“Criminalization of politics” is a much discussed topic here in the United States, India, and around the world. When political leaders, parties and representatives of the people commit crimes, unethical practices, circumvent the laws and commit immoral acts then this is considered criminal behavior. The widespread culture of corruption, misconduct and dishonesty results in the failure of a nation’s institutions of governance, maintenance of law and order and inability to safeguard the people’s interests from peace, security and harmonious gainful living. Nepali political leaders have always thought themselves to be above the law. Laws of the land are meant for the people only and not for political leaders and parties.
These past decades, Nepali politics has become so murky, dirty and confrontational that no particular individual leader or party is allowed to rise and lead the nation. The main reasons being that the majority of the leaders are poorly qualified, their caliber for effective statesmanship is minimal or none. Add on to that the nexus between the political parties/leaders, criminal gangs/syndicates and foreign intelligence agencies and INGOs.
The role played by black money, external funding and undisclosed finances has significantly eroded the electoral process. Lack of accountability, transparency, criminals turning into politicians is quite a challenge in Nepal. This nexus has now grown into a powerful force by itself destabilizing nations, governments and undermining genuine political parties and elected representatives. The witch’s brew of political corruption has consolidated the political leaders, criminal elements, INGO’s and even the Criminal Justice system in the country. From local thugs to organized crimes; all are hand in glove with some political party. Any don, gangster or charge sheeted personality has political ambitions.
Today a political career can be very lucrative and the qualifications required are lack of moral compass, rational thinking, compromise on principles, willing to engage in illegal activities, to threaten, intimidate, terrorize the people and day to day life. Without any hesitation our political parties or leaders or any disgruntled element declares bandhs, blockades, strikes, violence to fulfill their interests. Educational institutions are turned into battle grounds, academic institutions and schools are closed down for any political or parochial demands. Challenging the civil code and laws of the land is done with bravado by our political leaders as no one is punished or is accountable for their destructive criminal behavior. Many of our political leaders have risen from dubious backgrounds and their efforts have paid off handsomely with easy money, privileges and a decadent lifestyle.
Donning the masks of democracy, under the cover of various political ideologies, they have succeeded in hoodwinking the Nepali people with impossible promises and propaganda. The equations, alliances, horse trading and secret deals are of various kinds. The Nepali nation and people have witnessed this since 1990 and this corrupting, criminal political culture has taken deep root in Nepal. Our leaders have mastered this political criminal culture for their own personal benefits.
In understanding Nepali political corruption today, one must take into consideration as to how political parties and leaders have risen. The three major political parties in the SPAM ruling regime in Nepal along with other splinter groups and parties have all carried out armed struggles, guerrilla warfare, indiscriminate violence, terror, and overall criminal activities challenging the Nepali state, rule of law, the constitutions and the civil code for realizing their grab for power.
The oldest political party, the Nepali Congress Party has a long history of raising arms against the state. Earlier it was against the Rana rule and for political freedoms and democracy. The armed rebellion during the sixties and the early seventies failed simply because there was no direct support from the Government of India. Similarly, the United Marxist Leninist party which is a combination of various communist splinter groups were influenced by the Naxalite movement in India during the seventies. Many of Nepal’s aging communists have raised arms against the state. All that dramatically changed after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.
In 1990, the violent political parties of the past joined hands to defeat the one party rule of the Panchayat system and this time around with India’s economic blockade and assistance succeeded in changing the political face of Nepal. Multi party democracy was restored and a new constitution drafted and several elections were held. For the next fifteen years, Nepal once again witnessed violence,a dirty power struggle, political wrangling, nepotism, widespread corruption and criminal behavior amongst the various political actors. Ultimately another communist group of the Maoists declared war against the state mainly ruled by the Nepali Congress and UML and for a period by the king’s direct rule.
