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Publication Date : 27-02-2013
There are many problems with law and order in Nepali society, but long hair and ear rings are surely not one of them. The Nepal Police’s arrests on Tuesday of more than 700 youths for wearing their hair long and having ear rings and studs, is a ridiculous example of an inefficient police force trying to win the sympathy of a gullible population that stereotypes everybody who doesn’t dress and behave like them as criminals. The arrest of the youth is an attack on individual freedom and liberty, and is reminiscent of the dictatorial Panchayat system of 'self-governance' that was in effect here until 1990, when over-zealous police officers resorted to such arrests to gain cheap popularity. The Nepal Police should immediately charge those arrested at the court, if it has evidence that the youths have committed crimes. If not, it should apologise to them for infringing on their individual freedom and set them free.
The arrests on Tuesday are an example of easy policing, not good policing. The police did not display a minimum understanding of their duties - it is simply unexcusable to arrest people who have done nothing wrong just because in the prejudiced minds of the officials, everyone who wears long hair is a suspect. Even if some of the arrested have criminal backgrounds, that doesn’t justify arresting those who don’t.
What the incident proves is that, unfortunately for law-abiding Nepali people, the police force considers itself above the law. The incident also highlights the need for lovers of civil liberties to keep an eye on excessive police power. It must be understood that the erosion of civil liberties is a gradual process. Today, you’re arrested for wearing long hair, tomorrow for walking home late at night and the day after for doing something the authorities don’t like.
Such arrests are an attack on fundamental civil liberties, and will erode the confidence of minorities - in this case, those with unconventional looks. Just like other state institutions, such as the judiciary and the executive, the police must earn the public’s confidence. This lack of confidence in the police is also a result of often-oppressive power that resides in party headquarters and state’s institutions. Every aware Nepali knows that in today’s Nepal, it is often the politicians and policemen who protect the criminals and thugs. For example, the policemen who gang-raped Suntali Dhami got away without serious punishment because of political protection. What’s more, the personal aide of Home Minister Bijay Kumar Gachhadar is a notorious thug. Similar unsavoury personalities are cultivated by all the ‘big parties’ to use strong-arm tactics to gain lucrative government contracts, or to intimidate voters’ during elections. These thugs, instead of being arrested or thrown behind bars for the crimes they have committed, enjoy the close company of senior police officials and politicians. That is why it’s the real thugs, the masters of the political-criminal nexus, who should be arrested, not youth with long hair. The police needs guts to get down to the root of the law and order problem, instead of just scratching the surface and rounding up easy targets for harassment.