Since last Monday a motley group of likeminded people are gathering at Basantapur Square in central Kathmandu every evening to protest. Their inspiration is Anna Hazare.
But while the septuagenarian Maratha is on fast seeking an end to corruption in India, this group in Nepal is clamouring for a different cause. They want an early end to the country’s long-drawn political crisis and are urging lawmakers and political leaders to complete the stalled peace process and draft the new constitution.
“Even though we support Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption hunger strike in India and are inspired from it, but we won’t copy it,” says Sunil Babu Pant, a member of the group and Nepal’s first openly gay lawmaker.
Also, those inspired by Hazare in Nepal are not fasting to press for their demand and instead of one man leading the way, they stress on collective leadership to end Nepal’s political deadlock.
Corruption is an issue in Nepal too. But as the country is trying unsuccessfully to complete the peace process and draft a new statute since 2008, at the moment these seem more important.
Another deadline for these two tasks ends on August 31 and with parties busy to form the next government after Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal’s resignation, this too shall be missed. Pant and his group are not alone. Hazare also inspired a group of women activists and human rights workers to stage a 12-hour hunger strike last week seeking peace and a new constitution. But such protests are few and far between. The Anna wave may have inspired many, but very few are coming out to protest. The large Indian community in Nepal has been unusually quiet.
On Friday, demonstrators under the banner of Indian Citizen Association of Nepal held a march in Kathmandu expressing solidarity with Anna’s crusade and submitted a memorandum to the Indian Embassy. Last week, a few human rights activists and civil society members also held demonstrations showing support.
News reports about Hazare’s fast have mostly stayed hidden in the inside pages. A few op-ed columns have however written about implications of the movement on Nepal.
“There are two lessons for Nepal in this unfolding event in Delhi. The first lesson is that anti-corruption drive will have to come from civil society, not elected officials,” wrote Dr Anand Jha, assistant professor at Texas A&M International University in Republica.
“The second lesson is for politicians. In the 21st century, technology has made it impossible for the ruling class to manipulate public opinion. It has made it easier for ordinary men to organise and fight against injustice of the government,” he added.
But for the moment, the fight against corruption will have to wait as Nepal struggles for peace and constitution-the Anna Way, if possible.