The true salute

For the first time in Nepal’s history a foreign national has been declared a martyr. To be precise, the 19th martyr of Jana Andolan II, Mohammad Jahangir Khan, 35, happened to be an Indian. He had been seriously injured with bullet shots fired by the security personnel at Tripureshwor on April 22 and died in hospital 10 days later. Now it becomes incumbent on the government to honour their sacrifices by fulfilling their aspirations for total democracy. But the government also needs to do something more for the seriously injured and for the families of the martyrs than pay lip service to their contributions. Indeed, without the martyrs those now in power would not have been there, and free.

While erecting statues in memory of the martyrs is a good thing, there is no less need to look after their families. Given the martyrs’ immense sacrifices and also of those injured and maimed during the nationwide pro-democracy protests, the least the nation can now do is to ensure that their families receive, apart from a respectable amount of financial assistance, benefits such as free education and free health services. The responsibility now falls mainly on the state to make immediate arrangements. In the case of Jahangir Khan, the government must also make an offer of Nepali citizenship to his family. While making provisions for the martyrs of Jana Andolan 2006, the government should also remember the martyrs and the injured of Jana Andolan 1990 who had been largely neglected. It can still make at least some amends. The most important thing about the martyrs is that they laid down their lives for a noble cause without any hope of return.