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Outraged! : Editorial The Kathmandu Post

Disillusioned with the current state of society and politics, many Nepalis now describe the current political system as one of a mob-rule. Usually, this term is used to criticise political parties but it is evident that there are many aspects of Nepali society that can be characterised as ‘mob-rule’, and these may not necessarily have anything to do with politics. In particular, there is a tendency for individuals to try and settle their disputes with others through the use of illegal force.
A case in point was the appaling assault on a 23-year-old woman and a 30-year-old activist who was trying to help her. The unfortunate event took place in Morang district on Tuesday. The woman had approached the local police station, charging one Jeevan Bhetwal of attempted rape. The police refused to file charges. Later, Bhetwal’s supporters organised a large meeting with over a hundred people. The woman and the activist visited the meeting for a discussion, only for the gathered crowd to collectively assault the duo, smear soot on their faces and garland them with shoes. That two people, both Dalits, were assaulted by a mob that not only beat and humiliated them but reportedly stood by clapping is revolting. While these sordid series of events unfolded under their nose, the local police made little effort to protect the victims. Instead, they were forced to reconcile with their assailants by signing an agreement (milapatra).
Despicable as this incident was, similar versions repeatedly occur in all areas of Nepal. The details of this incident shed light on what is wrong with our society and politics. First, it is emblematic of the deeply entrenched inequalities in society where people from marginalised communities face many difficulties when dealing with the administration and the police. The fact that they are Dalits was possibly the reason why the police did not try to help them at any stage. Second, the police is beholden to powerful elements in the society and if it intervenes, it does so on their behalf. Bhetwal’s supporters appear to have been locally influential. This was why the police made no effort to prevent the beating and forced the victims to sign a letter reconciling with their attackers.
The immediate task for local civil society and the media in Morang is to pursue this case so that justice is served. The policemen who ignored the victims’ pleas should not be spared either. There should be a concerted effort to file cases at the local district court against Bhetwal and his supporters on charges of attempted rape and physical assault. If need be, activists need to bring out large groups of people to protest against this incident and thus place pressure on authorities. As many cases of this kind have demonstrated in the recent past, the poor and marginalised can expect justice only if there is a large group of individuals willing to protest by standing behind them. At the Centre, the government of Khil Raj Regmi, made largely of politically conservative men, would do well to issue a public statement condemning the attack against the marginalised and pledging action against the guilty.
Posted on: 2013-07-25 08:30


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