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Publication Date : 21-05-2012
The three-day banda enforced by the Adibasi Janajati Struggle Committee (AJSC) to press for their demands for inclusion of identity in federating the states through the new constitution saw unfortunate developments yesterday. Banda enforcers made a departure from the time-honoured tradition of a democratic Nepal to allow journalists a free movement. Instead, members of the media had to bear the brunt as the banda enforcers attacked the media persons for not giving due coverage to their issues. This despite the AJSC assuring that the protest would be peaceful and essential services and the media would be given a safe passage. According to Federation of Nepali Journalists, 27 journalists were attacked across the country and many had their vehicles vandalised. In addition, eight vehicles of various media outlets were also attacked. In fact, two of the reporters from this newspaper were manhandled and had their vehicles vandalised. We roundly condemn such an attack and urge the protestors to carry out their banda with restraint. Attacking journalists and burning papers for their perceived bias is a dangerous business; if the street begins to validate the content of a newspaper, we are afraid we would be forced to state that we no longer enjoy the blessings of a free press; only in this case the oppressor is not the State as was the case before 1990.
That said, we do acknowledge our shortcomings; that certain groups have felt short-changed and we have not always been able to give voice to grievances of Madhesis, Janjatis, Dalits, women and the marginalsed in general. But sending out goons to settle the grievances and knee-jerk messages and statements only result in new polarisation. That gives the message that, given half a chance, you would not hesitate to settle the score through the same undemocratic ways you have accused the dominating ruling class of all these years.
Attack on the press, which plays a crucial role in disseminating information and often-unpopular ideas, is tantamount to gagging it. Further it has been our sincere effort to provide voice to different groups and we remain committed to it. Hence, we condemn any use of violence to convey one’s message. What is even more worrying is that the Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN), the umbrella organisation of ethnic groups which has extended support to the AJSC, quickly disowned the rampant use of violence yesterday, instead of saying they would look into the incidents and immediately urge for restraint. The NEFIN Chairman Raj Kumar Lekhi said “the protests has been infiltrated by the government.” Such remarks from a responsible organisation run the risk of rendering the protest leaderless and fail to inspire much confidence even among those who have remained sympathetic to their cause.
Clearly, some Advasi Janjati groups have been ill-advised to direct their frustrations at the lack of political solution to innocent individual journalists. The nation doesn’t need a new polarisation, as if we don’t have enough already. To quote a Tweet from a journalist following the attacks on the press yesterday: “Since when did journalists become a caste?” As journalists, there’s enough to introspect on the statement but that statement, we hope, leads to a similar soul-searching among protestors and their supporters yesterday.