The ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) cadres, in what seems like the nod from the government, are becoming extremely intolerant toward anyone who raises the question about misrule, corruption and irregularities. This is going to be costly for the government which is already earning notoriety for failing to govern as per the aspirations of people.
There are several instances of intolerance from both the government as well as ruling party but recent case in point is attack on Gyanendra Shahi who was severely beaten allegedly by NCP cadres in Chitwan. Shahi was beaten while he was leading an anti-corruption demonstration in the district, which is considered to be the stronghold of NCP chairperson Pushpa Kamal Dahal. Who actually beat Shahi and vandalized his vehicle is yet to be ascertained but the corollary of events point to the possibility of involvement of NCP cadres.
First, it was Shahi who reportedly grilled Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Yogesh Bhattarai two weeks ago for delaying the Buddha Air flight en route from Nepalgunj to Kathmandu. In a video that went viral in social media, Shahi is seen questioning, rather aggressively, Bhattarai for causing the delay of the plane. Bhattarai later issued a public apology but NCP cadres on the ground raged against Shahi and even declared certain places such as Pokhara prohibited zone for Shahi.
Worse, none of the ruling party leaders were seen to direct their cadres not to be involved in such illegal activity. Thus there is a reason to believe that Chitwan incident could have been coordinated by the NCP cadres themselves. The government must immediately investigate the case and bring those involved in attack to the book.
But the attack on Shahi also points to troubling trends of growing intolerance of NCP cadres, seemingly under the government protection, toward dissent. Gyanendra Shahi may be the adherent of ‘regressive’ ideology (NCP cadres portray him as a monarchist) but he has every right to speak against the corruption and anomalies which are rising under the watch of the government.
Besides, Shahi, in this particular case, was leading the demonstration against corruption, which the government has failed to control. Oli government has been trying to stifle the dissent through veiled threats. Early this year, Raju Basnet, the editor and publisher of Khojtalas, a weekly newspaper based in Kathmandu, was twice put behind the bars, once without any arrest warrant, for reporting about pressure allegedly exerted by NCP leaders to illegally sell off land belonging to Harisiddhi Brick Factory. He was released only after media exerted pressure on the government.
One after another such incidents have reinforced the perception that the government is indeed going on authoritarian path. The current ruling party was voted to power by the people to rule for full five years by ensuring rule of law, freedom of expression and human rights and expediting development works.
The government’s track record on upholding these values has been pretty dismal, which is why people are speaking against it. When the government fails to deliver there will be outrage. People and media will speak up. We all will be Gyanendra Shahis. The government that cannot tolerate dissent and criticisms risks losing all democratic credentials.