Living on the marginsDhami’s story is the story of a democratic state failing to fulfil its responsibility.
A statement released by the Ministry of Home Affairs on Tuesday, August 31, has implicated India’s Sashastra Seema Bal in the disappearance of Jaya Singh Dhami, a 33-year-old Darchula man, on July 30. Dhami was allegedly sent plunging into raging waters while the improvised cable he was using to traverse the Mahakali river was severed.
As per the statement, a report submitted by a probe team formed by the government has called for an investigation into the association of the Indian border security forces with the case, and take diplomatic initiatives to bring the culprit(s) to book. The report has recommended that the government initiate diplomatic efforts with India to provide Dhami’s family with compensation. It has also recommended that the Nepal government provide Dhami’s family with subsistence and educational support.
As the ministry’s statement suggests, the probe report is unequivocal in associating the Indian SSB with Dhami’s disappearance. The government should, therefore, initiate diplomatic talks with the Indian government to ensure that the guilty are brought to justice. Earlier in the month, the Deuba administration was quick to announce Rs1 million compensation for Dhami’s family in a bid to mollify Dhami’s kin and the public. It is now time for the administration to follow up on its promise.
The government should also ensure that such incidents will not repeat in the future. Jaya Singh Dhami’s story is not his story alone. It is the story of a democratic state failing to provide a sense of security to its citizens. It is the story of how Nepalis have been living on the margins of the Nepali state. Living far away from the "centre" that is Kathmandu, locals of remote districts such as Darchula spend their lifetimes in a state of statelessness.
Even today, the only way available to them to cross rivers is by clinging to improvised cables or tuins. Darchula residents have to cross over to Dharchula on the Indian side for road travel to the district headquarters and elsewhere. They have to depend on Indian towns along the border for medical care and trade. It is this excessive dependence on India that has led to the continuing dehumanisation and marginalisation of the people in remote far-western districts of Nepal.
The government cannot wash its hands of the incident by simply implicating the Indian SSB. Instead, it should look inwards and see how it has created conditions for the perpetual marginalisation of people belonging to a specific region, class, caste and gender. Its presence as the guardian of the citizens should be visible not only in theory but also in practice. The Darchula incident should serve as a potent reminder to the government in fulfilling its responsibilities towards its citizens.