The ruling party cannot use its cadres to intimidate the people criticising the government for its failure to deliver goods and services
The physical attack on Gyanendra Shahi, a self-declared anti-corruption activist, by cadres of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) on Saturday in Chitwan, is an assault on the freedom of speech and expression, and warrants the strongest condemnation. Shahi had to be flown to the capital from Chitwan after suffering cuts on his toe, head, chest and back. Shahi was attacked by a group of youths with stones, rods and sticks while boarding the vehicle after leaving the hotel where he had been staying. Earlier, the NCP cadres had disrupted the programme at Chaubishkothi, which Shahi was to address. Judging the situation, police had prevented Shahi and his group ‘Nepali for Nepal’ from organising the programme to prevent any untoward incident. The Saturday attack took place in Bharatpur, Chitwan, whose mayor is Renu Dahal, the daughter of NCP Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal. This is not the first time Shahi has been attacked by cadres close to the NCP, apparently for his tirade of abuse against Minister for Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Yogesh Bhattarai.
It all began with the minister delaying a Buddha Air flight in mid-September from Nepalgunj to Kathmandu till late in the evening, when he had to face verbal abuse from the irate passengers, especially Shahi. Shahi had tried to organise a press conference the following day in Kathmandu to brief the media about the flight delay, but it was disrupted, and Shahi was taken into police custody on the orders of the minister. Worse still, the Kaski chapter of the youth wing of the ruling NCP, through a statement, banned Shahi from entering Pokhara for chiding Minister Bhattarai. The ban on Shahi came in the wake of Pushpa Kamal’s instruction to the students and youths to “retaliate against anarchic and reactionary tendencies directed against the democratic republic.” The NCP cadres have been accusing Shahi of being a royalist. The travel ban is a violation of the fundamental right laid down in the constitution, which allows Nepalis to travel freely within the country.
Going by the activities of the NCP cadres, Shahi is a marked man, and staying indifferent to the persistent attacks on him aimed at preventing him from making his views public at different forums will only embolden the party youth to pounce on anyone hostile to them. If such activity is not nipped in the bud right now, it could invite clashes among the cadres of the different parties in the future, and this could boomerang on the NCP youths themselves. No one has the right to silence others or tell them what they can speak and cannot speak. Should anything said in public be offensive to anyone, let the law of the land judge on it and act accordingly. The people look up to the youth leaders and their young followers to take this country out of the morass it has fallen into. They should lead by example, not be engaging in hooliganism, even if their senior leaders instruct them to. The general people are a frustrated lot, who see nothing good happening on any front. The ruling party cannot use its cadres to intimidate the people criticising the government for its failure to deliver goods and services.
Tourism in far-west
Far-west Nepal holds huge potential for tourism and mountaineering. However, the entire region has not been able to attract the desired number of tourists and climbers for want of related infrastructure. There are many peaks, such as Api and Saipal, to name a few, and the Khaptad National Park, the jewel in the crown. Nepal’s tourism has been confined to select areas, such as Kathmandu, Pokhara, Chitwan, Lumbini, and Everest and Kanchenjungha regions. We can attract more than double the number of tourists to the country if we also develop the far-west as a tourist destination.
A report from Bajhang states that a team of climbers who had embarked on an expedition to Mt Api gave up its mission due to lack of necessary infrastructure and landslides on the way to the 7,132-metre peak. No climber has scaled the peak since 2001 when a Japanese expedition made it to the summit. The Japanese team wanted to spread the message to the world community about climbing and other adventure activities available in the far-west. It is high time the provincial government developed the required facilities in the region so that domestic and foreign tourists could visit there regularly.
A version of this article appears in print on September 30, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.