Monday, November 5, 2007

Freedom on the brink

It is more than sad, it is heart-wrenching to see journalist Birendra Sah's spouse plead for her husband's safe release. The plight of two innocent children accompanying their mother can clearly be seen in their eyes. Sah's wife has virtually knocked every "major political players' " door, but all she has been getting so far is- false solace. No one knows where the shoe pinches except the wearer.

The parliamentary probe panel's report is in and perpetrators have been identified. The Maoist comrades have done it again, not a surprise though. As a matter of fact, they never stopped it altogether. The Maoists' loot, intimidation, and infliction of physical harm on innocent civilians never waned; it is us who got unrealistically optimistic about their need for peace and chose to ignore their atrocities. Lessons to be learned: turning blind eyes on crimes never ensures establishment of a peaceful and just society.

Everyone, including Prachanda knows who the perpetrators are, but the ordeal of Birendra Sah's wife continues unabated. While a hapless woman is crying for help, Prachanda seems to be more interested in political bargain rather than exhibiting some decency and securing Sah's release from the clutches of his ill-trained, irrational, and inhumane cadres. Sad but true, with passing of each day, the hope of Sah remaining alive is getting slim.

Birendra Sah has become a poster child of the Maoists' heinous crimes in Nepal. While the so-called international community is evaluating the Maoists' commitment towards peace, human rights, and democracy, the Maoists' indulgences in criminal activities clearly show that they are least interested in how international community grades them. In a way, it makes perfect sense. When you can commit crimes against humanity (killing of thirteen thousand innocent Nepalese cannot be justified by giving it a political color) and not only get away with it, but get rewarded with seats in parliament, why care about the international community's grading system and its grade book?

It might be hard for some of us to understand why the deviant like the ones that abducted Sah within the Maoist party camouflage themselves with radical belief system and lock-step in line with a black-and-white, simplistic belief system espoused by their radical leaders and go to an extent of abducting and killing fellow citizens. It is done so to fulfill political purpose-silence the possible dissents.

In order to understand why the Maoists are doing what they are doing-extorting, intimidating, and kidnapping- it is important to understand "totalitarian mindset." Carlos Alberto Montes, in his article, Was Fidel good for cuba?, in the Journal of Foreign Policy, documents that there are currently 300 political prisoners languishing in Cuban jails-including 48 young people for collecting signatures for referendum, 23 journalists for writing articles about the regime, and 18 librarians for lending so-called forbidden books. Fear is the method of political and social control used by the radical communists. So, when the communist ideologues harm journalists, it is not an accident, but a well crafted strategy to silence the flow of truth. It is necessary to stop the circulation of truth, or else, radical leftist propagandas and white lies get trashed by the journalists and independent-minded intellectuals.

It is not a secret that communists dislike free press and independent-minded intellectuals. Vladimir Putin in Russia and Hugo Chavez in Venezuela have already silenced once vibrant independent media in their respective countries. When proletarian communist state is the goal, free press and independent intellectuals are the biggest hurdles. Hence, abduction of journalist Sah is just a preview of what is in store if the Maoists have their field day.

People from every walk of life should support the protest programs spearheaded by Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ). It is not all about Umrawati Devi Sah, wife of abducted journalist Birendra Sah, but also you, me, and ordinary Nepali citizens, whose wife love their spouses not lesser by any measure than Sita Dahal and Hisila Yami love Puspa Kamal Dahal and Babu Ram Bhattarai. The time has come to rise and protest so that no other women and children in Nepal have to go through what Birendra Sah's innocent wife and children are forced to go through.

The journalists in Nepal should do what the Monks did in Myanmar. Let the whole world see the real face of the Maoist party. Let the international players that forced the marriage between the democrats and the radical communists see that, moderation of radicals is not possible through their appeasement. More you give, more they will demand. Their insatiable thirst for power is boundless.

You have to force change. The change is not only possible, it is desirable. The younger generation that is well educated and is in their 20s and early 30s do not want to be heroes in a tale of romantic exploits of an absurd system that the Maoists want to impose and from which everyone want to escape. The current generation has all moral and material incentives to contribute to change. All you got to do is, ignite the fire for freedom and democracy in their belly that has gotten cooler, but not yet frozen.

Those who believe that abduction of Birendra Sah is an isolated incident carried out by the outcast Maoist cadres stubbornly refuse to see what is already before their eyes. This is not the first time that the Maoists have targeted journalists. From Dikendra Thapa to Birendra Sah, we have seen it all. By targeting one at a time, the Maoists are engaged in dress rehearsal to see how the media can be gagged alternatively. It has been proved that they can go to any extent. We have seen them do to a journalist what psychologically deviant and religiously indoctrinated Islamofacists did to twelve innocent Nepalis laborers in Iraq couple of years ago.

The time has come to counter the fear that the Maoists are trying to instill in journalists and independent-minded Nepalis. Do not go by what Maoists say, but what they do. We all know from our elementary school lessons that, "actions speak louder than words." Sah's abduction has forced people to reckon with the realization that the Maoists' lip service to freedom and human rights is hogwash.

We should fight for our freedom. Freedom matters because it is fundamental to the existence of democracy and the respect of human dignity. It means the freedom to express our discontent with the status quo and the desire to change it.

White lies and false propagandas are the weapons that radical communists use to achieve their goals and sustain their shallow regime. People familiar with the Cuban history know that Fidel Castro led revolution against then Cuban president Flugencio Batista to what Castro called as restoring freedom in Cuba and for reinstating the constitution of 1940, not to create a communist dictatorship. What Castro did after that is a history. This is just an example of how radical communists operate and how good they are at deceiving people. We may still chose to believe the Maoists' concocted story of how outcast cadre committed the crime but there is a cost attached to it. Are we ready for a Cuban experience yet?

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