Yours truly has been affected, both emotionally and ethically, with two cases this week.
Case 1: Most of the people who subscribe to daily newspapers were shocked while having their morning tea, reading of the arrest of Former Minister and current lawmaker Shyam Sundar Gupta (Longer power cut hours has made sure not many can watch Television). The reason was simple, somebody as powerful as a former minister getting nabbed in course of investigation of high-profile abduction case. This was certainly no storm in a teacup.
Case 2: Government decided to appoint Nagendra Jha as Director General of Survey Department. Not many have forgotten that the man in question is the same person who has been accused in past, of giving Rs 800,000 to the family of late Hindu Yuva Sangh leader Kashi Tiwari. That was no gift but an offer of payment to keep their mouth shut and not to drag then Land Reforms and Management Minister Prabhu Sah into Tiwari’s murder case. Minister Sah was the prime accused in the murder case. Now Mr. Jha is the same person, who, during his tenure as Chief District Officer of Parsa was held by the locals of Birgunj while using a stolen vehicle last year.
Now, if you look at it, both are separate incidents. But yours truly was reminded that both central figures in these cases shared a common trait. Both are ethnic Madhesis. Yeah, true. And so is Yours Truly. Bitter, eh! Does it hurt to be reminded as such? Yes, it does. After all, you feel that you’re being equated to wrongdoers. After all, I take pride in being an honest citizen of this country.
In defense of both the men, we must also agree that the cases against both have not been proven at the court of law and hence can’t charge them as guilty. But then we might also remember that Mr Jha had been using the stolen vehicle for some 9 months when the locals decided that enough is enough. Similarly, Mr Gupta, while in-charge of Ministry of Supplies was not popular for keeping things transparent.
But then, one has to look beyond the surface. Both the men have not made many Madhesis proud. Both have, at a level, shamed the community they came from. I would agree that people should be called innocent until they’re proven otherwise. But there’s life outside court, in the domain of public sphere. And these two will be quoted as examples of wrongdoers. And they cannot shrug off their ethnicity. To remember a friend’s quote, “They have given bad name to their community.”
Ethnicity, especially that of Madhes has been hotly debated in the past few years. At this moment, one might remember the uprising in the southern plains before the Constituent Assembly elections. I have always been of the view that, the uprising was against the representatives that Madhes had had till then, as it was an expression of Center’s apathy to their plights. However, some smart (read: opportunist) politicians cashed it as a platform and the people of Madhes (or Terai, if you might like it) were deceived. Some fresh faces were added as representatives, but the true representation could not be established. The failure of the representatives that they’ve had – who speak one line in Kathmandu and exactly opposite line when they descend to the plains – have made sure that the real issues have been sidelined. Worse still, their doublespeak has antagonized a lot of people, apolitical people, who want Nepal to be a peaceful and fair place. It has created fears that the nation could disintegrate.
However, one should not read too much into disintegration issues, as it’s the social fiber that holds a country and not mere representatives at the top. The real worry here would be: How can true representation be established? One cannot deny that there is more to this strip of land than what we have seen. There are people who love the country as much as they love their ethnicity (which again has only been a lip service so far). And they should be given a chance. If not, people will one day do that, although the process could be far from comfortable for those sitting at the top now. It is time, perhaps to have a fresher crop to emerge. Madhes needs fresh representation, a changed approach. People with self-interest and greed will have to give way to newer leadership. A leadership, which leads with vision, and empathy towards the so called Non-Madhesi. For they know what apathy can do to an entire community.
As far as some corrupt names from the community that crop up in everyday news, corrupt is corrupt and has no ethnicity except greed. Our country might be in transition, but a civilized society has no place for corruption, forget abduction. And civilized we aim to be.