History of Nepal

Although Nepal emerged in history in the first millennium bc, it was only in the 18th century that Nepal developed as a country of the present size. Archaeological remains suggest that areas of Nepal have been inhabited for more than 10,000 years. The Kirant hill tribe people are thought to be the first rulers of the Kathmandu area. The earliest undisputed Nepali dynasty is the Licchavi dynasty, which was established in about ad 400. The Licchavi dynasty, which probably migrated from present-day Vaishāli, India, was centered in the Kathmandu Valley. The Licchavi dynasty expanded its influence to the Kali Gandaki River in the west and Sun Kosi River in the east. The Licchavi period, as well as the Malla period that followed, was deeply influenced by Indian culture.
The Licchavi dynasty came to an end in the late 9th century and was followed by the medieval period. The early medieval era was unstable and poorly documented. It culminated in the Malla period (1200 to 1769) when three separate dynasties, divided into three kingdoms in the late 15th century, were conquered by the Shah dynasty in 1769, led by King Prithvi Narayan Shah. Nepal’s southward expansion under the Shah dynasty resulted in a clash with the English East India Company. The Anglo-Nepalese War (1814-1816) reduced the country to its current size, although Nepal retained its independence.

A Rana Autocracy

In the first half of the 19th century, Nepal entered a short period of instability that culminated in the Kot Massacre, in which fighting broke out among military personnel and administrators after the assassination of a high-powered favorite of the queen. Jung Bahadur, a strong pro-British leader, prevailed during the massacre and seized control of the country. He declared himself prime minister and began the Rana dynasty of rulers. The Rana rulers monopolized power by making the king a nominal figure. They also made the office of the prime minister hereditary.
Nepal gave valuable assistance to the British during the Sepoy Rebellion (1857-1859) and during World War I (1914-1918). The British government reaffirmed the independence of Nepal through a treaty in 1923. A British resident (colonial official acting as an adviser to the ruler of a protected state), stationed in Kathmandu, controlled Nepal’s foreign relations. Nepal supported the Allied cause, with the contribution of Gurkha soldiers, during World War II (1939-1945). Nepal and the United States established diplomatic relations in 1948.
The Rana autocracy was increasingly criticized in the late 1940s, particularly by dissidents residing in India. The political-reform movement, which was approved by the Indian government and directed by the newly created Nepali Congress Party (NCP), won the support of King Bir Bikram Tribhuvana. Like his predecessors under the Ranas, he possessed purely nominal powers. His intervention in domestic politics deepened the crisis, however, and he was removed from the throne in 1950 by Prime Minister Maharaja Mohan Shumsher Rana. A few days later the king fled to India and NCP insurgents began military operations along the southern frontier. In 1951 Prime Minister Rana allowed a reorganization of the Nepalese government along democratic lines and the king was reinstalled. Friction between the Rana and Congress Party factions culminated in November 1951 when Prime Minister Rana was removed from power and the NCP formed a government headed by Matrika Prasad Koirala.

B Absolute Monarchy

After the Rana autocracy ended, Nepal embarked on a mission of economic and social development. However, political parties organizing the government during the 1950s were not effective. King Mahendra, crowned in 1955, seized absolute control of the government in 1960 after a decade of political unrest. King Mahendra dismissed the government and suspended parliament, calling it corrupt and inefficient. Considering a parliamentary system unsuited to Nepal, the king proclaimed a new constitution in 1962 that banned the formation of political parties and allowed for the autocratic rule of the king through a nonparty system of councils, or panchayats. The government then instituted social reforms, including land reforms and modernization of the legal code, which helped alleviate some caste discrimination.
When the king died in 1972, he was succeeded by his son Birendra Bir Bikram, who was formally crowned in 1975. The young king initially exercised strong control over the government, attempting to repress the reform movement led by former prime minister Bisheswar Prasad Koirala. As antimonarchist sentiments grew in the late 1970s and serious riots challenged his authority, the king relaxed his control.
In a 1980 referendum on the form of government, the voters decided to retain the nonparty panchayat system with certain modifications. Among the reforms was a constitutional amendment providing for the king to appoint a prime minister upon the recommendation of the National Assembly. Elections under the new provisions were held in 1981 and 1986. Although all candidates ran as independents, reports indicated that Marxist-Leninist members of the Communist Party won a number of seats in parliament.

