Dear Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai (PhD, Jawaharlal Nehru University), As I sit down to write this letter to you in my one-bedroom apartment in downtown Toronto, you are on your way to Pokhara to celebrate the new year 2013. May you have a great new year, comrade. May you be blessed with more votes if the democratic election finally happens in Nepal and citizens actually get to exercise their sovereign rights. This much on new year, though, because this letter is about something else.
If Nepal’s media have reported correctly, which I believe they have, on Friday, December 28, your representatives accepted a petition from those speaking out for a woman raped and robbed by some of your employees. Her name is Sita Rai. About a hundred of her supporters wanted to tell the world: enough of this. No more violence against women. As a learned revolutionary, perhaps you have no time for these ‘sundry stuffs’ (jihna masina kura haru, as they say in Nepali), busy as you are with hardcore politics. That’s macho, for sure. Or, perhaps, folks who came to your gate to submit a petition, may not have looked politically important to you, busy as you are in never-ending, corrupt, and naked maneuvers and counter-manoeuvres for political power. I can only guess.
Or perhaps, you had not heard of Sita Rai before. Of course this is not a real name, but the woman is a real person. For your information, she was robbed and raped by some government staff stationed at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu about a month ago. She was robbed by some officials at Department of Immigration in Kalikasthan. We do not yet know how many were actually involved, although the direct involvement of two section officers and one junior official has been confirmed by an inquiry done by your Ministry of Home Affairs. These officials have been reported to have told the inquiry committee that they had shared the loot (a little over 8,300 Saudi riyal, or a little over two lakh Nepali rupees) with their bosses. But that was not the end of the story, heinous as it was. As if that was not enough, she was then raped at Everest Guest House near Gongobu Bus Park by a police constable ‘entrusted’ to put her in a bus to take her home to Eastern Nepal. A month after, she is back from her village to Kathmandu seeking justice, about a month pregnant.
These robbers also occupy powerful positions of an employee union. Some of them seem to have absconded, while the police constable is under arrest. Your government has decided to provide Rs 170,000 as ‘compensation.’ I am sure the investigation is ongoing and the guilty will be brought to justice.
But comrade, Sita Rai is not an isolated incident. As citizens, we are all Sita Rais. She is a symbol of the mind-numbingly masculine domination in Nepal—in private and public. Almost all of Nepal’s public institutions are occupied by men. Wherever one goes, one sees men in charge: at the gate of airport, in bus driver’s seats, in the prime minister’s seat, in top positions of political parties, at home, in village development committees, in school boards, in most of the NGOs, and in the trade unions. The police are almost an exclusively male bastion, so is the Army—two state organs with repeated history of rape and violence against women. In Chitwan, hundreds of women have been forced into sex by Army men in many villages around Chitwan National Park. Fear and violence are palpably present in the atmosphere there, although, I must say, things have changed for better.
Comrade, we have heard you give revolutionary lectures about women’s liberation. Many genuinely believe that you were genuinely committed to the cause. Perhaps, after entering into Kathmandu politics, things have changed for you. It is indeed tough playing political game in Kathmandu. But comrade, you could also have reinvented politics. The biggest problem in politics in Kathmandu is that it is devoid of serious content, such as deeply entrenched violence against women. Many of us had thought that, with a PhD and revolutionary commitment, you would have been a beacon of hope in the time of pervasive pessimism.
But I do not want to end with a plea. Comrade, we, Sita Rais, are sovereign citizens of this country. If you act in delivering justice in this case, we will think you are serious. Or else, you are as phony as any other in a position of big power. Bob Marley sang this beautiful line: you can fool some people some time, but you can’t fool all the people all the time. The ball is in your court.
PS: Please convey my greetings to Hisila ji. She must be too busy creating a world class city to think about us Sita Rais.
PPS: Also, please convey my best wishes to Bijay Kumar Gachhedar. As a Home Minister, I am sure he had given adequate thought to the behaviour of his employees who rob and rape. He also must have been too busy playing the same political game you are playing to give serious thought to the Sita Rais.
Posted on: 2012-12-30 08:59