‘Corrupt, beware!’: Protests against refugee scam continueThe scam, in which 875 Nepalis were swindled of millions of rupees on the promise of being sent to the US, forces people to hit the streets decrying the network of corruption.
At 11 am on Saturday, Kathmandu’s Maitighar Mandala, which has for long remained a mecca for resenting and dissenting citizens, suddenly came alive with a crowd of about 100 people standing on the road, raising placards with slogans in rhyme. “Bhrastachari ko jaalo/atti nai garna thalyo,” read one—meaning, in essence, that the corruption network has crossed all limits. “Ek dui teen char/bhrastachari khabardaar,” read another—one two three four/the corrupt, beware!
The people were up in arms against the fake Bhutanese refugee scam that has whipped up a storm in Nepali politics. Police have already arrested several high-profile politicians and bureaucrats, including a former home minister, in connection to the scam. A former deputy prime minister is on the run after the court issued an arrest warrant against him. In the scam, racketeers, with the support of home ministry officials, allegedly swindled around 875 Nepali nationals of millions of rupees, promising to send them to the United States as Bhutanese refugees. The scam has riled up Nepalis of all walks of life, with many taking to the streets to protest against it.
Ram Sewak Yadav, 50, is one of them. At Maitighar on Saturday, Yadav was repeating the slogans chanted by the leaders of the protest, visibly enraged. Yadav, who is originally from Saptari, had first come to Kathmandu 30 years ago searching for a job. He makes a living painting houses. He heard about the protest on radio and decided to join in. “I thought it’s about time we root out corruption from this country,” Yadav told the Post. “On one hand, corruption cases are more frequent than ever and on the other, unemployment is at its peak.”
Manchala Jha, a writer and former commissioner at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, was also among the morning crowd. Jha joined the protest because if culprits are spared now, the corruption nexus will expand and get out of control, she said.
“What could be more pitiful than a ministry responsible for maintaining law and order itself getting involved in corruption and human trafficking?” Jha said.
Alongside former home minister Bal Krishna Khand, police have also arrested Tek Narayan Pandey, a former home secretary who was serving at the Vice President's Office, and Indrajit Rai, who served as security adviser to the then home minister Ram Bahadur Thapa. CPN-UML secretary and former deputy prime minister Top Bahadur Rayamajhi has been absconding since last week after an arrest warrant was issued against him. His son Sandeep has already been arrested.
Saturday’s protest in Maitighar lasted for about an hour. Another protest was scheduled for 12:30 pm in Naxal, where protesters made a human chain. Several politicians and civil society leaders were also present.
“Leaders and bureaucrats are indulged in corruption because they lust for luxurious lives,” Saraswati Niraula, a 35-year-old homemaker from New Baneshwar who was part of the protest, told the Post. “It’s enough now. We have become aware and we will not remain silent.”
“If most of the politicians and leaders are looting state coffers, what will be left in this country for our children?” said another protester, Sharmila Magar, 40, from Lamjung.
At the Naxal site, the scorching sun was troubling the protesters but they continued to shout slogans while they sweat.
Yadav, the painter, took a rest and got talking to the Post. “It’s already too late to speak up against corruption,” Yadav said, squinting in the midday sun. “I hope the current protests continue and bear fruits.”