The gruesome murder of police officer Thaman Bahadur BK by protesters in the Nepal Terai (or Madhesh), ignited outrage on Twitter. I understood the outrage but to put things into perspective with proper context, I reminded the twitterati that just a day before four protesters was killed, and there was hardly any outrage. The reason I write today is because one of those protesting my original tweet is the co-editor of the electronic blog, Ms. Shiwani Neupane.
I explained that no form of violence has any space in civilized society. I further clarified my clear standing on this and during the interactions with her, I got labeled a separatist, conspiracy theorist, supporter of violence etc. My intention today is neither to blame her for selective outrage, nor to condone the gruesome crime by the protesters. I do acknowledge her fair and balance tweets condemning violence on both sides.
But most Nepalis of a certain upbringing just don’t get it. Context and motive are important for any crime. Murder is a crime. There is no excuse for it. But we have to understand the historic perspectives of any crime, protest and political unrest. The twitter-sphere of Nepal is pretty divided and represents only a certain segment of Nepali society. If we analyze the demography of tweeple of Nepal, we can find out which socio-ethnic group has highest number and why their agenda is always trending, why positive discrimination/action to accommodate the historically oppressed community is generally ridiculed. I call them the “echo-chamber”. But ignoring the grievances of oppressed communities of Nepal on social platform will further alienate them and also push them towards extremism. This is how the discourse has been breaking so far. The question to all the moral police, I ask is: Yes, we need social peace and harmony, but at what cost? At the cost of the voice of oppressed trampled upon or at the cost of willful ignorance or at the cost of “we didn’t see it, MSM (mainstream media) didn’t report it, it didn’t happen, ostrich syndrome” towards our socio-political problems. In today’s world, the way masses consume news cannot be dictated and controlled by MSM.
The saddest part is that when we point to social, political and economic injustices against certain groups in Nepal, we are abused on Twitter with slurs like “f*** you, anti-national rhododendron hater, Indian, Paid agent, Dhoti”, if I tweeted “I like roses”. The main problem is the youth of the privileged communities of Nepal are that they never give time to understand their own country and various ethnic groups. And when they see these protests, gruesome violence, they can neither understand this nor fathom the anger in certain communities. I appreciate their good intention of honest call to stop all these violence. But, the bridge of trust has long been burned between the communities after repeated betrayal of agreements by the establishment. When I see tweets, like “What is the demand of Madhesh? What is the protest all about? Who betrayed the agreement, there’s one Madhesh Pradesh?” as if the protesters are doing it for fun and they don’t have any agenda. I seriously want to explain them but the sheer number of such novice, yet honest tweeple is beyond my capacity to educate in the 140 characters, especially when they are not ready to grasp the difference between what they are observing, what they are feeling and what is the narrative of the other side.
When a Nepali farmer was bringing a sack of fertilizer from India, got shot by a Nepali police. Neither MSM gave it space nor did police department take any action against the culprit officer. Twitter outrage: Zero!
I am not saying that the Nepali police are racist or target a particular community; all I am saying is that there are enough data, videos and public documentation of police brutality targeted towards certain communities. The population of Madheshi is 35% of total population and they fill only about 5% of government positions, police and army. Tell me if this is not a form of apartheid being practiced, then what is? Irony is, out of 60 judges recommended by Judiciary Council of Nepal for district courts recently, only 1 Madheshi, 1 woman, and 0 Dalit were included. Twitter outrage on exclusivity of a particular ethnic group: None!!
Another taboo and almost ignored topic on Nepali twitter space is: Caste system. Till today Dalits are beaten for entering temples, not allowed to fetch water from community well. A big part of the problem is that the MSM are largely staffed with journalists from high caste hill communities who live in the echo chamber, and thus are incapable of seeing the other point of view, incapable of empathizing. It’s similar on Twitter.
The social-media of Nepal has become intolerant and selective. Talk about inclusivity, progressiveness, women right and get truck-load of abuses, trolling and labeling. The generic logic behind this is elucidated by a right winger itself, “You know who talks about race? RACISTS!!”
Let’s accept it, our country is racist, anti-women, and society is casteist. It needs a surgical treatment. And, by surgical treatment I don’t mean violence. Yes, we are all Nepali, but some are assumed to be more Nepali than others, some look/dress like Nepali, others don’t look/dress like Nepali. If so, let’s either re-define what being Nepali means or Nepal’s boundary might get constrained to till where it’s definition holds as of now. The selective outrages are not helping the public discourse we are having in Nepali twitter-sphere.
Lastly, my only appeal is for empathy, not sympathy. Try living the life of a Madheshi who has to always prove his/her allegiance to the nation When I land at TIA, the police generally tells me , “Aap udhar jaiye, Indians ka line wo hai”. I calmly respond to them, “Hunchha dai!!” Generally, I end up making them my friends, after all being a police officer’s son, I can relate to grievances of police officers as well.
Note: I originally wrote this piece to rebut Ms. Neupane’s slander against Madhesi youth in her website. The site failed to respond to my request to publish this rebuttal. The site no longer exists but some excerpts of her piece can be read on facebook here.