Monday, June 22, 2009

Living in Lawless Times

It’s been almost a month since Madhav Kumar Nepal was sworn in as the country’s new prime minister. While the country continues to hemorrhage from never-ending political instability and lawlessness, Mr. Nepal is yet to figure out ways to deal with his own share of problems: Filling cabinet berths, keeping ideologically- and temperamentally-incompatible coalition members’ support intact and, the hardest part of it all, finding ways of keeping the Maoists engaged and off the streets. Given the internal rifts within the major political parties and unquenching thirst for greater power amongst the coalition members, safeguarding the majority needed to remain in power may be harder than Mr. Nepal had anticipated.

Even though Mr. Nepal has done everything possible (from extending an olive branch to Maoists to bifurcating ministries to satisfy the demands for lucrative ministries by coalition partners and nominating cabinet members who are not members of the Constituent Assembly) in order to diffuse possible future rebellion against his leadership, in the muddied political culture whereby loyalties towards the power center outside the nation’s geographical boundary is greater than one’s own land and people, support for his government may vanish into thin air the very minute he fails to serve foreign interests in the capacity he is expected to. Pushpa Kamal Dahal is an example of what happens when you try to outgrow your foreign master. So, given the expectation from foreign masters and fragmented support from within the coalition partners, Mr. Nepal is sure to have a tightrope walk.

While the pie is being divided at a painfully slow pace, lawlessness is spiraling out of control. School bus carrying children is getting attacked by vandals and educators are being assaulted in broad daylight. An attack on a microbus carrying students of Saipal Academy at Sukedhara, Kathmandu, and a brutal physical assault on Devidatta Sah, the campus chief of Mahendra Bindeswori Campus, Rajbiraj, are examples of how uncivilized Nepali society is becoming with each passing day. The growing indecency within the college campuses is nothing new but what is becoming increasing troublesome is how the major political parties are coming out of the closet and supporting the goons in guise of students within the college campuses openly. The major political parties – NC, CPN-UML, MPRF, TMLP – instead of condemning the attack on Mr. Sah, ganged up in favor of the infamous Yadav trio – Ramchandra, Jaya Prakash and Santosh – who committed the crime of assaulting the campus chief. So, it is not only the Maoists whose actions are perpetuating lawlessness and culture of impunity in Nepal. The other major political parties are equally responsible. Building a nation needs human capital.

By supporting goons who traumatize children and attack educators, these very politicians, who talk about building a “New Nepal” are destroying the foundation in whatever capacity it might be available. Children, whose buses are getting attacked, will have no desire to remain in the land of goons when they grow up. Educators that are getting attacked will have no interest in sincerely imparting the knowledge that they have acquired by slogging hard. Like everything else, education system in Nepal too is crashing. With the culture of impunity seeping into college campuses, educational institutions across the nation may very well end up becoming brainwashed-demagogue producing factories.

Do our politicians have even the slightest sense of the need and role of human capital in governing the states that they are clamoring to establish in future? With social capital in tatters, financial capital leaving the country like never before, and now, the institutions responsible for producing human capital under attack, capital assets required to build a prosperous nation will become even more scarce in future. With what do they intend to build a “New Nepal” if the hoopla about building it is nothing but populist circus to remain in the corridors of power? A brutal physical assault on Devidatta Sah, the campus chief of Mahendra Bindeswori Campus, Rajbiraj, is an example of how uncivilized Nepali society is becoming.

From Rishi Dhamala to the Yadav trio, political parties by openly siding with perpetrators are not only promoting the culture of impunity but also subverting the judicial process, which could have very well taken care of unlawful activities that Devidatta Sah might have indulged in. While promoting political violence, what our politicians fail to realize is that it will definitely come back to haunt them in the future. Once these musclemen in college campuses across the nation gain further clout and make money, which in present day Nepal with booming abduction and extortion industry is not too difficult, they will outgrow their masters. You don’t have to go too far to witness this phenomenon. Just look at student politics in the Indian states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and what it has produced over the years and you will soon realize that a goon in guise of a student does have political ambitions and will do everything in his power to establish his foothold in politics. While the Maoists are culprits for trying to establish a dictatorship of the proletariat in the name of “civilian supremacy,” the other major political parties are equally responsible for encouraging “jungle raj” in an otherwise peaceful nation by standing in favor of those that take laws into their hands. Where in the civilized nation do we see the major political parties coming out in favor of goons in the guise of students that assault mentors?

With each passing day, Nepal is increasingly becoming ungovernable. Priorities are different for different sets of people. For politicians, it is all about consolidating power, whereas for the general public, it is about day-to-day survival. What will it take and who will bring back the normalcy? The new “normal,” however, will never be the same; it will be about respecting each other’s ethnicity, religion, political beliefs and playing by the laws of the land. Even though there is not much ground to be convinced that the current government, which has not been able to take a proper shape so far, will be able to pull it off, it has saved us all, at least for now, from getting trapped into the clutches of self-righteous blowhards called the Maoists. But the political experiment continues.


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