Nepal may quietly drop off its present secular state status:
“….It was not politically correct to defend Hinduism lest it imply support for the discredited monarchy. The Maoists, the storyline went, had to be brought into the mainstream at all costs. (The rebels, for their part, had long recognized that international funding was most copious for restructuring the religious character of the state.)
Nearly four years after that simulated peace, it has become fashionable to break the silence. A republican Nepal might be better able to anchor its unique identity as a Hindu state, after all. President Ram Baran Yadav and Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal have purportedly conceded that the secularization of the state was a mistake. Granted, they made the admission during private meetings with Hindu men of robes. But that goaded Deputy Prime Minister Sujata Koirala toward pushing the envelope. She wants a referendum on whether Nepal should return to state Hinduism.”
The relative success of RPP called protest in largely liberal progressive Kathmandu is no doubt an indication that nearly two years after the country was declared a secular Republic. There is a section of society who still are not satisfied and convinced about the change. It is up to the leaders and the public to decide how they are going to address the unsatisfied mass.