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Watchdogs of morality

Publication Date : 11-07-2012


Everybody is a moral police, a fact amply demonstrated by the reactions to the reports of Prakash Dahal, a married man with a son, eloping with a fellow comrade Bina Magar, also married. Such events do not always make it to the front page, but Dahal is the only son of Pushpa Kamal, the chairman of Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). Personal reactions to the news range from indignant outrage to indifferent apathy. The junior Dahal has been called everything from a man drunk on power to a virile man who dares to get what he loves. One commenting on a social networking site worried that the country's international image will suffer as a result of Dahal's misadventures. And there's a twist: Magar's husband belongs to the recently splintered Maoist party while Prakash is the mother party’s prodigal son. Some others call it a personal matter best left to the protagonists. The elopement has triggered an avalanche of commentary, fittingly following their Himalayan sojourn. Most have rightly condemned the affair.

And it’s no surprise the story has rocked the Maoist party. That’s where the larger story lies. Nepali communist parties in general, and the UCPN (Maoist) in particular, take moral transgressions seriously. In fact, the party politburo has discussed the matter to term it "cultural deviation".  It has revoked junior Dahal’s party membership and has "decided to sack him and carry out an investigation on the allegations". This, of course, is not the first time the party has done so against "cultural deviation". During insurgency, the party doled out punishments both to its members and non-members alike for "cultural deviations". It would force unmarried couples, allegedly having an affair, to get married. Sometimes physical action was taken against the adulterers in the form of beatings. Within the party, there is the much-talked-about example of senior Maoist leader Ram Bahadur Thapa "Badal" being disciplined by none other than Dahal senior. for his amorous liaison with Pampha Bhusal, a fellow guerilla who later became a Cabinet minister. History of communist parties all over the world shows that charges of "cultural deviation" are frequently bandied against political opponents.

It remains to be seen how hard the party whip is going to land on Prakash and Bina. However, whether carried out by the party (or by the public), there are some caveats to moral policing. It rapidly obliterates all rights to privacy of an individual. Granted, public figures and their behaviour need to be scrutinised but even the most public of figures need some space at times to sort out their private lives. And Bina certainly is far less a public figure and perhaps deserve a little more space. This is not to absolve the wayward couple of their behaviour but moral policing can come back and haunt you. Dahal senior perhaps knows that best now.


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