4-10 September 2015 #774

Getting away with murder

Post Bahadur Basnet in www.setopati.com, 27 August

LAST RESORT: A woman shows the room where SSP Laxman Neupane had hid himself before being dragged outside and killed by protestors at Tikapur in Kailali last week.

After protesters demanding a Tharuhat province murdered eight policemen and a child in Tikapur this week, a ‘progressive’ commentator tweeted that it was ‘an outburst of the long-suppressed anger of the Tharus’.

It is like saying that a husband who murdered his wife may have his reasons for doing so: ‘he would not have killed her if she had not cheated on him’. This section of the intelligentsia that regards itself as ‘progressive’ argues that social injustice is the root cause of most violence. They believe that the oppressed cross a threshold where they can’t take injustice anymore and rise up.

So when Tharuhat protesters massacred police and a child in Tikapur, the ‘progressives’ heaved a sigh of relief. It was dramatic proof of the proletariat striking back. They argued that the murders finally woke up the state, and argued that constitution-drafting should be suspended to address the people’s aspirations for ethnicity-based states. 

The ‘progressive’ intelligentsia has justified violence as a means for the liberation of the oppressed ever since the Maoists waged what they dubbed as a ‘people’s war’. They said it was a just uprising against the structural violence of the state. The only way to end the conflict, they said was to fulfill their demands.

These intellectuals ended up becoming unofficial spokespersons of the Maoists. Not only did they justify violence, but they also proved that its relevance was not over as yet. Since these commentators appear in a Gandhian garb, their justification for Maoist violence carried more weight.

After the 2006 Democracy Movement nearly all civil society leaders, not just the ‘politically correct’ ones, became ‘revolutionaries’ overnight. They shed their neutrality and independence by moving beyond mediating, and proceeded to radicalise society and convince the public that an equal society could only be forged through a violent uprising.

Society therefore began to believe that political violence was okay. The end justified the means. Such crimes would not be subject to the criminal justice system. After the war, some civil society leaders stood by army generals and officers charged with illegal detention and extra-judicial killings while other progressive intellectuals defended Maoist leaders facing charges of violation of human rights. 

Some intellectuals even warned that punishing Maoist leaders or army generals for war crimes would jeopardise the peace process. The fact that not a single general, Maoist leader or ministers in government ever had to face up to wartime atrocities encouraged impunity. This could be why Netra Bikarm Chanda is itching to start another war. 

As violent protests erupt in the western plains, Bijaya Gachhadar finds it increasingly more difficult to stick to the agreement he signed. The Maoists are also under pressure from the extremists in their ranks. After going along with the NC-UML they now say that denying a Tharuhat province would be catastrophic.

What will happen if Kailali district with its mixed population of Tharus, Bahuns and Chhetris is placed in the Far West Province and not in Province 5 which stretches from Nawalparasi to Bardia, and which the Tharus consider their homeland? 

Even if Kailali becomes part of a future Tharuhat Province, Bahuns and Chhetris will not lose anything. And if Kailali becomes part of the Far West province, the Tharus will lose nothing. They will still all be equal citizens of Nepal. Yet, the leaders of neither communities want to compromise. 

NC leader Sher Bahadur Deuba is stoking the fire by insisting that not a single village of Kailali, let alone the whole district, can be separated from his Far West province. Maoist leader Baburam Bhattarai is adding fuel to the fire by saying that Kailali is the soul of the Tharuhat province and putting it in the Far West Province would be like “beheading the Tharus”.

The demands for the undivided Far West and the Tharuhat province are both offshoots of a radical interpretation of federalism, and Deuba and Bhattarai are trapped by their own rhetoric. Federalism in Nepal is nothing but an experiment in devolution, democracy and governance. It might work, or it might not. But it was cunningly linked with ‘ethnic liberation’ in our mixed society — people were made to believe that federalism would be panacea to all their problems. And any means, including murder, could be employed to attain it. In this state of impunity, political violence will continue, and tragedies like Tikapur will keep happening. 

And our ‘progressives’ will keep finding excuses, saying it was just the justifiable anger of the oppressed. Even the murder of a two-year-old child can be justified.

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