The recent spate of murders and terrorist attacks in Nepal has been reported in the media as individual events, no one has tried to connect the dots. These were targeted killings, which are actually political assassinations. But there is so much deniability and things are so murky, that most commentators have shied away from the subject.
On 30 April, in the run up to the constitution deadline, a bomb went off at the Ramananda Chowk in Janakpur targeting Maithili cultural activists protesting the one- or two-Madhes formula. As long as there was to be
identity-based federalism, they felt, their Maithili identity entitled them to their own province in the mid-eastern Tarai. The bomb killed five people, including well-known theatre artist Ranju Jha.
There was muted reaction to this attack in the national media which, as now, was preoccupied with political shenanigans in the capital. The Madhesi Front had never been too keen on the Maithili activists, and one serving minister even publicly put down the efforts of those who had just been killed. But the bomb served its purpose: not only did the demand for a Mithila province die out, so did similar demands in the Bhojpuri and Awadhi regions of the Tarai.
Until investigations (or history) tells us who killed Ranju Jha and her fellow-activists, we must surmise that the deed was done by a force, group or sub-group that were against the goal of the Janakpur Maithili activists, which was to insist on multiple identities of Nepal's Tarai-Madhes.
Exactly a month later, on 31 May, Justice Rana Bahadur Bam was ambushed and assassinated while on his way from a temple to his Supreme Court chamber in Kathmandu. The killing was meant to send a message because the two gunmen pursued not only the fleeing Justice Bam, but also his bodyguard and friend.
Until investigations are successful in catching those who ordered the killing, the best we can do is come up with an educated guess as to who would have the motive. The choice of Justice Bam as victim could have been calibrated, given that he was under the cloud of a possible impeachment. This meant that the public's mind would be diverted from the possibility of an assassination to one of an individual crime arising possibly out of some ethical lapse on the part of the departed judge.
This would camouflage the real motive: to make the justice system feel vulnerable and weakened. There is no question that the Supreme Court in particular has held on to the ideals of rule of law and due process in a country where there are by now radical right and left forces bent on dismantling institutions of the state one by one to build their own base.
According to this logic, Justice Bam's assassination would also send a message to all involved in the law and justice machinery: judges in the central and district courts to administrators, police, lawyers and human rights activists.
The unsolved murders of Ranju Jha and her colleagues as well as that of Justice Rana Bahadur Bam will aggravate impunity and weaken the state. To halt this tragic drift, the first step would be to analyse these two tragedies and come to our own conclusions on what they portend, and who was responsible.
Paradigm shrift, RUBEENA MAHATO
Media loses its political independence when it becomes unviable as a business
The messenger is to blame, ANURAG ACHARYA
The platform for debating national problems has itself become a part of the problem