Why Nepalis are writing #StopDemocidePMOli on social mediaNepali social media users are using the word ‘democide’, coined by the American political scientist RJ Rummel, to vent their anger against the Oli administration's poor response to the pandemic.
Democide, a word coined by the American political scientist RJ Rummel in 1994, has found a striking resonance among Nepalis in the country’s febrile social media sphere.
The hashtag #StopDemocidePMOli has been in widespread use on Twitter and Facebook, two of the most-used social networks in the country.
Rummel defined the word–a combination of the two words demos (the root word for democracy) and genocide–as "the intentional killing of an unarmed or disarmed person by government agents acting in their authoritative capacity and pursuant to government policy or high command.”
Twenty-five years later, many Nepalis have found the word useful to describe the existing state of affairs.
“1.2 millions would have been enough to feed hungry in last one month. But who cares about non-important people?? (sic),” reads the tweet. The news article the user is referring to is actually from 2015 which was published in the Post.
The news article is based on the expenditure details posted on the website of the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers. Oli was in his first stint as the prime minister then.
Oli returned to power in February 2018 riding on an overwhelming electoral manded handed to his CPN-UML and the Maoist Centre that fought the 2017 parliamentary elections jointly. Though Oli is the strongest prime minister the country has ever seen in more than two and half decades, his government has faced criticism for poor governance and lacklustre and unscientific handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Oli has also faced censure for peddling dubious remedies such as turmeric powder as a cure for the novel coronavirus disease that has, as of Wednesday, killed 898269 people across the world, including 312 in Nepal.
On occasions, the prime minister has also compared Covid-19 with the common flu, claiming that “If contracted, one should sneeze, drink hot water and drive the virus away.”
Moreover, the ill-thought-out restrictions have sent many Nepalis in the lower rungs of social strata hungry.
Entrepreneurs have been protesting against the restrictions, saying the country’s economy would take a massive beating while tens of thousands of people would lose their livelihoods if businesses are not allowed to reopen.
The number of people lining up in Tundikhel, one of the few public spaces remaining in the Capital, to have food provided for free by various organisations has been on the rise.
“We may somehow escape from Corona but god, rescue us from this government,” wrote one user on Facebook with the hashtag #StopDemocideKPOli.
A popular poet made a statement along similar lines in a profile this week.
Not all are happy with the hashtag.
“It is important to criticise the government but can we be careful what words we choose,” tweeted another user. “Who comes up with a hashtag that basically means mass murder of people by a government? #Nepal (sic).”
The hashtag has also introduced a lexical debate, as to whether the government’s poor response to the pandemic can be termed “democide”.
One user cites one of the many definitions given by Rummels.
“Democide is any action by the government that causes death by virtue of an intentionally or knowingly reckless and depraved disregard for life (which constitutes practical intentionality),” the definition reads. “As in a famine or epidemic during which government authorities withhold aid, or knowingly act in a way to make it more deadly.”
Beyond the debate about vocabulary, however, the hashtag reflects the “extreme popular discontent and resentment” against the government’s handling of the pandemic, says Krishna Khanal, a professor of political science at Tribhuvan University.
He, however, professed that he is not familiar with the word.
“There are several ways to express one’s feelings, and social media often acts as a vehicle for extreme opinions. But it also indicates a simple truism: that people, living under the lockdown, are extremely dissatisfied with the government’s handling of the deadly virus,” Khanal told the Post. “People’s lives matter. And one interpretation of the response to the pandemic may be democide, one that could have been mitigated with proper governance and focus.”