The tragic end of a ‘rebel’

Why did Ilam’s Prem Acharya choose the path of self-immolation?

Published On: January 26, 2023 11:03 AM NPT By: Samiksha Shrestha and Aesha Bajracharya

KATHMANDU, Jan 26: People from various quarters of life have come forward to make it a point to say that Prem Prasad Acharya, who died of serious burn injuries resulting from an act of self-immolation in front of parliament house in the capital was a rebel. And indeed a facebook post Acharya wrote before deciding to set himself on fire had gone viral even before his tragic death on Wednesday morning. In the facebook post, 36-years-old Acharya, a permanent residence Kerabari, Suryodaya Municipality-11, Ilam, has made it clear that he had been fighting several odds in life one after another and that he failed in most of them for which he has blamed several people and situations, this society and state. 

He has admonished the state, and the existing system, and blamed also the politicians for the sorry state of the country, concluding, unfortunately, that there is no opportunity for means of livelihood in the country. He also highlighted the ironies of the life of common Nepalis who wanted to do something within the country but how they were held back by the situations. “This country is not for those who eke out a living through hard work; this is a country where only thieves survive,” he sadly concluded. 

He wrote in his status, “In my country, where banks earn 10 billion rupees in one year by trading money from the deposits of the so-called poor people, in my country where free medicines are disposed of and expensive private medicines are sold to the people, in my country where government teachers, employees send their children to private schools and don’t have enough confidence in their own teaching capability, my country where the government does not provide access to the basic things that people need to live; currently we don’t have democracy here but kleptocracy being executed through a collusion of traders and middlemen. My country where laws are like cobwebs which catch small flies but let wasps and hornets break through, my country is suffering everywhere, my country is crying in every village, crying in every farmer's house, crying in the heart of the ambitious youth, crying in the heart of the poor, crying in the mind of the unwell, my country is crying wholly. Do something government, do something!!!!”

According to the District Police Office, Kathmandu, the police reached the scene and rescued Acharya after he set himself on fire in front of the parliament building in the capital’s New Baneshwar. From there, he was taken to a burn hospital in Kirtipur for treatment. Police Spokesperson Superintendent of Police (SP) Dineshraj Mainali said that it was unfortunate that Acharya could not be saved despite being admitted to the ICU of the hospital. 

Acharya begins his final facebook status by introducing himself as “a common youth, a common entrepreneur, a common businessman.” After that, he mentions that he saw a colorful dream and carried on with his responsibilities for his family, society and the country. 

In the status, he mentions that after selling his ancestral property in Ilam and building a house in Kathmandu, he started a travel agency. The business went well at first but later things started falling apart. Ultimately, the travel agency had to be sold. Then he went abroad (Qatar) and got a decent job which helped to pay back his loans and he returned to Nepal in 2017 with some money. He then went back to his home district Ilam and started a business and that too was not successful.

Even though he was good at sales and marketing, had all the training and experience to get leadership skills, motivational skills, business skills and gained motivation from speakers such as Dr Bibek Bindra, Shiv Khera, Binod Chaudhary, Ratan Tata, Amitabh Bachchan, Osho, Swami Bibekananda, and read Chanakya Niti, Gita, he said he could not be successful in this country.

In his last facebook status he has also outlined his suggestions to the government including the one to address the issues facing the ordinary businessmen like him.

"Why don’t we get paid on time? Why does no one raise their voice? Let someone initiate. The credit market of this country must be torn apart. The government doesn't pay any attention. Listen government, look at my burning body," he wrote in his status hours before he attempted self-immolation on Tuesday.

