Incitement to violence
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is perfectly justified to seek stern action against the officials of Nepali Police and Armed Police Force who either failed to control riots or used excess force in course of the 2015 Madheshi Uprising. Over 50 people were killed in these protests. For instance the constitutional rights watchdog has recommended departmental actions against APF’s (DIG) Khadananda Chaudhary and (SP) Laxman Bahadur Singh, both of whom have been flagged for neglect over the mob killing of eight security personnel and a toddler in Kailali’s Tikapur on August 24, 2015. Likewise, the rights body has concluded that security forces used excess force while trying to control a demonstration in Rupandehi’s Bethari on September 15, 2015, the confrontation in which six individuals, including a four-year-old boy, were killed. Here too it has recommended that those responsible for excess use of force be identified and punished in line with the law. The national rights monitor is also bang on when it asks the government to provide reparations for the families of those who lost their lives during the uprising.
But, interestingly, the NHRC concludes that provocative speeches by Sadbhavana Party Chairman Rajendra Mahato, Federal Socialist Forum Nepal Chairman Upendra Yadav, Nepali Congress lawmaker Amresh Kumar Singh and the then CPN-Maoist leader Dev Gurung laid the ground for the Tikapur carnage. The rights body then recommends that concerned political leaders learn to “act and speak responsibly”. In other words, while there are to be tangible punishments for police officers and some district-level government officials for their mistakes, the political leaders who whipped up a frenzy of hatred that led to those eight horrific killings in Tikapur will get away without any punishment. If our police officers and bureaucrats are forced to make amend for their mistakes, why should our politicians alone get the license to do and say anything they like? The leaders who have been flagged by the NHRC were inciting members of one community to take up arms against members of another community. This is not done. We are all for maximum freedom of speech. But, surely, incitement to violence is a blatant abuse of this freedom, and should not be tolerated in any civilized society.
This is not to single out Madheshi leaders. Even the likes of KP Oli have at various times crossed the thin line between free-speech and hate-mongering. These leaders will continue to abuse their freedom so long as the state can’t make our politicians accountable for their words and actions. But there does not seem to any will to punish our footloose and loose-tongued leaders, not from the NHRC or from the Election Commission that is entrusted with imposing a strict electoral code of conduct from the time of declaration of election date. Speeches that fuel communal hatred and impinge on the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity should thus be made criminal offenses. It is disappointing that even the NHRC, which is widely seen as an apolitical entity that is capable of rising above political interests, does not dare to touch senior political leaders.