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‘Come back king, save the country’: Protests erupt in Nepal for the return of Hindu monarchy and the nation’s former status as a Hindu state

An increasing discontent with the current system has given rise to demands for drastic modifications. Rallies in favour of the Hindu monarchy have been growing bigger and a greater number of residences and commercial establishments are sporting pictures of the former king and his forebears.

King Gyanendra Shah was compelled to abdicate and make way for a republic sixteen years ago in Nepal as a result of widespread protests. However, a fresh movement of demonstration is now attempting to reinstate him, reported the Associated Press (AP). Now, Kathmandu, the capital of the tiny nation in the Himalayas is once again brimming with agitation for the restoration of Hinduism for the past few months as the official state religion and the re-election of Shah as its king.

The main political parties in the nation are accused by royalist organisations of corruption and poor governance and they asserted that the public is fed up with the politicians. A crowd in Kathmandu raised slogans including, “Come back king, save the country. Long live our beloved king. We want a monarchy,” in a rally in February of this year.

An increasing discontent with the current system has given rise to demands for drastic modifications. Rallies in favour of the monarchy have been growing bigger and a greater number of residences and commercial establishments are sporting pictures of the former king and his forebears.

Before taking over total authority in 2005, Gyanendra Shah was a head of state recognized by the constitution but he lacked political and executive authority. Two years after the parliament voted to abolish the monarchy, he left the Royal Palace to live a commoner’s life and was compelled to cede authority to the government in 2006 following protests that drew hundreds of thousands of people. However, a lot of Nepalis are now angry with the republic, claiming it hasn’t succeeded in establishing political stability and holding it responsible for the country’s faltering economy and pervasive corruption. Since the monarchy was overthrown in 2008, Nepal has had thirteen governments.

According to independent Kathmandu-based researcher Dhruba Hari Adhikary, many Nepalis think elected officials are more focused on maintaining their position of power and receiving favours than they are on addressing the concerns of citizens. He stated, “That’s why some people started to think that, well, it was far better under the monarchy.” He added, “But the movement is too small to prevail any time soon.”

Tens of thousands of people demonstrated in favour of the monarch in November 2023 in Kathmandu but were prevented from marching into the heart of the city by riot police officers using batons and tear gas. In the predominantly Hindu nation, kings were long regarded to be reincarnations of the god Vishnu. One of the agitators Rudra Raj Pandey, in a rally in February, noted, “Our country will retain its values and identity only if it is turned back to a monarchy and the king is reinstated to the throne.”

The number of people in Nepal who prefer the monarchy is unknown because polls and surveys are rarely carried out there. Even though Gyanendra Shah was an unpopular king, the monarchy was still widely accepted before he absorbed power. The major political parties in the nation have rejected the idea of the monarch taking the throne again.

Narayan Prakash Saud, the leader of the Nepali Congress, the largest party in parliament at the time of the 2006 uprising claimed, “Nepal is a republic and the monarchy will never be reinstated. The only way it would be possible would be through changing the constitution, but there is no possibility of that happening at all.”

The national democratic party or Rastriya Prajatantra Party was established in the 1990s by pro-monarchy supporters and is currently the most influential group advocating for the return of the monarchy. It represents the protest movement with 14 seats in parliament, or around 5% of the total although it wields an enormous amount of power.

In February, party leaders met with the prime minister to put forward their demands. Rabindra Mishra, deputy chairman of the party remarked, “I think it is very possible and the environment throughout the country has never been so congenial for this agenda. If we can’t restore the institution of the monarchy in this country, there is no future for the youth in this country and the existence of this country itself could be at risk.”

Gyanendra Shah has not addressed the movement in his own words. Since his abdication, he has avoided explicit involvement in politics and has made few public appearances. There are now numerous organizations backing the king.

Pasupathi Khadga, the head of a young group that advocates for the restoration of the monarchy highlighted, “We need a monarchy. Without a king, we have no identity as Nepalese and all of us might as well just declare ourselves as refugees.”

Political parties were not permitted to be established in Nepal’s monarchy until 1990 when elections were introduced and the king was reduced to a ceremonial position by a pro-democracy movement. After the murder of his elder brother, King Birendra and his family in a massacre that took place at the royal palace in 2001, Gyanendra Shah ascended to the throne.

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