14-20 March 2014 #698

Put Ranjit Karna behind bars

Ameet Dhakal, 10 March, Setopati.com

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Ranjit Karna, CA member and president of the NC-affiliated Nepal Student Union (NSU), has overstepped his jurisdiction by demanding that SSP Ramesh Kharel, who arrested five NSU members on Monday for carrying guns with expired licences, be prosecuted. More than a personal opinion, Ranjit’s statement was an explicit threat to authorities at a time when his own party is heading the government.

During a regular traffic check on early Monday morning, the police caught Shubha Ram Basnet, president of the Free Student Union at Shanker Dev Campus, along with four others at Sitapaila with three guns. The police discovered that the licence of one of the pistols had not been renewed.

However, Ranjit claims the security check was premeditated and prejudiced and that his cadre should be released after they pay a fine for the guns. He blames Kharel for taking the law into his own hands and is insisting that the SSP be tried in court. But perhaps Karna is unaware that it is not just guns, it’s a crime to even drive with an expired licence.

The case leads to some intriguing questions. Why were NSU members travelling around with guns at 3am in the morning when rest of the city was fast asleep? Where were they going to or coming back from? Did they have any intentions to cause harm?

The incident also raises the issue of firearm licences. The pistol under question was registered under Shambu Ram’s father. But the permit to possess a gun is strictly personal, which means ownership does not extend to other members in the family. So why was Shambu Ram carrying his father’s pistol and moreover, with an expired licence? Instead of immediately suspending the five men from NSU, president Karna put undue pressure on the police and incited other students to come out on the streets to protest. This is not the first time that NSU has bought the city to a standstill and disrupted daily life. Over the past month, Congress students have frequently wreaked havoc infront of Shanker Dev Campus.

If Karna continues to instigate students and if his men cause further suffering to common Nepalis, then the CA member should be held responsible for such disorderly behaviour and must be arrested. No one, not even a parliamentarian has the right to interfere in a criminal prosecution. So far the NC has not made any public comments on the arrests or on Karna’s statements. But the mother party needs to uphold the rule of law and stop its students from hindering investigations. Otherwise, its legitimacy to rule will be under scrutiny and NC leaders and politicians will lose their credibility.

Monday’s arrest once again exposes the criminalisation of student unions in Nepal. Leaders of different student organisations have time and again been caught breaking the law and being involved in illicit networks. To protect the country’s educational sector and to nurture a new generation of qualified and respectable leaders, it is important to bring the unions under the purview of parent parties.

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