10-16 April 2015 #753

The landscape of fear

It is now the turn of the Maoists to be afraid: of karma and the International Criminal Court
Foreign Hand

‘Remember the good old days when all we had to worry about was the earthquake?’ So began a Moving Target column in this newspaper dated May 2007, titled ‘Innocence lost’. The war and aftermath introduced an alarming variety of worries that were far more complex than what we were used to. Murder, extortion, abduction and violent crime all competed for our attention, each new outrage taught us new things to fear, and somehow the peace agreement only made things worse.

When the Maoists unleashed their YCL thugs on the populace, a tsunami of extortion and violence rocked the valley, making it clear the theatre of war had simply shifted to the capital where the money is. By the time militant unionism had shut down all the factories, kidnapping was the only growth industry in town.

An unexpected knock on the gate could trigger panic, people grew suspicious of each other and the streets emptied of pedestrians by 8pm. Fear permeated Kathmandu society, especially among the business community and middle class, and bearing witness to this loss of innocence was an experience I wish I never had.

The decimation of the Maoists in the last election changed everything. As the losers collapsed in disarray, people soon realised they had nothing more to fear and the cities of the valley sprung back to life.  

Fast forward to the present, where I’m pleased to report that, despite everything, natural laws still apply: what goes around still comes around and the tables have now turned in the landscape of fear. While the people breathe a sigh of relief and go back to worrying about the earthquake, those guilty of traumatising an entire nation are now squirming in fear of retribution.

Col. Lama’s arrest in the UK for war crimes sent a shiver down the collective spine of both the military and Maoist leadership. No more junkets to Europe or America without the risk of getting busted for crimes against humanity and the army’s afraid any support witnesses they send will share the same fate.

The irony of seeing a Maoist-led government leap to the defence of an army officer accused of torturing their cadres kept things interesting, inasmuch as it exposed their fears of being next.

More recently, Prachanda has been publicly whining about plots to assassinate him, perhaps to avenge the countless murders committed in his name. This man of the people never goes anywhere without a phalanx of armed bodyguards to protect him from... the people.

The recent Supreme Court decision to forbid blanket amnesty for serious crimes as proposed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) has the Maoist brass panicking further. The court’s insistence that cases already filed can’t be shuffled off to the TRC for whitewashing is the worst news they’ve had in a long time. Even the hundreds of cases sneakily dismissed by the Bhattarai government can now be reopened, adding greatly their growing litany of dread. Sound familiar? Ironically enough, as their fears multiply the people’s worries diminish.

Last week, six Maoist parties (in a country where one is plenty) submitted a memo ‘demanding’ (translation from Mao-speak to plain English: begging) the PM to overrule this recent verdict -- in effect imploring the highest elected official in the land to break the law (just this once) so they can’t be prosecuted for breaking every law in the books.

The list of luminaries who signed this petition reads like a who’s who of war criminals, each surrounded in their respective factions by a coterie of equally guilty comrades. Thank the gods irony lives on in the erstwhile kingdom. The high and mighty who robbed and killed with impunity, secure in their status above the law, now live in abject fear of justice being served.

The Maoists may feel they can manipulate the legal system like they once did the villagers but justice takes many forms and will eventually prevail. Call it karma or call it the International Criminal Court in the Hague, the blood on their hands can’t be washed off by the TRC or anyone else.

If history is any guide, there’s something inevitable taking place here. Both Stalin and Mao, whose portraits hang at every party meeting of Nepali Maoists, spent their final years in constant fear for their lives, plagued by paranoia and suspicion. That’s something our Maoists have to look forward to: the restless ghosts of 17,000 dead are sure to haunt them.  

Meanwhile back on the streets, the innocence and trust Nepali society lost to the war may never be fully regained, but the inherent right of law abiding citizens to live without fear is already well on its way to being restored.  

Jai Nepal.

Read also:

Innocence lost, Foreign Hand

TRC and Col Lama, David Seddon

Maoists protest SC ruling

Another lost decade, Editorial

Sore losers, Trishna Rana

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