Nepalis condemn singer for derogatory language but say that is no ground for arrestAn arrest warrant has been issued for singer Astha Raut but Nepalis on social media say that the Nepal Police cannot go after someone for coarse language.
At noon on January 15, singer Astha Raut was at Tribhuvan International Airport, set to board a flight to Bhadrapur. The flight got delayed, so she waited at a cafe near the security check, until she heard a summons over the public announcement system, according to her account published in Kantipur daily. While going through the security check, Raut got into a heated exchange with a female police constable.
Later the same day, she took to Facebook to complain about the behaviour of the police officer. In the now-deleted video, Raut ranted against the misbehaviour of the female police officer, using derogatory terms such as danthe and banduke. A few days later, CCTV footage of the incident was leaked and widely circulated, with the police saying they were “unaware” of how the video was made public.
On Sunday, the Kathmandu District Administration Office, acting on a complaint filed by the female officer, issued an arrest warrant for Raut, alleging “indecent behaviour” with an on-duty officer.
Deputy Inspector General Shailesh Thapa Kshetri, spokesperson for the Nepal Police, told the Post that the Metropolitan Police Commissioner’s Office was asked to conduct an investigation after learning about Raut’s Facebook video.
“The singer in question has said she was abused during security check-up at the airport. We will investigate that. But the language she has used in the video is improper. We are also concerned about that,” Kshetri had told Kantipur daily.
The Nepal Police often gets caught up in controversy, not because of its failure to solve prominent cases, but because of the behaviour of its personnel with the public. Recently, police were widely criticised when they baton-charged several people, including a journalist, at Dashrath Stadium during the South Asian Games last year.
But rights activists and many on social media are concerned with the police’s aversion to criticism, which they see as the driving factor behind the arrest warrant for Raut. While many have called out Raut for her use of coarse and demeaning language to refer to the police, they were also quick to say that such language alone does not constitute grounds for arrest.
“Astha Raut did show her conceit during security check-up,” one user tweeted, “but if that is reason enough to launch a case against her, then 90 percent of the police’s investigation officials would be jailed. Is it becoming of the state to avenge itself?”
Although the police were acting on the complaint filed by the officer, many believe that it was Raut’s video that they took offence to and then decided to act. This belief is not unwarranted.
Recently, rapper Samir Ghising (VTEN) was taken into custody for “promoting anti-social values” through his songs. But the police had acted on their own volition, after coming across a video of Ghising making comments about the police.
This displays the thin skin that police and many other organs of the state seem to have when it comes to criticism, say critics. Derogatory language can be socially condemned but it is not grounds for arrest, they say.
“Astha’s conduct with a police constable is wrong but so is the constable’s conduct with her. But not every wrong conduct is a crime,” said Budhi Karki, a constitutional lawyer. “Arresting Astha would be an even bigger mistake on the police’s part.”
Others expressed concern about the state’s increasing intolerance for criticism.
Ila Sharma, a former election commissioner, tweeted: “The state that engages in personal vengeance, one that feels insecure at the hands of anybody and anything, one that can’t digest criticism and dissenting voices…just what are we becoming?!”