Nepali Times
From The Nepali Press
'Writers don’t carry guns’

Are the security forces fighting the Maoists or journalists? Why are they finding it necessary to fight journalists? Especially at a time when the press has been very critical of the inhuman activities of the Maoists. Besides, it was the press that first pointed out the Talibanisation of the Maoists when they began to force schools to shut down. These instances show that the security forces don't need to attack the press to fight the Maoists. It was the press supported the emergncy... Who should the security forces be targeting in such a situation, the press or the Maoists?

If Shyam Shrestha (editor of Mulyankan) was arrested because they thought him to be a Maoist, then it shows their lack of information and analysis. Shrestha was one of the most vocal opponents of \'militarisation' within the Maoist party. He advocated that over-stressing militarisation and under stressing \'mass uprising' would result in losses. If he was arrested for having Maoist contacts, then it was government that requested him to set up contact (in the context of the talks). He had tried to mediate.

Be it Shyam Shrestha, Gopal Budhathoki, Narayan Sharma or anyone by any other name, the government as not been able to give a convincing reason why over 75 journalists have been arrested. It is not right to oppress any one with a pen irrespective of his or her ideology. Today's need is to get guns out of the hands of those that are carrying them, not taking away pens from writers and journalists. It was during similar hot dry days of Chaitra (in 1990) that we had the People's Movement, which granted one and all right to harbour the ideology of choice. Is it right to accuse anyone with a certain ideology of being a terrorist on the basis of thier beliefs?

Hopelessness is gradually setting in. Everyday soldiers carrying pens are being arrested, and are held incommunicado. Irrespective of whether that is Om Sharma, Govinda Acharya or Manrishi Dhital, all of them are largely those that work with words. They have no relation with the gun. It could be that they believe that guns can also help bring change. Some may believe that progress can take place through through violence; others by other means. People have different convictions. But there's no danger to democracy from those that don't carry guns.

Those pens weep every time there is bloodshed in some remote village, caused by either the Maoists or the security forces. Reading these tears, sometimes the Maoists may be happy and sometimes the security forces. Irrespective of which side is happy, there is only one truth, the pen continuously weeps, reporting facts. The pen is only a means to make the voiceless heard...

.In the end, it is the people holding the pen that become victims of explosives, say, like the one placed at the Gorkhapatra. It is the weak that are attacked. Common people are being killed almost daily, sometimes for being "informants" and at other times for being "terrorists.". Of course the Maoists also made a group of journalists captives when they visited Rolpa for reporting last year. On both side we can see a trend-extend a \'red carpet' when things are suited to them and threaten (journalists) when the situation is not conducive.
Why fear words? The pen only shows the way out of the dark. It only helps you to overcome your bad deeds. If you want to enjoy the darkness, then there is little to say. Even if journalists write about your wrongs and corruption (and you don't like it), there is legal redress available. But truth cannot be buried by jailing the messengers.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)