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Arresting the Lawlessness Syndrome in Nepal

Arresting the Lawlessness Syndrome in Nepal


By, Hari Bansha Dulal

After the April revolution mood of general public seems to be upbeat. People have begun to see a silver lining in the otherwise murky cloud. With the eight point agreement between the government and the Maoist insurgents, bloody insurgency that took lives of approximately fourteen thousand people seems to be coming to an end, hopefully a logical one. However, with a new gained freedom and hope for peace there seem to be an unprecedented upsurge in crimes and increased sense of lawlessness among the citizens. Kidnappings and extortions by the Maoist guerrillas continue unabated. Thousands of homes of internally displaced citizens that were padlocked across the country by the Maoists have not been unlocked and government seems to be silent on this issue. Maoists as usual have not been sticking to the agreements whole heartedly. However, this is not the first time they have breached an agreement. If one can get away with crimes, why bother about its judicial ramifications? It makes perfect sense. The current government appears helpless, feeble, and in disarray. With Maoists’ chairman blowing hot and cold on politicians, Nepali Army, and king concurrently Nepali political landscape is dangerously tilting in Maoists’ favor.

In addition to the Maoist atrocities, incidents of homicides and assaults seem to be on rise. Recently, the principal of a reputed medical college was shot at in Kathmandu valley. Son of a former district committee chairman from a remote hilly district was found dead in the heart of the capital. Doctors have been manhandled and nursing homes have been vandalized. Bank robbery has been attempted in a broad day light in the heart of the capital. More recently, Bishwa Hindu Parishad’s (Hindu organization) chairman along with his two sons got beaten black and blue and there vehicle burnt in a broad day light. If someone commits a crime, it is up to the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person is guilty. He/She should be tried by a court not by an unruly mob, and allowed an opportunity to prove their innocence. Irrespective of political beliefs and inclinations, citizens should be allowed to have their day in the court. That is what democracy is all about.

Every society that witnesses political upheaval confronts lawlessness for a while, but if not controlled, it can spread as a wild fire and destabilize democratic foundations in long run. The lawlessness syndrome should be controlled effectively, because if allowed to persist, it can destroy peoples’ right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. If lawlessness is ignored, the only thing we can hope for is social unrest, untold bloodshed, and the end of our dreams. Lawlessness negatively affects an over all development of a nation. If not controlled, it raises costs, discourages risk-taking by business community, and overwhelmingly depresses the velocity of economic transactions which in turn negatively affects economic well being of a nation.

The rule of law is absolute necessity because it ensures life and personal security. It helps provide a stable framework of rights and obligations that can successfully help reduce political risk to investors and cut down transaction costs. It is important to protect property rights and enforce contractual obligations that are prerequisite to foster the development of markets, human and social capital, which in turn enhances economic efficiency. One of the core functions of a sovereign government in a democracy is to protect its citizens from crime and provide a sense of security. The vicious cycle of poverty and crime needs to be broken in order to ensure economic opportunities and public security for all. The rule of laws is not only important to protect rich and powerful, but it is tremendously important to protect poor and vulnerable that are at the bottom of the pyramid and are the biggest victim of the lawlessness. The rule of law plays significant role in ameliorating poverty. In long run, the impact of lawlessness is greatest on the poor and vulnerable, those with no employment, access to food, insurance and little if any access to healthcare services. So, the burden is more on those that are least able to absorb the costs of victimization stemming from the lawlessness. The most significant impact of violent crime stemmed from lawlessness is the loss associated with the victim being unable to work. In a country where unemployment rate is off the roof and families have to rely on the income of only a few, the costs and consequences of violent crime resulting from lawlessness can be particularly harsh and humiliating.

If lawlessness continues unchecked, organized criminal groups with close relation to corrupt officials and politicians will start mushrooming. Organized crime because of its close relation with corrupt officials and politicians is extremely hard to control. A country if infested by the twin problems or crime and underdevelopment, will have little prospect of developing into a stable and prosperous democracy. A country like Nepal that is underdeveloped with weak institutions is an idle breeding ground for an organized crime and corruption. It is in a situation like Nepal where crime and corruption thrives best. Nepal is already confronted with high level of poverty and backwardness. Thus, it cannot afford to get locked in a double bind of lawlessness and poverty. There are no easy ways out of this vicious circle. It is the right time to establish the rule of law. Political leaders should not commit the same mistakes that they committed in early 1990s. This time, they should do it, and do it right. A well functioning legal system is in everyone’s best interest. It provides an arena in which citizens can hold politicians and civil servants to account. In addition, it helps citizens protect themselves from exploitation by rich and powerful, and help resolve conflicts that are individual or collective in an amicable manner. A rule of law is central to the realization of constitutionally guaranteed rights and important to achieve the broader goals of development and poverty reduction.

Democratization of a society is important because it promotes domestic peace and stability. However, if lawlessness is ignored and the political process not stopped from criminalization, true democratic practices may never see the dawn. The traditional forms of political actions such as protests, processions and demonstrations as seen in the matured democracies will largely become ineffective.

Nepal is confronted with significant challenges and seemingly intractable problems. Corruption and weak adherence to the rule of law are the biggest problems. Political will to address governance is central to the Nepal’s future.

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The author is a doctoral candidate of Environmental Science and Public Policy at George Mason University, Virginia and can be reached at hbdulal @ gmu.edu

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