It’s Martyrs’ Day today. Martyrs evoke sense of sacrifice and the duty of the state to uphold the conviction and faith for which they fought. Nepal marks Martyrs’ Day every year to commemorate all known and unknown martyrs who sacrificed their lives for welfare of nation and people. It is the day of commemoration of Shukra Raj Shastri, Dharma Bhakta Mathema, Ganga Lal Shrestha and Dashrath Chand, who were executed by the Rana rulers in 1941 for struggling for the cause of democracy and fundamental human rights of people, and several others who fought for the country in the later dates. But it seems we do not know exact number of martyrs. Since 1941, many others have sacrificed their lives for the cause of the country—those who fought during the democratic movement of 1990, republican movement of 2007, struggle for federalism in Madhes and during the civil war. They fought for a conviction and a cause with the belief that their struggle will change the situation of the country. Post 2007, the government started to accord martyr status rather randomly—even those killed in non-political incident. The government also started to provide one million rupees to the family of the martyrs, which in some cases encouraged people to claim the title. But we do not seem to have maintained the proper records of how many martyrs there are actually. In 2010, the government declared 1,619 people as martyrs. In 2008, it had declared 6,344 people as martyrs. Thus as the country marks Martyrs’ Day, we need to think about maintaining the record of martyrs and creating their profiles.
Mostly, the government response has been limited to paying homage to martyrs at Sahid Gate, speak a few words in praise and consider that their job is done. Every year during the Martyrs week, the stories of those who sustained injuries during the political movement or the families of the martyrs struggling to make their ends meet come out. There are such stories in Madhes, hill and mountains. The state needs to reach out to them and take measures to heal their wounds.
The political parties who pay homage to the martyrs have deviated, both in ideology as well as action, from the conviction and dream for which the martyrs sacrificed their lives. Democracy, rule of law, equality, social justice and economic justice, seem to be compromised, at times, even under threat, from the very actors whose colleagues or followers sacrificed their lives in the first place. Even seven decades after the four revolutionaries sacrificed their lives for democracy, the nation still seems to be struggling to institutionalize it. Republicanism and federalism look like mere change of the words and continuation of the same old system. The real commemoration of martyrs will be when political actors of the day start living up to the true ideals for which lives were lost. Real homage will be when the political parties work for the people and the country. That’s the real way to pay homage to those who cared more for the future of the country than for their own.