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Passion with reason

Publication Date : 22-05-2012

 

As the deadline for the Constituent Assembly looms large, as expected, Nepal has seen numerous strikes and demonstrations, including the latest ones by the Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN). The second day of the strike yesterday, which was hailed a success by the organisers, has heightened the sense of uncertainty and fear among the people. There are dangerous trends emerging from the recent turn of events and that must be internalised by all Nepalis, not least our political leadership. Failing to do so may lead to communal disharmony and even violence.

The government, too, needs to do more to reassure the people. In this regard, Prime Minister Bhattarai should explain to the people about the turn of events in the processes underway and try to assure the Nepali people that things are under control. Deals behind closed door may sometimes be essential in politics, but these are times when the political leadership, across the party-line, should come out in open and make a sincere effort to explain to all castes/ethnic groups that with all their differences they are still going to observe the rules of a democratic society. Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who in the recent past urged counter-demonstrations by the indigenous groups in retaliation to those by Bahun Chhetris, should also be aware of his responsibility to maintain amity and calm in the final days before the deadline for the CA expires. Home Minister Bijay Gachhedar should also do his bit to pacify the people—Madhesis, Janjatis and Brahmin-Chettris alike. While the party leaders are understandably locked up in important cross-party dialogue, they seem to have forgotten that the charged political atmosphere and violence on the street has led to deep insecurities.

During these turbulent times, journalists have also come under attack in the past few days and again today despite assurance yesterday by NEFIN officials that protests would be peaceful. On the one hand protesting groups say they want a more sympathetic coverage from the media and on the other journalists come under daily attacks. If, as the organisers claim, the violence is perpetrated by vigilantes and infiltrators, then the case for returning to normalcy is even greater, for it signals that the movement might spiral out of control. The organisers if all these bandas should remember that elements of communalism in these protests must be treated with utmost sensitivity. History warns us it’s difficult to predict when communal disharmony turns into a communal violence with catastrophic results.

Whose responsibility, then, is it to stop things from going out of control? First and foremost, it’s that of the political leadership, for the longer the political negotiations drag on, the worse situation will get. In the meantime, the onus lies on our politicians, the civil society (where’s one?), community leaders, intellectuals, journalists to refrain from hate-mongering. 

 

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