Nepali Times
State Of The State
Shock and shame


This process of dehumanisation seems to have acquired a new dimension in the Fertile Crescent, the cradle of human civilisation. Whether it is the treatment of Iraqi prisoners by the forces of occupation or the brutality of insurgents in retaliation, events in Mesopotamia are barbaric by any historical yardstick. As long as victims were strangers, few of us cared about happenings in faraway Iraq. Our isolation ended on Tuesday evening.

The gruesome images of 12 Nepalis murdered by a terrorist group made us all victims of the clash of civilisations. The Empire once again extracted its tribute as innocent Nepalis died in the line of duty while on their way to earn a living while protecting vital Western interests. No demands were made, neither was there a deadline for negotiating the release of the Nepalis by their terrorist captors. However, the havoc it unleashed back home was all of our own making.

In a naked display of impotent rage, mobs went about town on Wednesday pelting stones at the houses and shops of Muslim community and setting the offices of several manpower agencies afire. It was a disturbing repetition of the Rhitik Roshan episode: a collective display of mass stupidity. Thursday should have been declared not just a day of mourning, but a day of repentance as well.

A well-coordinated and planned attack on almost all manpower agencies has put the future of labour export (with an annual Rs 125 billion in remittances) in serious jeopardy. By making a mosque the target of mob fury, our own fundos have succeeded in alienating all future Muslim employers in West Asia and Malaysia in one stroke. Vandalising of the Qatar Airways and Gulf Air offices has made things worse for the million Nepalis already working in Muslim countries.

The action of the vandals on Wednesday partly succeeded in shattering Nepal's communal harmony that had survived eight years of conflict. The grievous injury upon the kingdom's body politic due to this new polarisation of Hindu and Muslim communities will be difficult to cure. Religious tolerance has become a major casualty of the September One riots. Nepali Muslims and Christians have as much claim on this country as the Hindus do. If we don't hang together at least in times of crisis, we shall be hanged separately.

The economic impact of mob fury this week could be even more devastating than the Maoist blockade last month. Planned and concerted physical attack on media houses like Kantipur and the Spacetime Network were reprehensible. The fact that security forces failed in their duty to protect these media houses despite repeated requests make the assaults look even more ominous.

Black Wednesday wasn't spontaneous. Despite the shock of grief the previous evening, everything was calm and quiet early in the morning. Suddenly, small groups of people began to appear in the streets. Most could easily be identified with local fundamentalist Hindu groups who seek to legitimise themselves by opposing 'corrupt' leaders and calling for 'appropriate action' directly from the king to set the country right. These rightwing activists vandalised former minister Chiranjibi Wagle's house and set the protest tent of the Nepali Congress at Ratna Park on fire. It was then that they proceeded to attack the mosque near Ghanta Ghar. After that, anarchy reigned supreme until the curfew at 2:00pm.

The main lesson of the shameful riots this week is that we failed to learn our lesson from previous ones. Quick reaction, keeping the public fully informed, proactive and premptive measures that anticipate the scope and extent of public anger are still missing.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)