Dante wrote in his Inferno that the deepest layers of hell are reserved for those who remain neutral in times of moral turpitude. In Central Europe, there is a saying: 'If all those around you are crooks and you remain silent you, too, become a crook.'
A week after the unprecedented communally-tinged riots in Kathmandu, there are certain inescapable truths. The original anger may have been spontaneous, but there was nothing spontaneous about Wednesday's mosque attack. If it was an impulsive explosion of anger, we would have seen it erupt first in Nepalganj. It didn't. In fact, Nepalganj didn't even need a curfew.
Then there was the systematic ransacking of recruitment agencies. In eight hours, more than 150 agencies were gutted, their records destroyed. Such house-to-house arson is never spontaneous as we have seen in pogroms in New Delhi and Colombo. The clue to culprits is to hunt for motive. Aside from rival fly-by-night manpower companies, the only beneficiaries were those who want to wreck the country's economy and spread anarchy.
The media is a double-edged sword, and we must take a part of the blame. The inflammatory phone-in interviews on Tuesday night over FM, some even inciting Nepalis to take revenge, were grossly irresponsible. As it turned out, the media itself became a target of the mobs for advocating restraint.
But by far the most negligent and mysterious lapse was the outright refusal of state security to get involved in quelling the riots (see p 10). The government did not take the abduction of Nepalis seriously enough soon enough. When they were killed, it waited and didn't anticipate the anger on the streets. It waited too late to take steps to prevent the riots even when everyone knew it was coming. And when Muslims shops were being ransacked, mosques burnt, airline offices looted and media houses attacked state security just watched from the sidelines. Who didn't give the order when Kathmandu was burning?
Everything we do is too little too late. The mosque was being guarded by a mine-protected vehicle only after it was a smouldering wreck, and there was an armoured carrier guarding the ashes of Siddhi Bhawan and two airline offices housed there a day too late. You don't need a ventilator when the patient is already dead.
We have to learn our lessons and move on in this season of turmoil. Now it is the Maoists' turn to wipe out what's left of Nepal's economy. They rode the wave of anarchy and are using the momentum of last week's chaos to catapult their plans to bring the country to its knees.
We have a question for both the Maoists and the palace: don't you think Nepalis have suffered enough on your behalf? How much longer do you intend to punish us?