By Prasiddha Thapa
I would like to share a story about a train passenger named Pattu. Once, Pattu was traveling on the train. The ticket collector was checking everyone’s ticket and Pattu’s turn came. Pattu starts searching his pant and coat pockets with no luck. Then, he frantically opens his luggage and checks the pockets of all the clothes in his luggage. Still, no luck. He even opens his socks and shoes, but never looks in his front shirt pocket. The ticket collector watches the drama and says to Pattu ,”You haven’t looked inside your shirt front pocket, maybe you should look there first, it might be there.” To this Pattu replies, “I know that there is a high chance it might be there, but I don’t want to look there. If it is not there, then I don’t have any chance of finding the ticket and I have to pay a huge fine. So, let me look anywhere else because the high chance of it being there gives me a safety feeling but I don’t want to look as it might not be there and I will lose all hope.” I feel that such is the situation in Nepal.
We are looking everywhere for a solution. We started by the infamous “#BackOffModi” hoping Modi will back off, donated petrol to the Indian embassy to show that we actually do not hate India and its good people. Our respectable deputy PM also put forth our woes to the UN, and our international communities all over the world held protests to make India stop the blockade. It is impressive that when in need, we (Nepalese) can still come together as one nation. However, trying to force India or other nations to indirectly force India to remove the blockade in Nepal has a very low chance of actually ending the blockade. Just as Pattu was frantically searching for his ticket everywhere but the place of highest probability, we too are trying to find a solution everywhere but in Madhes, where there is the highest probability for our solution.
Now, let me tell you why I think that this strategy of making India end the “blockade” in any way would not work. First, even if the blockade exists, it is an “unofficial” so India first needs to acknowledge the blockade as official before it can end the blockade. Even if India makes the blockade official, there are many ways that it can keep sustaining the blockade if it desires. However, India is firm at the moment and is also giving a valid reason, to the world to see, for their vehicles not passing towards Nepal. Their reasoning is that there is unrest in Nepal/ India border and that the state is not able to control the situation, and their ineffective strategy plus inability to end this unrest is creating an unsafe passage for their vehicles to enter Nepal. And when they say something along the lines of “Nepal isn’t able to provide safety for Nepal’s own vehicles, how will we provide safety to vehicles of India?”
Another interesting aspect of Pattu’s story is his fear of not finding the ticket in his shirt pocket and hence his cowardly idea to look for it everywhere else out of fear that it may not be in his front shirt pocket. I find us using the same logic as Pattu. It seems we think that if we listen to Madhes and the protests end, then still India will continue its blockade because it has other agendas. An Indian official released a statement saying that they were worried about the Madhesi people and they only want their legitimate demands to be fulfilled. In that case, it still would be logical for us to reach an agreement with the Madhesi parties as that would lead for a safer path for Indian vehicles to pass through Nepal. Then, there would have no reason to not send any vehicles to India even if they had any other hidden agenda.
So, to truly end the “blockade”, we would have to reach an agreement with Madhes and not India.
Our leaders need to extend a friendly hand towards Madhes and start giving proper attention to Madhes. In addition, leaders need to publicly acknowledge their mistakes. I would think highly of our leaders if they publicly announced their inability to solve the current issues in Nepal and to provide peaceful means for the people to protest for their rights.
The deputy PM Kamal Thapa said at the Nepal UPR that Nepal should be allowed to solve its problems internally without any external intervention. However, this does not mean that the state can use violence as its method to suppress the protesters.
The protesters are also the responsibility of the state. Even criminals are the responsibility of the state, and have rights to be treated fairly, and so do citizens protesting for their own rights.
In Pattu’s story, there is another character, the ticket collector. The ticket collector has an important role to play. The first role is of holding everyone accountable to travel with a ticket and in some cases, give them advice as to where to look. Similarly, the role of citizens inside and outside Nepal is to become the ticket collector and hold our government accountable, and give them the right advice of reaching an agreement with Madhes instead of looking everywhere other than Madhes.
Image Credits for Featured Image to: Lokesh Karn. Photo from #MadhesSpeaks event in Birgunj.