Acharya has given various 25 suggestions to the government. These include implementing zero VAT on national products, imposing 20 percent tax on imported goods, enforcing attractive market purchase policy such as buyers pay first, ending the borrowing market, implementing the policy of ‘higher the profit, lower the tax rate’ and land leasing system. Changing the banking mortgage valuation system, making it mandatory for all the rented houses to pay tax, regulating the big industrial and business houses that have captured the market of Nepal, closing all online shops that are operated without registration are also among his suggestions.He has also suggested to the government not to make labor approval stricter for of those who want to go abroad for foreign employment on working visas, publicize all old files of grants and subsidy system and effectively end the involvement of middlemen, 

Acharya has complained that Nepali consumers buy imported cardamom dust after selling cardamom and buy imported ginger paste from India. He has said the orthodox green tea from Ilam, black tea from Calcutta and imported lipton tea - all these things can be found in the Nepali market in Nepali brand. According to him, Nepali brands should be exported to the world, marijuana farming should be legalized, privatization in education, health, and public transport should be discouraged and the government should provide mandatory housing facilities to government employees, and teachers. 

Acharya has also suggested that the government would do better to promote domestic production and exports by substituting imports and close savings and credit cooperatives and microfinance. He has also suggested to the government to make entrepreneurship a compulsory subject in school education from class six onwards and make it mandatory for government employees, teachers, and employees of the organizations and lawmakers to admit their children to government schools and colleges immediately.

“My own family members and relatives stopped listening to me, there is no place to end my pain. How many days will I live with a heavy heart? Where will I put my burden away? There is no option in front of me to change the financial burden. When earning two million could lift up my burden, all the efforts to raise that amount failed. The person concerned did not care how much I cried to collect my due amount. To engage in start-ups, there is no investment, there is no solution to handle the old business either. I tried every option to move forward but all black slides. What should I do? There are no choices and hope left,” Acharya has written in his FB status. 

Acharya has named a number of persons including senior politicians including Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, former Prime Ministers Sher Bahadur Deuba, KP Sharma Oli, Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, Madhav Kumar Nepal, Jhalnath Khanal, Khilraj Regmi, former Chairman of the Council of Ministers Khil Raj Regmi responsible to take the harsh decision. He has stated, “Prachanda, you waged a war that killed 17,000 people and introduced republicanism, federalism and secularism in the country. You got the new constitution promulgated through the constituent assembly. But you made the country such that youths like me who want to do something cannot do anything here. Do you know if the countries like Canada, America, Australia, Japan eased their visa policy nobody will remain in  Nepal. Afterwards, you will become the Prime Minister of an empty country and rule those 17,000 martyrs,” he has vented his anger and frustration.

Acharya also mentioned that Kathford College (Bal Kumari), SAAN International College (Naxal), didn’t pay the money they owed him, making many excuses. He tried his luck operating a travel agency and bought a Suzuki Ertiga car. After paying Rs 600,000 in down payment, the car was taken by paying other installments. While Rs 400,000 was paid in the form of down payment, he could not pay the remaining Rs 200,000 on time to the showroom. The showroom then seized his car even without giving two months time to settle the amount. Suzuki showroom in Thapathali did not refund his Rs 400,000, either, he has claimed. 

Acharya in his facebook post has also complained that he did not get the subsidies provided by the the Ministry of Agriculture and Land Management, and payment for his goods supplied to the companies and individuals including Upendra Mahato, Nepal Gramodhyog, Bhatbhateni Supermarket, Big Mart, Golyan Agro, Sathimart, and NEP EXPRESS UAE, Dabur Nepal Pvt. Ltd, Sun Nepal Life Insurance Company and Pantanjali.

Acharya has also vented his ire against the leaders of Rabindra Mishra-led Bibeksheel Sajha Party for not doing anything to resolve the problems of businessmen like him. “...Why did you play with the feelings of an ambitious youth of this country? If you cannot integrate, if you cannot run a party, why did you involve hundreds of young people like me in politics? Why waste time and money?” he asked. 

Acharya has revealed that he had attempted to commit suicide into the Brahmaputra River in Guhati, India but someone saved him. He then ran away to the China border through Tezu of Arunachal Pradesh and tried to enter China through the last village of India, namely Kohu village. His plan to enter China, work there to make some money, and return home in a few years also failed to materialize. 

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