Why the fear?

Though the emergency has been lifted, the government continues to apply most of the restrictions of the period. One of these is to stop Nepali citizens without charge from travelling within or without the country, thus infringing on the fundamental right of free movement. In the latest manifestation of this act, the security forces barred on Saturday a delegation, including Chitralekha Yadav, the deputy speaker of the Lower House, from flying to New Delhi to attend a seminar on ‘SAARC Working Group and Gender and Poverty.’ The government also continues the dubious practice of arresting people again soon after their release, including those freed on the court orders, for example Jaya Prakash Gupta, a former minister.

The pattern of arrests and stoppings suggest that the government is singling out those who are critical of its very existence or of its various moves. Legal considerations apart, the international community can draw conclusions that if the government can prevent prominent citizens from taking part in a SAARC seminar, how can it allow party-political activity which will organise people and pressurise it to cede power? The restrictions continue despite public co-mmitments by the government to multiparty de-mocracy and despite statements by vice chairman of the council of ministers Kirtinidhi Bista that the crisis cannot be solved by ignoring the political parties.

The government continues to make far-reaching decisions that even a government elected with a landslide would hesitate to do. It is reported to be preparing to put fresh curbs on the media by statute amendments. It has already decided to stop government advertisements from going to private newspapers. Minister for Education and Sports, Radhakrishna Mainali, said in Pokhara on Saturday that the government is going to bar FM stations from broadcasting news related to politics. Why is the government so afraid of FM stations? In the past, the Supreme Court held that FM stations are on par with the print media in disseminating news. A case now lies before the apex court on the same issue. If FM stations cannot broadcast news, on what grounds can television do so then? Not even an elected government can claim the right to compromise the freedoms of sovereign people, let alone one devoid of a popular mandate.