“You never know what’s in store in the future. I could get killed, or I could live a normal life,” Yameen Rasheed told me as we were walking around the Islamic Center in Male’, the capital of the Maldives. It was a bright sunny day in 2016. We had just had a nice lunch in a nearby restaurant during which I had asked him why didn’t he focus on his career in information technology – another brilliant talent of his. He told me that he couldn’t, as writing has become a part of his life, and he would rather choose to live with threats than live in a pretended peace.
“By letting the newspaper print my works, I’ve probably undervalued my works.”
Dr Govinda KC spoke those words in a packed hall of Hotel Annapurna on April 24, 2010 in an event that was organized by Nagarik & Republica daily to let 15 social heroes doing selfless service to the societies tell their stories. Dr KC was one of 15 and was most reluctant to appear on newspaper or speak in the event.
I was told it needed a lot of persuasion to ensure he is available for the event – and I clearly told the hall why he was reluctant.
A story that appeared on the same day in the newspapers’ supplements began with: “The surest way to locate Dr Govinda KC is to go looking for him in that part of the globe where a major natural disaster has just struck.”
On Wednesday, Dec 19, Rajdhani national daily newspaper published a front-page photo of Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai and Chief Justice Khilraj Regmi. The five-column photo shows Regmi standing while PM seems to be bowing to CJ with his hands joined together.
The captain says: “Need Support Your Honor: Prime Minister Dr Baburam Bhattarai who is also the Minister of Law greeting Chief Justice Khilraj Regmi during his participation in a program organized to mark 22nd anniversary of Justice Council.”
(to mark the International Human Rights Day)
How you feel if someone says: “Eat as much as you can (before the food is ready)” and when the food is ready, you are told: “That’s enough: you are eating too much.”
That’s exactly what is happening with our rights to freedom of expression and opinion!
Citizens around the world living in democratic countries were guaranteed rights to freedom of expression for long. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, promulgated long ago in 1948 by UN General Assembly, has explicitly stated it in Article 19.
All democratic nations around the world have copied, rephrased/translated and pasted the text in their constitutions. As citizens we’ll thought well we’ve individually rights to freedom of expression and opinion.
We didn’t have a powerful medium through which we could effectively exercise the rights and we were made to believe media is mediating the rights on behalf of us.
But we are being deceived!
The Internet emerged as a powerful medium that every individual around the world could use to exercise the rights to freedom of expression and opinion. When blogging emerged, it was evident. If blogs were difficult to set up and continued, then social media (on internet) is the easiest tool to use to express ourselves.
[To mark the International Day of Democracy]
Artist Manish Harijan painted a few arts depicting Hindu god and goddess in poses that were disliked by many people. Some, including the former army colonel and head of a Hindu group, decided to register a case against him and issue the death threats. The controversy ended after the artist and the exhibitor Sangeeta Thapa agreed to remove two of the paintings and signed a paper agreeing not to paint and exhibit such images in future. The artists were furious over the compromise made over the Freedom of Expression by Thapa, and the role played by the administration.
Those incidents brought a big discussion on Social Media. I generally said that artists should be able to exercise his freedom of artistic expression and people thinks it’s legally not acceptable they can seek judicial remedy. I also said that issuing death threat is against the law. People can dislike his painting but that shouldn’t translate into threatening him of consequences.
Many of the people expressed that they didn’t like it. Some of them wrote foul and threatening words to the artist.
Great nations are built on the back of ideas—not force.
This is the concluding line of an article by Indian thinker Sundeep Waslekar. The article is a thought-provoking one and I recommend all for a read. Although it’s more on India, it is applicable to any society.
After completing the article and reading the concluding line, I was attracted to idea of ‘ideas’. Of course, ideas lead to innovation and innovations to prosperity but where does the ideas come from. The sources of ideas are not only great heads but heads with knowledge.
Any idea needs to be backed up by knowledge for it to become an useful innovation as Plato put it: A good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers.
Nepal’s internet penetration is 18.28 per cent as of June, 2012, according to Nepal Telecommunication Authority (NTA).
Wow! That’s not bad for a country where the literacy rate is below 60 per cent.
And, most amazing thing is the growth rate of internet users. In 2010, the internet penetration was 3.69 per cent and it was 10.89 per cent in June, 2011.
I have travelled a few times this year using the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA), the only international airport in Nepal. Every time I have departed from or arrived to the TIA, I have had a feeling of anger, frustration and embarrassment due to mismanagement.
Nepal debates what’s acceptable and what’s not at a time when sex and foul language are key ingredients of some Nepali movies; and sexually explicit pictures are spread all over Nepali tabloids.
Nepali movies these days seems to be on two streams: the traditional types are those with well-known actors where everything is mixed and targeted for lower middle class audiences; and the experimental new ones targeted for theatres at malls for upper middle class audiences. The second type generates more hype (and most possibly profits) because they are on the theaters where audiences pays more to watch and they also get a lot of mainstream media coverage.
When there were whispers going on about the movies including unnecessary scenes of sexual motivation; the success of Chapali Height made film producers and directors to believe on age-old doctrine: Sex Sells!
