Gung-ho mentality

Saturday was a cruel day. A helicopter carrying 24 people, almost all of them distinguished in their fields, including a state minister, went missing and now their bodies have been found. Another tragedy struck in Siraha when a sitting member of Parliament for that district, Krishna Charan Shrestha, was gunned down, along with two others. The crime has been widely condemned, including by the Maoists. An outfit styling itself as fighting for the ‘rights’ of the Madhesis, the Terai Janatantrik Mukti Morcha (TJJM), took responsibility. Its leader Jaya Krishna Goit was once chairman of the Maoist Terai Mukti Morcha, but he later broke away to form TJJM, which has been active in parts of eastern Terai, particularly in Siraha and Saptari, for about two years. It is locked in a fierce feud with the CPN-Maoist, and the two have met in gunbattles, resulting in several deaths. Though TJJM’s influence is very limited, except for the few shots it fires, its agenda is incendiary. For instance, it seeks to ‘cleanse’ the Nepali plains of Pahadiyas.

At a time when even the Maoists are seriously seeking a political solution and are now close to power, and when the causes of those suffering discrimination in one way or another, such as Dalits, women, and Madhesis, are being reviewed fundamentally — and some of the far-reaching measures have already been taken — any group trying to promote sectarian agendas at gun-point are bound to fail. The Maoists may have succeeded in using violent means, but their goals and objectives have strong political underpinnings, as they seek to change society radically by addressing the concerns of a substantial number of people. Even they have now realised the wisdom of settling disputes peaceably, as testified by their commitment to give up arms ultimately. As to Shrestha’s murder, the government’s formation of a three-member investigation panel is only natural. But of greater importance is the need to take effective measures to maintain law and order, which is anything but satisfactory.

The culture of violence has to be ended soon, and for this a breakthrough with the Maoists is essential. Under cover of the Maoists, too, violence, extoriton, kidnapping, and looting has been going on. Even barring those who work merely for money, such fringe groups do not even represent a significant portion of the populace whose causes they claim to champion. This applies also to most of those groups working peacefully in the name of women, Dalits, Janajatis or Madhesis. There is no denying that the state should be prepared to accept worthwhile suggestions from anybody, but the fact is, barring exceptions, most of these ‘representatives’ would lose their security deposit if they fought elections. While dealing with armed gangs, the government ought, first of all, to resolutely enforce the law, while giving their reasonable grievances a hearing. That, however, does not diminish the state’s primary obligation to strictly follow the rule of law.