The State is hell bent on owning all the means of production and curbing freedom of speech and human rights
Connecting the dots, one can see the direction the “socialism-oriented” state is heading towards. Socialism is not merely about the free access to education or health services, it is more about barring the private ownership of the means of production. It is evident that the Maoist-led government, to establish a socialist order, has been systematically attacking private ownership in education, health and industry, trade and commerce.
Karl Marx, in his famous Communist Manifesto, said that the state “is merely the organized power of one class for oppressing another.” Unfortunately this realization came too late to us, who fancied the state and its organs as a common guardian for all citizens. The realization came as we discovered the reason why the word “socialism” is scattered throughout the Constitution of Nepal.
The Constitution of Nepal 2015, in its preamble, states "being committed to socialism based on democratic norms and values" and its Article 4.1 further defines the State of Nepal as "socialism-oriented, federal democratic republican state". In Part 4 under the Directive Principles, Policies and Obligations of the State, the constitution defines the economic objective of the State “to develop a socialism-oriented independent and prosperous economy while making the national economy independent, self-reliant and progressive.” To understand what they meant in practice, let us explore some of the incidents from the past few months.
In August last year, the government brought the draft of the Education Bill that contained a provision requiring the private schools be mandatorily converted into a trust (guthi). The owners of the private and boarding schools, worried about their investment of over Rs 500 billion in the country’s education sector, opposed it and the government stepped back and made it a voluntary option. But the bill and the proposed amendments are under discussion in the Education and Health and Information Technology Committee of the House of Representatives.
The private hospital owners have been seriously considering shutting down their hospitals and moving to other sectors or places citing impractical and unfavorable provisions in the National Medical Education Act and Regulations. Further, the budget for the fiscal year 2023/24 stated that the government would not entertain the health insurance programme in private hospitals and private medical colleges.
In last June, the police arrested Bhatbhateni Supermarket’s chairman Min Bahadur Gurung in connection with the Lalita Niwas land embezzlement case, in which a number of high profile politicians have been also implicated but never brought under the law. He spent more than two months behind the bars.
This week, the police arrested Arun Chaudhary, the chairman of Chaudhary Group Holdings, to investigate 1.26 acres of land transfer in 1986 at a price lower than the government valuation. Binod Chaudhary, his brother and the only billionaire of Nepal, himself is at risk of police arrest at any time in the same case. Chaudhary Group is arguably the largest business enterprise of Nepal that owns more than 136 companies in 32 countries across five continents and employs more than 20,000 people. On the other hand, the prime minister is in talks with the Nepalese Army about operating the Hetauda Textile Industry, at the cost of Rs 1.93 billion.
This systematic and selective targeting of private investments and turning over the means of production in the hands of the state is the core philosophy of “socialism”. Further, the Article 17 related to Right to Freedom rather than providing economic rights to all citizens can in fact totally curb private investments, as its provision 2(6) states ``Nothing in sub-clause (f) shall be deemed to prevent the making of an Act ...to confer on the State the exclusive right to undertake any specific industry, trade or service." The record of the current government regarding freedom of expression and human-rights violations is not encouraging either.
The telecommunications bill proposed by the government has provisions to allow the agencies to record telephone and mobile phone conversations of any individual and also access personal information exchanged through the Internet without permission from the court.
In November, the cabinet passed ‘Directives on the Operation of Social Networking 2023’, which makes it mandatory for social networking sites such as Facebook, X , TikTok, YouTube and others to set up their offices in Nepal. It criminalized creation of fake IDs on social media, and sharing or making comments through such IDs. It is mainly targeted at public questioning of political leaders and parties through social media, and a number of arrests have been made in the past months for social media posts. Eventually the government also banned TikTok citing disruption to social harmony.
Similarly, the government has imposed months-long prohibitory orders, barring protests or gathering of even more than five people in the Maitighar, Baneshwar, Shital Niwas and Baluwatar areas. It has also made all forms of protests or gathering in the area around the ministers’ quarters in Pulchowk illegal for six-months. The police have attacked protesters even in Shanti Vatika in Ratnapark. One of the harrowing scenes from Maitighar Mandala for the last one year has been frequent arrests and mishandling of Aarti Sah’s elderly mother, helpless sister and hapless brother, demanding justice in the Aarti Sah murder case.
In August, the police arrested Member of Parliament and hospital owner Sunil Kumar Sharma, on the charge of his certificate of I.Sc. being 'not verified' from the National Examinations Board, Sano Thimi. But the real reason behind his arrest was his consistent and fiery attack on the prime minister from the parliament.
On December 29, during a small demonstration at Balkumari in Lalitpur on the issue of applying for jobs in South Korea, the government shot dead Birendra Shah of Achham and Sujan Raut of Dailekh. The prime minister, in the coalition meeting, blamed those innocent youths for attempting to topple his regime. On 13th December, the police shot 25-year-old Lakshmi Bin Mukhia, who had gone to see a local protest in Simraungadh municipality of Bara district and on 5th January, the police shot another hotelier, Jaishankar Sah, on his head while he was going from his hotel to the godown in Barhathwa of Sarlahi district, where a small protest over primary health center had erupted. The Maoist prime minister and home minister have been adamant on suppressing anyone who dares to oppose the government and police. When RSP Chairman Ravi Lamichhane questioned the morality of the home minister in a parliamentary meeting, the home minister threatened him saying that even though the latter might have got amnesty in the past, he might not get it anymore.
On January 1, when we attempted to celebrate the National Dress Day wearing dhoti, the police arrested 53 people including myself, Minister for Federal Affairs and General Administration Anita Sah, the chairman of the Industry, Commerce, Labor and Consumer Interest Committee of the House of Representatives Abdul Khan.
In the same manner, on January 22, in Saptari, the police brutally attacked and injured several members of Madhesh Province Assembly including Mahesh Prasad Yadav, Satish Kumar Singh, Bhagyashree Chaudhary, Ranju Khang and dozens of others, to serve the unjust interest of a Maoist-close ally and member of the Socialist Front, JSP.
Connecting the dots, one can see the direction the “socialism-oriented” state is heading towards. Socialism is not merely about the free access to education or health services, it is more about barring the private ownership of the means of production. It is evident that the Maoist-led government, to establish a socialist order, has been systematically attacking private ownership in education, health and industry, trade and commerce. Despite the disastrous historical records of continual failures in everything it owns and controls, the state is hell bent on owning all the means of production and curbing freedom of speech and human rights.
It should be a red alert for all of us. Otherwise, as George Orwell remarked in his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever,” the picture of Nepal doesn’t look anything better.