On May 27, 2012, the Constituent Assembly (CA) expired dashing hopes of citizens of Nepal. After four extensions to double the CA’s original tenure of two years, the biggest experiment in Nepali politics proved unsuccessful. The 601-member CA comes to an end as unceremoniously as possible without a word of good-bye or apology from the chair.
The major political parties, the largest Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), the ‘democratic’ Nepali Congress, the Communist Party of Nepal – United Marxist-Leninist and the alliance of parties based in southern plains United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF) could not reach an agreement on new constitution and with the Supreme Court (SC) verdict that CA term can be no longer extended, the CA has nowhere to go but to hit the bottom.
For non-Maoist supporters, Dr Baburam Bhattarai is the favorite among Maoist leaders. For urban population, the brilliant academic record of Bhattarai, a PhD, along with his no-nonsense statements made him the hope in Nepali politics at the time when many thought politics is made dirty by the group of leaders who did nothing more than quarrelling for the post.
If any politician garnered affection and praise from non-party supporters, it was Bhattarai.
The Central Jail shooting and other incidents raise questions on Nepal Police’s honesty!
On March 10, Indian national Jashwant Singh went through the security checking of the Central Jail to meet an inmate. In the visitor’s lounge, he produced a pistol and shot at Yunus Ansari – a son of former minister of Nepal who is in judicial custody for his involvement in fake Indian currency smuggling.
Ansari, a person who has been long accused for being an aide to Dubai-based notorious crime don Dawood Ibrahim, was lucky to survive for somebody nearby spotted the pistol. Singh was immediately arrested and police claim that he is a professional criminal and is wanted for four murder cases in India.
On Thursday, a 52-year-old Nepali slapped Jhalanath Khanal, the chairman of the third largest party of Nepal which is also the ruling party, in a public program in Itahari, some 500-km from Kathmandu. Khanal went there to welcome around 1,000 new party members and Devi Prasad Regmi, who used to be a UML cadre, lined up with other to reach one of the most likely candidate for next prime ministership, and slapped him right no his face so hard that Khanal’s glasses fell down.
“Politicians ruined the country, it’s better to go mad than be dead,” Regmi said in the police custody.
Although Khanal happened to be the receiver of the slap, it was a slap in the faces of all those political leaders who have a say in their party’s decisions. The unruly event, despite being condemnable, is something that reflects the frustrations of many more Nepalis.
Regmi used to be a UML cadre; he voted for Maoist during the Constituent Assembly (CA) election for he thought ‘Maoists could give something to the country’ and was forced to slap Khanal ‘in anger’ for he could not ‘tolerate the leaders ruining the country’.
How many more Nepalis have been angered, even more than Regmi? How many more Nepalis want to slap leaders in their faces for their false promises? At least a few more, it’s just that they don’t have the courage. I am saying this after reading comments on news in many news sites, reactions in social media and blogs.
Time has not ran out yet! There are still a time that the leaders could save people from getting frustrated and angry – and if the leaders continue to search for consensus with inconclusive meetings and rigid stances, I am sorry to say, but many, many Nepalis will have an untold consensual agreement to follow Regmi’s path.
Former crown prince of Nepal Paras Shah was ‘taken under control’ by police on charges of firing with an illegal bullet at a resort inside a national park late night and threatening a Bangladeshi of life. No matter what will the court decide, the series of incidents has a greater impact in Nepal’s political scenario as it symbolically indicates the ‘real’ end of the monarchic power and is also a step towards the no-tolerance towards criminal activities under political hood.
I believe that it was wrong for Paras Shah, 38, to threaten anyone with a pistol and fire a round in air regardless of the degree of provocation injected by the person on the other side. It was a crime for a commoner (Paras Shah declared himself similar to a commoner) to carry an unlicensed weapon, to carry weapon inside a national park and to threaten someone of life firing on air.
Friday night continues to be pivotal in Nepal.
November 19, 2010 will go into history books as a shameful day for Nepal’s parliament and will continue to embarrass the nation for years to come. The representatives of the people involved in such a scuffle that ended with manhandling of ministers and ‘abduction of the budget speech’ by the Maoist lawmakers.
Into the records, Maoist lawmakers disrupted the House session and resorted to vandalism and manhandling soon after Speaker Subas Nembang permitted Finance Minister Surendra Pandey to table the budget. They manhandled Pandey and snatched the briefcase containing the budget booklet. Other Maoist lawmakers also manhandled some ministers and lawmakers belonging to the ruling party.
Budget is a dire need of the country for rescues it from plunging into the financial crisis. The people were told (by the leaders) that the main three political parties including the Maoist agreed for the budget through a constitutional amendment and use of special rights by the President. Maoist then backtracked and said allowing President to use the special rights might set a wrong precedent – and government was adamant to go with the budget presentation resulting in the ugly scene.
Shame on Maoists
After watching the incident live on television, there is nothing else to say to the Maoist. Through protest at parliament is allowed, their behavior was immature, beyond tolerance and unacceptable. Time and again, Maoist proved themselves to be immature in politics and their thinking/action had remained that of the rebels – not that of the democratic political party.
The UCPN (Maoist) should apologize with people for the incident.
Shame on Government
The government knew something is coming for the Maoists have said they won’t allow the budget presentation. Despite that they went ahead inviting Maoist for confrontation. They should have tried for a middle-path with understanding from the Maoist.