Citing “orders from the higher-ups,” former child soldier Lenin Bista was stopped by the immigration authorities at Tribhuvan International Airport on Friday. He was on his way to attend a conference in Thailand to share his experience as a child soldier. Republica also reported that Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa’s advisor Surya Subedi had threatened Bista not to attend the conference. This is a gross violation of an individual’s right to travel freely, which has been enshrined in our constitution. Bista is just one victim of our state’s anti-constitutional move, and this way, anyone of us could be targeted by the government. Another individual from Bhaktapur was also arrested last week for messing around with Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s picture. Meanwhile, the Chief District Office (CDO) of Kaski has issued a notice to wear “proper dress” when entering its premises. These incidents are symptomatic of what is to come in the days and months ahead: People will have hard time criticizing the government and its workings.
It increasingly seems like the two-thirds majority government of KP Sharma Oli has lost its track and focus. Instead of focusing on its stated mission of “prosperous Nepal, happy Nepali,” the Oli government is floundering right and left. Governments at all levels have not been able to focus on urgently needed development works. Nepali media fraternity has strongly come out against Muluki Codes that stifles individual’s right to expression and media’s freedom to report. Some of the provisions in the newly implemented Muluki Codes not only infringe on individual’s right to expression but, if implemented strictly, it could also put Nepali media in a grave danger. When the media is not able to report stories that serve greater good of the society, then we won’t be doing justice to the public. This is not all. The bill on personal privacy registered at the parliament secretariat recently virtually curtails press freedom.
The Panchayat rule used to tag anyone the system did not like as being involved in “disturbing public peace” and was barred from traveling and even leaving from one place to the other inside the country. Lenin Bista became the latest victim of Home Minister’s random wrath, but a democratic state should not function in that manner. He says that the state would encounter him, if possible. Tomorrow, it could be you, it could be us! The letter handed to Bista by the immigration authority states he does not have the required permission from the government to attend the conference in Thailand. This explanation is not convincing. For one, Bista is not a government employee and he does not need approval from the government to attend the conference. Second, if Home Minister Thapa and his coterie want to run home affairs like they did during the Maoist war then it will have tremendous backlash against the government. This is a gross violation of the constitutionally guaranteed right to travel, which falls under freedom of speech and expression.
Moreover, the issue of child soldier needs to be resolved with the rigor it deserves. These soldiers sacrificed their precious lives in the name of revolution. People like Ram Bahadur Thapa are reaping the fruits of Maoist war. And soldiers like Bista are being ostracized by the same people who once were comrades. Home Minister Thapa has a lot to take care of at the moment. Murderers of Nirmala Panta need to be brought to justice, extremist elements inside the country need to be dealt with. Don’t deviate from your core mission, Minister Thapa.