KC’s crucial SatyagrahaGiven our revolutionary history, how has this simple man’s resistance been so misunderstood?
I received a phone call on the night of 15 January 2019 from the erstwhile VC of Tribhuvan University, and the chairman of the very familiar Mathema Commission whose recommendations have become the foundational principles of the agreement made with the famous orthopaedic surgeon Govinda KC—who has now gone down in the contemporary history of Nepal— as the torchbearer in the medical reforms in the country. The subject was KC’s 16th fast-on-to death in Illam and his subsequently detoriarating health. He is striking this time because the government went back on its agreement made with him at his 15th hunger strike in July 2018. The current act presented at Parliament clearly ignores some important clauses of the agreement. As always, the old fake narratives like Dr KC is some party’s stooge, and a propagandist are bandied about without any qualms and sense of humanity. Kedar Bhakta Mathema, the leader of the Mathema Commission,read out the text, the gist of which I want to present in this write up.
Mathema expressed, our purpose is to draw the attention of the prime minister who had personally taken initiative to fulfil the agreement with Dr KC in July last year. At that time, I was delighted to see two good politicians with human faces, Subas Nembang and Narayan Kaji Shrestha making agreement with Dr KC who was flown here from Jumla. the government’s decision to airlift Dr KC had made great national news. I felt happy to be a signatory in the appeal along with the other people who are free and non-partisan, writers and famous medicos, journalists and those who have played crucial roles in establishing precedence and system of reference for justice. These names are, the former Chief Justice Sushila Karki, the erstwhile VC of TU Kedar Bhakta Mathema, former speaker of parliament Damannath Dhungana, Bhairav Risal, Daman Nath Dhungana, Dhruba Chandra Gautam, Rajendra Dahal, Jayaraj Acharya, Dillidevi Shakya, Madan Upadhyaya, Ramesh Kanta Adhikari, Shekhar Gurung, Birendra Mishra, Nobel Kishore Rai, Ram Dayal Rakesh, Saroj Dhital, Madhu Ghimire, Dwarika Dhungel, Geeta Keshari and Khem Raj Regmi.
The appeal issued on 16 January 2019 says that the honesty of the state is an important and sensitive subject, has become an established principle. By this very token, it is the responsibility of the government and all the parties who have representatives in Parliament to fulfil the previous agreements made with Dr KC. Reminding that the previous agreement with Dr KC was made possible at the personal initiative of Prime Minister KP Oli at a meeting held in his own residence, the statement says, to fulfil the agreement therefore, has also become the responsibility of the prime minister. The appeal repeats the confidence that since the prime minister is also the leader of the parliamentary committee, he will give special attention to see that the parliament fulfils agreement made according to his direction.
People have produced texts at different times addressing Dr KC’s Satyagraha. I was surprised by the repertoire of texts I have produced over nearly a decade addressing Dr KC’s campaign. Sifting through some of the texts, I could see how I was attracted to KC’s campaign because it was not produced by any propaganda machinery of any political party, individual or power groups. He is a non-violent, non-partisan social campaigner. I present the gist of what I wrote in Kantipur—Dr KC’s Satyagraha has become a symbol of simplicity, in his own words. This begs the question, how is this simple man’s resistance misunderstood at a time in Nepal that has now finally come out of the experience of armed revolutions, has witnessed peaceful uprisings and other forms of resistance? The other pertinent question—why can’t the ordinary people freely put their arguments in the post-revolutionary society—is of equal relevance too. We saw parties in power and opposition and the status quoist elite groups feeling insecure by the Satyagraha of Govinda KC.
I cite from yet another piece that I published in The Kathmandu Post, “Meeting Dr Govinda KC, probably the most renowned humanist and by far the strongest advocate of Gandhian practical Satyagraha in modern Nepal, on the twelfth day of his fast-unto-death at Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital on April 2, I felt I was buffeted at once by a mixed hurricane of many issues and unanswered questions of history. …Satyagraha brings intense moments and issues in one place. History can wake up suddenly with good results. … Doctors had made great peaceful agitations in the movement for democracy in 1990 on these very premises of Teaching Hospital in Maharajgunj” (April 5, 2015).
I was struck by the repletion of history when I found these words I wrote again on the eleventh day of KC’s satyagrapha in The Kathmandu Post, “I hope that by the day this piece is published, his demands will have been fulfilled for the good of everyone in this country. But now Govinda KC’s Satyagraha has become a rainbow of our new times. The rise of youths and the promises of the future are the two factors that should be the indicators of a new turn of history. …His Satyagraha speaks volumes about the coming days in Nepal and South Asia”(August 6, 2017).
I recall with some degree of sadness what I wrote in Kantipur by creating a constellation of KC, Gandhi and Marx, when Dr KC was at a very critical stage of his life while he he was on his 15th Satyagraha. I wrote, “I had never experienced such uncertain moment while writing anything in my life as I feel writing now on the 27th day of KC’s fast-unto-death strike” (July 28, 2018). KC broke his fast following the 9-point agreement. But since some of the points in the agreement stand breached, it prompted the ongoing 16th hunger strike.
As I am writing this, KC’s condition is worsening, and strangely, KC is being presented as king Sisyphus of Greek myth described in the French writer Albert Camus’ book The Myth of Sisyphus. Sisyphus is condemned to roll down a stone and push it up to the top of the hill, and repeat the action. I have no words to write here. I would like to end by saying, the great humanist Dr Govinda KC who is nobody’s enemy is a great non-violent campaigner. But if we tend to see KC’s journey absurd like that of Sisyphus, we should remember that this metaphor may be reflecting not KC’s, but the power players’ psyche today. Let us avoid that by all means.