I have found myself in a good many heated arguments over the merits of the Maoist insurgency in Nepal. Years ago, they seemed to fight a worthy cause, striving for economic emancipation of rural Nepalis, against inequality, and for a social society. With a paramilitary organization, they took over most of the country. - Poverty didn't decrease. Instead, the entire country came to suffer from forced strikes, attacks and "if you're not with us, you're against us" coercion. It was the old terrorist/freedom fighter dichotomy.
During the last few months everything seemed to converge towards a bloody stand-off between increasingly brazen rebels and the king who concentrates military power in his hands. The political parties, nugatory since the king took absolute power, stood by watching.
The dynamics changed completely two weeks ago when a fourth player unexpectedly entered the stage. Ordinary citizens of Kathmandu took to the street in defiance of curfew, rubber bullets and tear gas to protest royalty and violence. More people joined daily, the political parties quickly rediscovered their purpose and jumped onto the bandwagon, and even Maoists strengthened the peaceful crowds. After trying to stare down the masses, it was the king who bowed. He asked for the appointment of a prime minister and the reinstallation of parliament. People danced in the streets celebrating their success, but the icing on the cake was provided by the Maoists who declared a truce to facilitate the elaboration of a new constitution.
This is democracy in action and took place without any intervention by (and probably to the great surprise of) the self-proclaimed promoter of global democracy, the United States, who is still busy collecting flowers in Iraq.
When the dust has settled, the Maoists will have to show their true colors. Are they just a bunch of looney whackos, or can live up to the challenge of democracy? Given a recent experience half a world away, continued vigilance is advised.