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Kyrgyzstan at the Cross-Roads

Not only should Kyrgyzstan's future after the April ousting of the government be a central focus, but the future of the other 'stans' as well

When riots broke out in Petrograd, it was March 8, 1917. The subalterns clashed with Tsar’s infantrymen. In the process, 40 people were killed. But any ‘revolution’ can claim a resounding success and more to be embedded in the annals of History, if and only if the civilians and the army act in unison. And that’s what happened on that day in St. Petersburg.

The rest was simply obvious. The Tsar had to abdicate the monarchy and the Russian Duma took over, bowing down before popular diktat.

Ninety three years later: a lower latitudinal plane, a different racial denomination but a part of erstwhile Soviet Union; the streets of Bishkek witnessed a grossly similar upheaval—a spontaneous people’s movement, not marred by any ‘political’ color or ‘external’ flavor.

It might not be a very futile exercise to chart the reasons behind the upsurge, which swept Bishkek and the rest of the country last month, but a meticulous student of International Relations prima facie may not diametrically differ with the apparently simplistic rationale that it was the primary demands of livelihood which were unmet by Bakiyev and his coterie that led to the outburst.

The man on the street, the worker below the bridge, the peasant with the plough, the student lurking in the library, and the intellectual pressing the keyboard of his laptop hugely differ in their demands for satiation. However, when one finds people from the full spectrum of the populace sum up their demands and zero in on the Presidential palace to engineer emancipation; then one needs to be absolutely sure that the State, instead of adhering to the conditions of Social Contract has bungled to the extreme. When Hobbes’ State of Nature becomes a viable formula of redemption for the commoner, then the scrupulousness of the State is genuinely under the scanner.

 But then when was there a ‘State’ in Kyrgyzstan since 1991? Or for that matter, is there a ‘State’ in the Central Asian ‘stans’? A framework might have existed or still may exist, but democracy even up to the standards of the ‘mafia-politician-bureaucrat nexus ridden India’ is lacking in the former Soviet colonies since their political freedom from former USSR.

Arguments can be posited forthright: the Central Asian ‘stans’ are callow compared to India. After all, how can one compare a six-decade old ‘democratic haggard’ with a two decade old ‘parliamentary youth’? Moreover, did the Kyrgyz people derive their notion and position on democracy from the ‘White men’ who were glorified by the Glorious Revolution? Rather, they had in fact translated the dictates of Constitutionalism from the ‘Slavs’ that were anointed by the Marxist dogmas of financial distribution and were bathed in the culture of popular revolts.

The skewed and warped form of Marxism-Leninism was a unique feature of Bolshevik Russia. Furthermore, post-1917 Russia (read Soviet Union) put in enormous efforts to diffuse the ideological dictum of Stalin’s perception of ‘Dictatorship of the Proletariat’ into the neighboring satellite states of Eastern Europe, Caucasus, and Central Asia.

As a result, when the USSR collapsed under financial and political turmoil, the aforementioned ‘Kultur’ was to an extent rooted in the psychology of the political masters of the ‘stans’. Thus, a series of ‘dictators’, in the garb of democratically elected leaders usurped office in the Central Asian Republics (CAR). Constitutions were fabricated, sometimes at the behest of the West. Nevertheless, the Strategos continued ‘ruling’ with an iron fist, masked themselves behind a constitutional façade and squeezed the masses with the aid of an ‘apparatchiki’.

Nepotism, corruption, inflation, and unemployment surged. And the boiling points were reached in two republics: Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. The former was a witness to a civil war from 1992 – 1997 with a somewhat useless result of planting into office the ‘never-ending regime’ of Emomali Rakhmon.

On the other hand, Kyrgyzstan has shown a better ‘political maturity’ vis-à-vis the other ‘stans’. In 2005, it evinced brouhaha with the Color Revolution by virtue of which Bakiyev claimed office. And once again in 2010, after the malfeasance exhibited in the 2009 elections, the Kyrgyz masses hemmed in Bakiyev from all sides, forced him to flee to Belarus; thus avoiding a civil war, which nonetheless has not been completely averted with reports of bloodbath and fisticuffs from the southern part: Bakiyev’s traditional stronghold.

The germane question at this critical juncture is what holds in the future for Kyrgyzstan? And how does this people’s movement affect the other ‘stans’? (If it does at all.)

Though Kyrgyzstan is at the cross-roads, to project its future may not be an overt challenge to the French apothecary Nostradamus. The interim government led by Rosa Otunbayeva is slowly tightening its grips over the southern part. However, a couple of issues would bother them in the recent future.

First, the loyalty of the armed forces needs to be sorted out. Though Bakiyev has found refuge in Minsk, his loyal followers are still trying to wreak havoc both in civilian and non-civilian sectors. Second, the country warrants a ‘proper democratic election’ and an amended constitution which would proffer equity and justice through better distribution of powers.

One thing might be guaranteed without hedging. Total anarchy in Kyrgyzstan would be avoided, if not by the interim government; then at least by either of the external stake-holders: the U.S. and Russia. The geographical location of the nation-state and the presence of the military bases of both cold war protagonists shall not allow them to de-focus from this ‘stan’.

The Global War on Terror in the Af-Pak region and the consequent suppression of the Al Qaeda-Taliban there might as well provide fresh breeding grounds for the terrorist groups in Kyrgyzstan and the neighbouring ‘stans’ in the Ferghana Valley. The old adage goes: “Dissatisfaction foments disruption”. And it is dissatisfaction that is merrily needed by Osama’s men. Then only the secular social-fabric embroidered in the Soviet-era ‘stans’ can be outrightly lambasted.

Thus this time round the Islamist groups like the Hizb-ut-Tehrir or the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan may not spurn the opportunity.

By Uddipan Mukherjee




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