August 13, 2020
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Nepal: A Country In Crisis

A time-line of its chequered history

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Nepal: A Country In Crisis

1768 - Prithvi Narayan Shah, the ruler of the small principality of Gorkha, formed a unified country from a number of independent hill states. The country was frequently called the Gorkha Kingdom, the source of the term "Gurkha" used for Nepalese soldiers.

1792 - Defeat at hands of Chinese in Tibet. Expansion halted. After 1800, the heirs of Prithvi Narayan Shah prove unable to maintain firm political control over Nepal. Country in turmoil

1814 - 1816: War with Britain. Defeated. Becomes Quasi British protectorate.

1846 - Rana family gained power, entrenching itself through hereditary prime ministers, and reducing the monarch to a figurehead. The Rana regime, a tightly centralized autocracy, pursued a policy of isolating Nepal from external influences. This policy helped Nepal maintain its national independence during the colonial era, but it also impeded the country's economic development.

1923 - Britain formally recognises Nepal's independence - though foreign relations remain under British control.

1950 - King Tribhuvan, a direct descendant of Prithvi Narayan Shah, fled his "palace prison" to newly independent India, touching off an armed revolt against the Rana administration.

1951 - Shah family returns to power and, eventually, a non-Rana is appointed prime minister.

A period of quasi-constitutional rule followed, during which the monarch, assisted by the leaders of fledgling political parties, governed the country.

During the 1950s, efforts were made to frame a constitution for Nepal that would establish a representative form of government, based on a British model

1959 - In early 1959, King Mahendra issued a new constitution and the first democratic elections for a national assembly were held.

The Nepali Congress Party, a moderate socialist group, gained a substantial victory in the election. Its leader, B.P. Koirala, formed a government and served as prime minister.

1962 - Declaring parliamentary democracy a failure 18 months later, King Mahendra dismissed the Koirala government and promulgated a new constitution on December 16, 1962.

The new constitution established a "partyless" system of panchayats (councils) which King Mahendra considered to be a democratic form of government closer to Nepalese traditions.

As a pyramidal structure progressing from village assemblies to a Rastriya Panchayat (National Parliament), the panchayat system enshrined the absolute power of the monarchy and kept the King as head of state with sole authority over all governmental institutions, including the Cabinet (Council of Ministers) and the parliament.

1972 - King Mahendra dies and is succeeded by his 27 year-old son, King Birendra.

1979 - Amid student demonstrations and anti-regime activities, King Birendra calls for a national referendum to decide on the nature of Nepal's government--either the continuation of the panchayat system with democratic reforms or the establishment of a multiparty system.

1980 - The referendum is held in May, and the panchayat system wins a narrow victory. The king carries out the promised reforms, including selection of the prime minister by the Rastriya Panchayat. King agrees to allow direct elections to national assembly - but on a non-party basis.

1985 - NCP (Nepali Congress Party) begins civil disobedience campaign for restoration of multi-party system.

1986 - New elections boycotted by NCP.

1989 - Trade and transit dispute with India leads to border blockade by Delhi resulting in worsening economic situation.

1990 - Pro-democracy agitation co-ordinated by NCP and Leftist parties united under a common banner of the United Left Front (ULF). This "Movement to Restore Democracy" is initially dealt with severely, with more than 50 persons killed by police gunfire and hundreds arrested. In April, the king capitulates. Consequently, he dissolves the panchayat system, lifts the ban on political parties, and releases all political prisoners.

An interim government is sworn in on April 19, 1990, headed by Krishna Prasad Bhattarai as prime minister presiding over a cabinet made up of members of the Nepali Congress Party, the communist parties of Nepal, royal appointees and independents.

The new government drafts and promulgates a new constitution in November 1990, which enshrines fundamental human rights and establishes Nepal as a parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarch.

1991 - International observers characterize the May 1991 elections as free and fair in which the Nepali Congress wins 110 seats out of 205 to form the government.

The largest opposition, the United Marxist and Leninist Party (UML), wins 69 seats.

Girija Prasad Koirala becomes prime minister and forms the government.

1992 - In May/June, the structure of Nepal's new democratic government is completed following local elections in which the Nepali Congress Party scores a convincing victory.

1994 - Koirala's government defeated in no-confidence motion. New elections lead to formation of Communist government, making it world's first Communist monarchy.

1995 - Communist government is dissolved. Nepal Communist Party (Maoist), a radical leftist group, begins insurrection in rural areas aimed at abolishing monarchy and establishing people's republic.

1997 - Continuing political instability as Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba is defeated and replaced by Lokendra Bahadur Chand. Surya Bahadur Thapa replaces Chand as he is forced to resign because of a split in the party.

1998 - Thapa stands down because party splits again. G.P. Koirala returns as prime minister heading a coalition government.

1999 - Fresh elections give majority to Nepali Congress Party. Krishna Prasad Bhattarai becomes prime minister.

2000 - Prime Minister Bhattarai steps down after revolt in NCP. G.P.Koirala returns as prime minister, heading the ninth government in 10 years.

2001 April - General strike called by Maoist rebels brings life in many parts of the country to a virtual standstill; police arrest more than 100 anti-government demonstrators, including a number of opposition leaders.

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