Nepali Times
National rage


A middle-aged woman gets on the Ratna Park-Sat Dobato microbus at the busy Lagankhel stop. As the van starts moving the conductor nudges and prods the passengers to pay their fare.

The woman shows him her student card for a discount and pays seven rupees. The conductor refuses to give her ID card back because he claims she hasn't paid him enough. He threatens to grab her and throw her out if she doesn't pay up right away. The distance she has to go to is barely a kilometre. He rolls his sleeves up and gets ready to punch the lady. The passengers try to pacify him. He threatens: "I will beat up those who don't pay up."

It's rush hour at 5.30 PM in Maitighar. A pick-up jams on the brakes to avoid hitting a motorbike. Two guys on the bike get off, stop the lorry and start arguing with the driver. One of them reaches through the window and slaps the driver twice across the face.

Nepalis have never had much tolerance for injustice, but have we always been this angry? Why have we started thinking that the only way to resolve a sticky situation is through violence? When did we decide it was ok to take the law into our own hands if things didn't go our way?

In the past, it was expected that if you went to a night club or a rock concert, there would be plenty of people there who would lose control and start fighting. But now one hears of violence at meetings and in the work place. Internet discussion sites are full of messages inciting violence. Last week, I overheard students in uniform using the terms "fix" and "beat" a number of times without any hesitation.

We have come out of a very difficult time in our history. War robbed many people of their youth and forced millions of Nepalis to live in constant fear. Many had to flee to protect their families. It was normal that when the war ended, people expected things to improve. However, the end of war also brought with it a sense of helplessness in society, a loss of direction that is perhaps the reason why people are now so ready to lash out at each other.

Very few have faith in our justice system. The police are not trusted to do their job properly. If a driver is involved in a hit-and-run, local communities block the highway before the police can take action, arguing that since they are not going to get justice, they may as well use other means to extract compensation. To run over a person in the highway is a terrible thing, but sometimes accidents happen. Sadly, patients do die at hospitals, yet Dhulikhel hospital?one of the nation's finest?was vandalised by relatives last month after a woman died at childbirth.

There is also something to be said about the issue of accountability. Impunity has been the biggest challenge in dealing with crime in Nepal. No one has been held answerable for the thousands of lives lost in the last 15 years.

Organised gangs are getting away with crime, murder and mayhem because they have seen that if you kill enough people you can actually get to power. The war has ended, but the culture of violence that it nurtured will linger for a long time to come.

It is easy to take the law into your own hands when you know you can get away with it.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)