Nepali Times
State Of The State
The end of imagination


Professionals prefer not to get involved in political protests. There are at least five reasons behind their aversion for agitations. One, they often have a vested interest in preserving the status quo. Two, even peaceful movements are bothersome and the over-educated are reluctant to disrupt their normal routine.

The third reason is the language of mass demonstrations. The wild sloganeering offends their refined sensibilities. Four: engineers, doctors, lawyers, professors, managers and ranking civil servants are so involved in what they do for a living that there is very little time to do anything else. And last but not least is the instinct of risk-aversion that makes professionals wary of getting involved in an activity whose outcome can't be predicted. So, they prefer discretion to valour.

Journalists, on the other hand, usually prefer not to hobnob with other professionals. They are wary of each other except in extraordinary situations. The sweeping royal ordinance announced on the eve of Dasain provided such a situation for journalists to forge solidarity with lawyers, engineers, doctors and other professionals. The intent, content and provisions of the media ordinance were so ominous that had professionals remained neutral they would have been some of its first victims.

Perhaps this is the reason why six leading professional organisations are at the forefront to challenge the order. Among all enabling conditions of liberty, press freedom is fundamental because only a free media can effectively express social grievance and provide a redress mechanism. That's the reason authoritarian rulers fear free media and invariably become press predators.

A free press and authoritarianism are inherently incompatible, a point Vice-chairman Tulsi Giri has been stressing from the day of his appointment. A meek media, submissive judiciary, docile civil society, loyal legislature and obedient executive are essential ingredients of monarchical democracy.

Giri may be on the wrong side of the fence but he deserves full marks for political consistency over the past 45 years. He hasn't wavered an inch from his abiding faith in the force of absolute monarchy since his defection from the Nepali Congress in the 1960s. At least he is not one of those who spout democratic values that they don't believe in.

Despite all this, Giri and his cohorts live in a time warp. A silent rage is simmering just below the fa?ade of normalcy in the country. Rankings released last week by Transparency International and Reporters without Borders show the direction in which the country is currently headed. The Black Ordinance intended to silence dissent is doomed to fail. But what will follow in its wake will probably be much harsher because authoritarian regimes are notoriously unimaginative. They tend to silence dissent with ever increasing repression.

With a sense of foreboding, professionals have gauged the ramifications of the gag order far more accurately than the seven-party alliance shouting slogans in the wilderness. After all, there is very little professors, lawyers, engineers and doctors can do when the media and other sections of civil society are forced to run on empty. Professionals know that sometimes it's far more efficient to overestimate the odds: if you see something vaguely resembling a tiger staring at you, you don't wait to make sure before you clamber up the nearest tree.

Analysing the resistance of Rosa Parks, who died this week at 92, Martin Luther King wrote in his 1958 book Stride Toward Freedom, 'Actually no one can understand the action of Mrs Parks unless he realises that eventually the cup of endurance runs over and the human personality cries out, "I can take it no longer".'

Nepal's professionals seem to have made up their minds about the royal government. Its outcome is now a foregone conclusion.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)