Sowing fear

Nawalparasi has been the latest target of terror after Maoists killed 10 unarmed civilians and pillaged 15 houses in one of the villages in the district on Friday. Over 1,000 locals from Bargadwa of Somni VDC have been forced to flee and seek refuge elsewhere. Human rights organisations have expressed serious concern over the killings. This incident is one of many such cases when the rebels have resorted to summary executions, without any regard for human lives, rights issues and accords that call for respecting the sanctity of life by parties to the conflict anywhere in the world. The killings were unjustified and violated the supreme right to live. The rights bodies have a cause to be alar-med at such an incident and hence have rightly expressed their grave concern. Incidents like this justify the allegation that the Maoists have been sowing the seeds of fear among the masses.

In yet another alarming scenario, schools in different parts of the country have remained closed following threats by the Maoist-affiliated student body, the ANNISU-R, to close private schools beginning the Nepali new year. Many schools in Morang, Rupandehi, Nawalparasi, Kapilvastu, Dang and Chitwan have remained closed. Headmasters and school staff are being threatened although parents and students are pressing for opening the schools. To force the closure of schools is a serious miscalculation as children are being indirectly made victims of an insurrection that was conceptualised outside the classroom. Besides, it violates the students’ right to education and also gives rise to critical questions. What kind of a society will evolve from one which bars its children from going to school? The world elsewhere is moving mountains to educate the masses whereas schools over here are subjected to violence, abductions and closure. Schools are a peace zone. Education cannot be made a victim of political dissent. School closure sets the clock back for the fulfilment of educational goals which different donor agencies have worked so hard will remain unattained.

Meanwhile, the rebels, nor anyone for that matter, have the right to take someone’s life at will. Now that the worse has happened, the government needs to beef up security and provide immediate relief to those who have fled from Nawalparasi to neighbouring India and other places. But it is also important the rebels allow the schools to open. While private schools have for sure contributed to the literacy drive, they also employ over 175,000 people. Private sector’s role in education in Nepal must be acknowledged and any disagreement with the school owners will have to be sorted out through peaceful means. Forcing school to close can in no case be justified.