Long march to justiceIn suppressing dissent, the government is accelerating the decline of the Nepalese state.
The transformation of political actors into oppressors when they rise to powerful positions is disgusting, to say the least. When KP Sharma Oli was using his might to kick Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Madhav Kumar Nepal out of the race to unbridled power, the Dahal-Nepal duo sat on the road holding placards that proclaimed—Hami Yahan Chhaun (We are here!). Where are they now when over a dozen protestors from Nepalgunj are sitting at Maitighar, telling the government that they are here to seek justice? And where is the "democratic" façade of the prime minister who cries "Democracy, Democracy!" at Maitighar when he is out of power? Just three months into power, and those who make Maitighar their home for claiming political space are now using the state's might to suppress the voices of others. Over the weekend, the protest site at Maitighar was quite a sight to see as dozens of police personnel clad in full riot gear stood in combat position as 16 protestors, most of them women, sat on the ground with nothing but placards in their hands.
The 14 protestors who marched over 500 kilometres to Kathmandu from Nepalgunj, and the two who joined them later, are in no way interested in tearing the government apart. They are here to seek justice for Nakunni Dhobi, who was killed under mysterious circumstances on July 20, and to seek the whereabouts of Nirmala Kurmi, who went missing in January 2010. Sick of the administration's apathy in solving the cases of murder and disappearance, the protestors are here to ask why the state's criminal investigation and justice system are not functioning as they should. They are here because Kathmandu still holds the key to power, and those who have failed to get justice from the provincial and local governments are bound to visit the federal capital as their last hope. All they want, the protestors have said loud and clear, is justice.
True to its oppressive character, though, the government has resorted to detaining the protestors, even apparently kidnapping one of them. On Sunday, the Supreme Court had to intervene and ask the police to present Ruby Khan, the leader of the protestors, before the court. The government of the day might want to suppress dissenting and inquisitive voices, but it essentially does is accelerate the decline of the Nepalese state. Having robbed the protestors of their right to protest peacefully, the government is alienating the seekers of justice even as it seeks to protect—directly or indirectly—those accused of wrongdoing. What's more, it is not even willing to create a space conducive for dialogue. Home Minister Bal Krishna Khand reportedly sought to know what the protestors were demanding. Still, with the high-handedness with which the police used force against the protestors, there is little room for meaningful dialogue.
Any dialogue founded upon repression fails to achieve the desired result; instead, Paulo Freire has said it degenerates into paternalistic manipulation. "Founding itself upon love, humility, and faith, dialogue becomes a horizontal relationship of which mutual trust between the dialoguers is the logical consequence", Freire writes in Pedagogy of the Oppressed, the much-celebrated manual for the emancipation of the downtrodden. If the government is serious about dialoguing with the protestors and finding a lasting solution to the problem, it should shed its oppressive character and listen to them. After all, they are seeking nothing more than an assurance from the state that it fulfils its duty to ensure peace, security and justice.