Jail them

Published On: March 13, 2017 12:45 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

The Sajha bus arson 
Talking to Republica, Khadga Biswokarma, the spokesperson for the small Maoist outfit led by Netra Bikram Chand ‘Biplab', clarified on Saturday that it was not his party’s policy to destroy public property. He was responding to a query about why his party had set a bus belonging to Sajha Yatayat, a cooperative that is partly government-owned, on fire in course of the banda it had called on the day.  (The banda was supposedly called to protest against the death of a Nepali citizen who was killed in firing of India’s SSB on Thursday.) But even though Biswokarma was trying to defend his party, he unwittingly 
accepted its culpability: “The bus must have been set on fire because it defied the banda”.

Since the party’s pamphlets were also found in the bus that was set ablaze at Balaju there is little doubt that Biplab’s cadres were in it. And if that is the case, the party leader and his thuggish cadres who were involved in the arson must be thrown into jail. For their activities are not those of political actors but of terrorists. 

Sajha Yatayat and all those who decided to defy Biplab’s banda on Saturday had every right to do so. In a democratic society, everyone has the right to free speech, even to call for a banda. But if people don’t believe in the cause behind the banda (or other such disruptive activities), they may choose not to support it. It’s a voluntary choice, not something that can be imposed by force. It is about time the Nepali state starts recognizing these incidents, which are clearly aimed at spreading terror, as terrorist acts and deals with them accordingly.  The reason these outfits repeatedly engage in such violent acts is that they tend to get away with it. Whenever such terror acts take place, the media roundly condemns it, the rights bodies issue routine statements and after a few days everything is conveniently forgotten. We must establish a precedent whereby they can be tried in a court of law, especially the leader of the party who incite their cadres to engage in violence. Moreover, the responsible political parties must also be made to bear the cost of damages to private and public property during their bandas. 

Our human rights community should also show some spunk. Some days ago we wrote of how the National Human Rights Commission had recommended strong punitive measures against the police officers and district-level bureaucrats who were responsible for use of ‘excess force’ during the 2015 Madheshi Uprising.  But the political leaders it held responsible for inciting mob violence that led to the death of eight policemen in Tikapur of Kailali were only ‘urged’ by the rights body to ‘act more responsibility’. We don’t understand why our politicians and political parties are treated with different yardsticks than those used for everyone else.  If our politicians act like criminals, they should be treated as such. We thus call on the government to immediately apprehend those responsible for the Sajha bus arson on Saturday and to initiate criminal proceedings against them. If we can set a strong precedent, the political actors will think many times before they engage in such violence. 

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