C Constitutional Monarchy

Following a wave of pro-democracy protests spearheaded by Nepal’s banned political parties, Birendra agreed in 1990 to allow political activity. An interim government drafted a new constitution that provided for multiple political parties. In November 1990, with the adoption of a constitution stating the powers of the monarch, Nepal became a constitutional monarchy.
In 1991 the Nepali Congress Party (NCP) won the country’s first democratic election in 32 years, and the party’s general secretary, Girija Prasad Koirala, brother of former prime minister Bisheswar Prasad Koirala, became prime minister. Koirala resigned in 1994 after his coalition government lost its parliamentary majority. In new elections the Unified Marxist-Leninist (UML) branch of Nepal’s Communist Party won the majority of seats. The UML remained in power less than a year before a coalition government replaced it.
In 1996, a radical leftist party called the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), unhappy with the pace and direction of change, launched a “people’s war” aimed at overthrowing the government, abolishing the monarchy, and establishing a people’s republic. Incidents of violence were at first confined to remote mountain regions but by the late 1990s had spread to more than half the country.
C 1 Political Instability
A period of political instability followed the declaration of the “people’s war” in 1996. One prime minister succeeded another in a series of unstable coalition governments. Internal fighting weakened the coalitions, as did their inability to control the Maoist rebellion.
C 2 Royal Massacre
In early June 2001 King Birendra and eight other members of the royal family, including Queen Aiswarya, were fatally shot in the royal palace in Kathmandu. An official investigation of the massacre concluded that Crown Prince Dipendra had killed his family members in a drunken rage and then committed suicide. Birendra’s younger brother, Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev, succeeded to the throne.
The Maoist insurgency intensified following the massacre, fueled in part by popular conspiracy theories surrounding the incident. Prime Minister Koirala, in office for the third time, was widely criticized for embarrassing setbacks at the hands of the rebels and for a perceived failure to provide adequate protection for the royal family. His government was also mired in a bribery scandal.
C 3 Insurgency and Crisis
Koirala stepped down as prime minister in July 2001 and was succeeded by Sher Bahadur Deuba, a former prime minister known for his willingness to work with opposition parties. Deuba began a series of reforms, including distribution of land to the poor, and introduced plans to criminalize discrimination against Dalits (“Untouchables”) and to end the caste system. Deuba also initiated peace talks with the Maoist rebels, and both sides agreed to a ceasefire. But the ceasefire ended in November 2001 after Deuba rejected Maoist demands for a new constitution that would abolish the monarchy. Fighting renewed and as the violence continued, King Gyanendra declared emergency rule, which enabled him to send the royal army to fight the insurgency. In 2002 Gyanendra dismissed Deuba, dissolved parliament, and assumed full power over the government before appointing a new prime minister.
In January 2003 the government and the Maoists agreed to a ceasefire and renewed negotiations. However, the ceasefire collapsed in August, after seven months. Meantime, the political parties, which had been excluded from the government after the dissolution of parliament, led demonstrations in the capital, and in June 2003 Deuba was reappointed prime minister.
The Maoist rebels intensified their insurgency after the ceasefire collapsed in August 2003. They refused to enter peace negotiations with Deuba, insisting on direct talks with the king, and staged two week-long blockades of Kathmandu. In February 2005 Gyanendra again imposed a state of emergency. He assumed full executive power, dismissing Deuba and his government. The king also suspended many constitutional rights and freedoms, including freedom of speech and the press. 
In April 2006 massive protests took place against direct rule by the king. In Kathmandu street demonstrations drew hundreds of thousands of people, and government forces responded by firing into crowds, killing more than a dozen people. The protests were spearheaded by a seven-party opposition alliance that included the Maoist insurgents. Faced with daily protests, a general strike, and road blockades that cut off Kathmandu from fuel and food supplies, Gyanendra announced that he would restore parliament, which he had dissolved four years earlier. On the recommendation of the seven-party alliance, Gyanendra named Koirala as prime minister. The newly reinstated parliament soon began to strip the king of his powers. The Maoist rebels declared a three-month truce and began talks with Koirala.

C 4 Peace Agreement
The Maoist rebels reached a peace agreement with the Nepalese government in November 2006, ending a decade-long revolt during which an estimated 13,000 people were killed. Under United Nations supervision, the Maoists turned over their weapons and confined their troops in camps. As part of the agreement, a government commission was set up to investigate human rights abuses by both sides in the long conflict. Koirala assigned 5 of the 22 cabinet posts in the interim government to Maoists, who joined the government in April 2007. The government planned to nationalize the monarch’s assets while allowing Gyanendra to keep property he owned before he came to the throne.
Elections for a constituent assembly, chosen by the people, were scheduled for June 2007. The assembly was to rewrite Nepal’s constitution and decide whether Nepal would remain a monarchy or become a republic. The Maoists, who had been pushing for an end to the monarchy, agreed to abide by the constituent assembly’s decision. However, the elections were subsequently postponed due to two new demands made by the Maoists: the abolition of the monarchy ahead of the elections, and the implementation of a proportional system of voting for the elections. The new demands contradicted the earlier agreement and created a political deadlock. The Maoists withdrew from the governing coalition in September 2007, and the elections were further delayed. However, the Maoists rejoined the interim government after all of the main parties agreed to abolish the monarchy immediately after the elections, which were scheduled for April 2008.

D The Republic of Nepal

In the April 2008 elections the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) won the largest bloc of seats, taking 120 of the 240 directly elected seats. The Nepali Congress Party won the next largest bloc with 37, and the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) won 32. As promised, one of the first acts of the constituent assembly was to abolish the monarchy and declare Nepal a republic. The new government also declared Nepal a secular state, in which Hinduism is no longer the official religion. King Gyanendra was invited to remain in Nepal as a private citizen without any royal privileges, and his palace was converted to a museum. The constituent assembly was expected to take two years to write a new constitution.
In August the constituent assembly named Prachanda, the chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), as Nepal’s new prime minister. He was sworn in by the new president, Ram Baran Yadav, who holds a largely ceremonial post.

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