Daylight grab

Wednesday afternoon’s police raid on the house of CPN-UML general secretary Madhav Kumar Nepal, followed by his being taken away from there to Kakani yesterday, are further signs of the present government’s arbitrary mode of behaviour and its anti-democratic character. According to reports quoting Nepal’s personal secretary Yadav Sharma, a squad of the Armed Police Force (APF) had conducted the raid without a search warrant and carted off all the communication equipment such as computer, fax machine, and mobile set. Also yesterday, the police raided the houses of Nepal’s two brothers in the same compound and walked off with similar equipment. Policemen say they acted on ‘orders from above’. The fact that Nepal had been placed under constant police surveillance shows that the seizure of the equipment could have only a petty motive, such as to harass him further and to send a fresh message of the government’s unrelenting toughness. His transfer to Kakani further shows the senselessness of the act. This reminds one of the bad old days of the Panchayat when the government was in terror of dissent.

Nepal, under house arrest since January 19, has now been ‘upgraded’ to the government’s own detention centre. The reasons are yet unknown. He is also the political leader who had been detained the longest since the royal action of February 1 last year. This gives grounds to suspect that the government has been acting with a sense of vendetta against him. If he is guilty of some crime, it should have the decency to formally charge him in a court of law. But it has been showing an inconsistent behaviour, now arresting a leader, then releasing him, and then re-arresting him. Clearly, it is being selective in its attempt to cow the opposition down into submission.

Recently somebody was about to register a habeas corpus petition in the Supreme Court challenging Nepal’s detention, but Nepal, when told about the move, had prevented it, saying that he would not like to be released thus. The government can bring anybody under preventive detention for one year without producing him or her in a court. The way the government is going, it can literally detain anybody for any length of time, for instance, releasing the detainee and re-arresting him immediately thereafter. If the top leader of arguably the largest party in the now defunct parliament can be ill-treated thus, what is happening or may happen to ordinary citizens is anybody’s guess. One thing this act has done, at least, is that it has helped puncture the illusion some may have been harbouring about the government restoring democracy through free and fair elections.