29 Apr - 5 May 2016 #806

Lok in the time of Loktantra

Take a ride on a Sajha Bus and decide for yourself whether an open society is something worth fighting for
Bidushi Dhungel

To mark a year passing since the 2015 earthquake, a group of survivors had planned a protest outside Singha Darbar to draw attention to delayed relief. I hopped on a Sajha bus to Thapathali and walked.

Every time I get on that green bus service I am hopeful about Kathmandu and its future, something that doesn’t happen on any other form of public transport in the city. The news that Sajha is getting 30 new buses to ply on Kathmandu’s traffic arteries makes me genuinely excited. Finally, a reliable transport service that has designated stops and a timetable.

But on this day, hope was an afterthought. There was government apathy about post-quake reconstruction, and then there was the Commission for the Investigation of the Abuse of Authority (CIAA) itself abusing its authority. The CIAA has targeted the partly-state owned Sajha bus cooperative with allegations of corruption, but one cannot help wonder why on earth this 'Lok Tantra' would single out such a small cooperative when giants like the Nepal Oil Corporation,  the Nepal Electricity Authority or the All Nepal Football Association have failed to come under the scanner. 

When a nationwide campaign against corruption is aimed at what is essentially one of only a few quality public services in Nepal, one must question the motive.

Nepal has come full circle: those who oppressed and repressed the people’s movement for democracy again wield power. They do so to loot state coffers and lash their undeserving power against those institutions and persons that favour progress. All the while, power has become so concentrated that literally no avenue remains to question the legitimacy of this Lok Rule – one that  demands property details of others without furnishing its own.

On social media, one Deputy Prime Minister suggested the people allow Lok Rule to take its course, knowing full well that the man’s friends and relatives are being deliberately spared. Lok Tantra must be foolish to think the people could be taken for fools. Other deputies and ministers remain silent, fearful they may be the next target or more interested in the next buck to be made. And what happens when Lok Tantra takes its course?

There is an old saying about no one remaining to speak out when they come for you at the end. Only so many people can be silenced until there is no one left to speak out – against state atrocities, against injustice, against corruption and for free speech, dignity and democracy. Not only the public, but political leaders would do well to take heed of this historic lesson.

In his ICU bed the Chairman of Sajha Yatayat sits across from where an ailing Gangamaya Adhikari lies. She visits him in his hospital bed as he has done hundreds of times before. Gangamaya has been fighting for justice for her murdered son for years now, with the help of her new neighbour at Bir Hospital.

Whether one agrees with Sajha Yatayat Chairman Kanak Mani Dixit on his contested political views is really not what matters right now. His ‘endgame’ is centred on the principles of democracy and free society.  That vision extends beyond Nepal and into the region. (Just the day before his arrest he was enthusiastically deliberating a Bangladesh-Nepal Sajha Bus service.) But if he is silenced, difficult days await our fledgling democracy.

So, this week, take a ride on a Sajha Bus and decide for yourself whether an open society is something worth fighting for. It will be Rs 15 well spent.

Read Also:

Suspicious action, From the Nepali Press

Activist seeks Karki's property details

Fact sheet on Dixit arres

The sad saga of Adhikary family, Damakant Jayshi

From Cabin 16-17, Kanak Mani Dixit

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