Kanak Mani Dixit's arrest exposes a Nepal intolerant of dissent

Let us remind all that no one is above the law.

 |  5-minute read |   13-05-2016
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The evolution of human civilisation had begun from the acute idea of having the privilege to dissent. The definition, in simple terms, is the sentiment or philosophy of disagreement and opposing the ideas and policies of the government.

The history of dissent in Nepal, however, hasn't been a bright one. Even after ten years of democracy, dissent in Nepal has been often abused and dissenters are killed and prosecuted at times. On the other hand, I do not entirely support dissenters nor do I support corruption. It is high time that we need a discourse in dissent.

The arrest of noted journalist, writer, defender of human rights and the chairman of the state-run transportation company Sajha Yatayat, Kanak Mani Dixit, on April 22 took everyone by surprise. The press fraternity and international media were quick to defy such a move by the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA). There were others who believed that Dixit had accumulated a huge amount of wealth illegally and should be punished for what he had done.

I see blind spots in both arguments. Firstly, we don't know clearly on what grounds the CIAA arrested Dixit. Secondly, no one knows so far what corruption the writer-businessman has been involved in so far. Moreover, it is absurd to blindly support either party as we clearly lack evidence.

The CIAA's move was entirely wrong and against the provisions of the constitution. And others supporting Dixit solely was wrong too as we were unsure whether the charges against him were true or not.

The problem here is: how will the CIAA protect its image if Dixit is found clean and what will its supporters do if the writer isn't found guilty? That's why, at times, dissenting blindly leads to a biased interpretation when no facts are available.

It is said that in the present century, there are no truths but only interpretations. And when interpretations fail, the problem can be solved on the basis of evidence. That's the last resort to solve a problem practically and even if it is distorted or manipulated, we can only question the integrity of the government bodies.

I highly suspect, though, that there are any agencies in Nepal which are not corruption-free. 

Thinkers have long argued that a constructive society needs dissent and dissenters as they will oppose what is wrong in the society and bring a change ultimately. They also discourage the government to implement whatever policies it wishes to.

Karl Marx had once famously written: "If constructing the future and settling everything for all times are not our affair, it is all the clearer what we have to accomplish at present: I am referring to ruthless criticism of all that exists, ruthless both in the sense of not being afraid of the results it arrives at and in the sense of being just as little afraid of conflict with the powers that be."

Let us remind all that no one is above the law. Not even the prime minister of Nepal. Democracy has long struggled with corruption and the effects of power that corrupts and corrupts absolutely. Therefore, the Nepali government and CIAA should acknowledge that the nation no longer lives in the shadows of civil war, monarchy or autocratic regime.

Why have the leaders and those occupying high positions forgotten their chant about Nepal's constitution being the best? The constitution clearly gives protection to Dixit in Article (20)(2) which states that "any person who is arrested shall have the right to consult a legal practitioner of his or her choice from the time of such arrest and to be defended by such legal practitioner. Any consultation made by such person with, and advice is given by, his or her legal practitioner shall be confidential".

The sub-clauses 5-10 clearly says that the writer won't be presumed innocent until guilty and won't be tried in the same court twice and will have the right to an independent, impartial judicial body. So the CIAA should keep in mind that it cannot act mighty by arresting the writer according to the CIAA Act 2048 (1991) Section 19.1 (c) for showing defiance and non-cooperation in its investigation despite repeated notice to appear before it. The CIAA should be made transparent and accountable and it should be checked if the commission is corruption-free or not.

A special court allowed the CIAA to remand Dixit to a ten-day custody and allowed him to meet legal advisors and get medical treatment. The media fraternity, both national and international, was embroiled in this saga.

In May 2, the Supreme Court of Nepal ordered the release of Dixit. Media personnel were barred from entering the courtroom to do any reporting. With his immediate release, Kunda Dixit, the brother of the accused journalist tweeted that he was heading back to ICU because of hypertension. No further reports or actions have surfaced after his release. Dixit is active on Twitter once again and for now it seems he's out of danger both health-wise and politically.

As our judiciary, anti-corruption institution and democracy are evolving, we need to understand that the society will always have dissenters. The question remains on how the government and institutions will treat them and if people will support those who are arrested until they are proven guilty.

Let institutions like the CIAA release the facts in future cases, allow media to enter courtrooms, and then only will everyone know who is right and what it means to dissent. It takes time to learn the art to dissent after all. But will it make the society a healthy one is the big question that people, especially the powerless of Nepal, have been asking.


Arun Budhathoki Arun Budhathoki @arunbudhathoki

He is a poet and fiction writer from Kathmandu, Nepal.

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