Unlike in the past, the Maoists sought shelter, training, arms and resources from India and carried out their decade long war against the Nepali state. Initially, the government of India kept denying it’s role but covertly carried out it’s own secret policies and agenda in Nepal. Interestingly, the three political partners in the SPAM regime of the Nepali Congress, United Marxist Leninists and the Maoists have used violence, terror, criminal activities and destruction of infrastructure, killing of Nepalis, looting, kidnapping, extortion and random violence.
In the name of democracy, every action was legitimate. Politics and crimes have combined to synthesize into neo form of politico-criminal culture encouraged by the major and minor political parties. A “la Bihar” style political culture, goonda raj and criminal behavior has now taken deep root in Nepal. Today many fronts, groups and gangs are active in the hills and in the terai. They are armed and carry out random acts of violence against the people, government bodies, law enforcement personnel, businesses, industries, academics, professionals like doctors, journalists and academics. Anyone at anytime can become a victim of violence, killing, kidnapping and terror. Our political leaders and the governing regime is nonchalant about all this and claim this is all the price to be paid for progress and development.
Recently the longest ruling, geriatric Prime Minister of Nepal admitted how he and many of his party workers in the Nepali Congress were involved in gold smuggling, gun running, counterfeit currency printing, hijacking of airplanes and looting of banks. Similarly, the communists like the UML committed petty crimes, killings in the name of class extermination and so on. Later for more than ten years the Maosits in their war, saw the deaths of thousands of Nepali lives and hundreds of thousands of people being displaced from their homes.
They destroyed billions of dollars worth of national infrastructure, and committed mayhem of plunder, looting, killings and destruction all in the name of a Maoist war. Now that the maintreaming of these parties is taking place and a safe landing of the Maosits is being completed; other splinter groups have raised arms from the terai and other regions challenging the regime. If the senior political leaders and the major political parties can commit crimes against the people and get away with it, why can’t the smaller, splinter groups do the same.
The terai imbroglio has seen several criminal gangs now raising arms against the state. With the distribution of Nepali citizenship to millions of people in the terai and the easy purchase of Nepali citizenship by petty gangsters and crime lords from India, the nation’s unity, sovereignty and independence is directly challenged. A new phenomenon of various groups being formed based on ethnicity, language and region has raised it’s ugly head dividing the unity amongst the Nepali people and fracturing the nation.
Nepali people are deeply concerned about their safety and security. Various criminal and terrorist forces have joined hands to work in tandem with political parties as fronts. This sort of phenomenon has occurred in other parts of the world as well. Some nations like Columbia, Somalia, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and many African countries have been overwhelmed by warlords and criminal drug-lords. Nepal is gradually falling into that category of nations. All kinds of illegal activities take place in Nepal today. Many criminal gangs from India have now set up their bases and cells within Nepal’s various towns and cities. Rampant criminal activities and violence is undermining and overwhelming the various law enforcement bodies.
The media in Nepal is not independent or bold enough to expose the various nexus between politicians and criminals. The biased reporting, political dishonesty and control of media houses from newspapers to tele media by foreign companies is proving to be a challenge. The coming days with the run up to the Constituent Assembly will witness a rise in violence and crimes as the stakes are high for the political leaders and parties.
Ugly incidents are already occurring during the canvassing and vote seeking process. The choice before the people is either to choose clean, independent candidates, or candidates fielded by newly established political parties who have not been corrupted and criminalized or to vote for leaders and parties that have shown a long track record of criminalization, corruption, anti national activities, committed crimes against the nation and the people. The Nepali people have choices but are they free to cast their votes in a fair manner without any fear, intimidation and terror. This is the Himalayan question and the people will need to rise up against the corrupting and criminal forces that have compromised and undermined our religion, heritage, independence, national unity and sovereignty.
Om sarve bhavantu sukhinah, sarve santu niraamayaa ! Sarve bhadraani pashyantumaa, kaschit dukkha bhagbhavet !!
Om Shanti ! Shanti ! Shanti !!
New York, USA March 4th, 2008