Nepali Times
Young Clueless League



CLEANING UP THE ACT: YCL members gain some sympathy through thier street cleaning efforts, but it isn\'t enough

While their Maoist mentors warm their bottoms on ministerial seats, the Young Communist League is neither influenced by reason, intimidated by threats of police raids, nor worried by the damage it is inflicting on its mother party. Everybody, including Good Guy Ian Martin and his crowd of bluecoats, is helpless.

But if you were a neutralised Maoist conscript looking for ways to start a new life, would you rather join a sexily named political outfit and brandish power in Kathmandu, or go back to your village to sow turnips?

By offering its young cadres raw clout to rule the streets, the Maoist leadership has craftily brought together ex-guerrillas under a political umbrella.

But if the YCL's parental harness is not tightened, its freelancers and warlords can run amok in the countryside. Signs of this are already visible.

YCL brand-building can't be done just by staging exhibitions of smuggled computers at Tundikhel. Recently, they nabbed some burglars and delivered summary justice. The YCL also helped track down the culprits who leaked SLC question papers in Bhaktapur, and as we go to press, are helping direct traffic in Kathmandu and protecting tourists from touts at the airport. Yet, the YCL hasn't been able to win the public trust in the capital.

One reason is that Kathmandu's vocal natives have always been scornful of outsiders. The customary wisdom among 'Manduites is that migrants are a strain on capital's resources and they contribute to traffic congestion and the growth of slums.

Nepalis are much more sympathetic to the police force. Underpaid and corrupt they may be, but look at the way we are clamouring to get their posts re-established all over the country. Forget the YCL, we want our loved and loathed cops back on the beat.

The YCL is not going to become extinct anytime soon and no state apparatus is able to tame them. They are not giving up on extortion and bullying because that is the only lifestyle to which they are accustomed. One way to tame them is to train them in various law-enforcement efforts. The fellows in red aprons seem to be pretty good at traffic management. A week to bring them up to speed, and they could augment Kathmandu's traffic police which is overstretched trying to manage an unmanageable situation.

Or maybe our INGO friends could start hiring them as security guards. Neighbourhoods could pay the YCL to do anti-crime patrols. Civil society has lofty plans about security sector reform which so far has been a lot of hot air. But not a single one of them seems to be offering anything like employment or genuine opportunities to these ex-warriors to fall back on.

Re-integrating the YCL into a society sceptical of their methods will not be easy. The media hounds them as if they are sworn enemies of the state. Businesses see them as extortionists. It is clear that the going is getting tough for the YCL with plenty of testosterone but not much to do. How many games of volleyball can you play in a day?

Might is right may be the law of the jungle, but now they are out in the open the YCL needs to invest a little more in public relations. There is a danger that we will just be replacing one band of thugs with another. The League's criminal justice system could degenerate into gangland violence.

Instead of playing cops and robbers, the YCL is better off listening to the genuine grievances of the people. When they do, they should try not to run foul of the government. After all, their parent is part of the government now.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)