The civil war that should never have happened is behind us but collateral damage continues to plague society. This is the first of a series, sure to be depressing, on the Pointless War’s many tragic spin-offs.
Credit: Diwakar Chettri
Naya Nepal post 2006 witnessed the empowerment of everybody all at once, with every imaginable group suddenly clamouring for attention. Long overdue, no doubt, after centuries of oppression, but once the legitimate causes were aired many dubious causes followed, perhaps the most bizarre being the demands of special interest groups for the right to cheat.
Students were at the vanguard of this alarming new trend. Your correspondent recalls a groundbreaking case several years ago of an entire class caught cheating on their SLC exams. Instead of being contrite, as one might expect, the students went on a rampage, trashing classrooms and roughing up teachers. Demonstrations were held to protest this gross violation of their right not to study or learn anything and still pass.
Others soon followed suit, whenever the government tried to enforce laws and regulations. Taxi drivers declared a strike to protect their right to rig up ingenious ways of making the meter jump, like beeping the horn or pumping the brakes. They were enraged the government dared interfere with their time-honored right to overcharge.
Food suppliers raised a ruckus when the state had the gall to impede their ability to create false shortages and arbitrarily raise prices.
Minibus drivers of the valley went on strike after a series of accidents brought attention to their kamikaze driving, demanding the right to run over pedestrians without fear of prosecution. More recently, the LPG gas mafia was up in arms when the authorities had the nerve to check weights and fine dealers caught breaking the law. Subsequent policies to ensure smooth supply and avoid shortages, real or created, were met with closures and threats from the gas wholesalers.
An amusing demonstration was held by the gold dealers association, normally a sober lot, who hit the streets in defense of a colleague caught using a faulty scale. One would think honest jewellers should congratulate the government for catching someone tarnishing their reputation, but maybe that’s just my Logic Syndrome acting up again.
recently shut down in protest of new regulations that stopped them from pocketing fees for visas and air-tickets already supplied by foreign employers. They’d been getting away with cheating poor migrants for years, helped by the many politicians with financial interests in these agencies.
One doesn’t have to look far to discover where people got their role models. Political leaders have been fiercely protective of their right to pillage and cheat both the people and state institutions since the advent of democracy in 1990.
When the state tries to do its job and apply the law it’s often blocked by those in power. Post peace agreement the Maoists insisted that no party member could be prosecuted
, even when caught red-handed committing a crime, for fear of ‘derailing the peace process’. Hundreds of war-time cases were dismissed overnight and a free-for-all ensued, with the police reduced to a purely ceremonial role, any crook worth catching walked free after a call from the Home Ministry. Convicted murderers representing the Maoist party in the CA were high profile examples of this unholy alliance between politics and crime, suddenly protected by law.
Two recent cases exposed the continuing nexus between criminals and our political class. UML leader KP Oli was aghast when a don nicknamed Chari died in a firefight with police, demanding he be declared a martyr (to what exactly, he didn’t say). According to UML statements this well-known criminal ‘could have been a great man’, which might be true if only he’d chosen a career path that didn’t include robbery and murder. Watching the one-who-would- be PM defend an infamous low-life was troubling, proof positive our leaders firmly believe they’re above the law.
As if to confirm all parties are equally guilty, another mafia don nicknamed Ghaite was shot by police and this time Congress was enraged, demanding punishment (instead of applause) for the cops, calling it a staged encounter and outright murder. The word ‘martyr’ was again bandied about, as if a national hero gave his life for the glorious cause of founding a criminal state.
In every case the politicians feel their right to keep a stable of thugs to do their dirty work was infringed upon by the police, whose job it is to catch such people. This profound disrespect for the law is mirrored in all those groups vigorously defending their right to cheat and grab whatever they can, as one does from a sinking ship.
This unfortunate narrative was launched by politicians in the 1990’s, who lurched from one crisis to the next while enriching themselves at every turn. As they lost credibility the Maoists attacked the state, setting a violent precedent that continues apace (witness recent murders of police by mobs in Kailali
). Destabilising everything has been official Maoist policy since 1996 and the results of this active undermining of state institutions are visible today. Special interest groups are simply following the example set by their national leaders, demanding the right to cheat with the same impunity enjoyed by those at the top.
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