Oped

Rainbow of KC’s Satyagraha

  • Words & echoes: Dr KC seeks to tear through the conundrum of self-serving political elites in government
- ABHI SUBEDI

Aug 6, 2017-Doctor Govinda KC’s Satyagraha, or fast-unto-death in the search for truth, was entering its eleventh day when this essay was being written. Dr KC’s teams are saying the government has nothing new to say. Inaction and procrastination may well be the operational methods of the governments, familiar to everyone in the country, but Dr KC’s health condition is a matter of great concern. The doctor’s demands are simple, but the government and Parliament, currently embroiled in a conundrum of bills and lawmakers’ personal stakes that are delaying or preventing the endorsement of them, cannot see them. That being the case, what I would like to say here is that Dr KC’s Satyagraha has begun to evoke very serious ideological and practical questions in today’s context of what the Berkeley political science professor Wendy Brown explores in her recent book, Neoliberalism’s Stealth Revolution, about the undoing of democracy. The confusions created by the government and political mechanism in addressing a few simple demands of Dr KC cut deeper. 

Apathetic governance

The stealth revolution here is deeply entrenched by now, and the process of undoing loktantric values has become almost institutionalised. We should enter this subject by asking simple questions such as the following: Who will be harmed if the medical education bill, as it stands, is endorsed by Parliament? Who will be harmed if the Institute of Medicine is given autonomous status? Who will be harmed if the costs of medical education and service of Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital is entirely borne by the government? Who will be harmed if four hostels and residencies for working doctors are built? Who will be harmed if the medical shops of the hospital and distribution system are properly organised? Who will be harmed if all hospital emergency services are made entirely free of cost as written in the constitution? Who will be harmed if toilets are cleaned and necessary means are provided for doing so? Among the above, the government says, clauses like toilet cleaning, expansion of hospital medical shops, making four hostels for nurses and resident doctors, and bearing the cost of the emergency services form no part of the conditions of talks with Dr KC. I do not want to comment on all these demands and the response of the stakeholders, but I cannot suppress my dismay when I see how a certain sense of inertia has already gripped the government, Parliament, political parties and stakeholders. Anybody who reads the above questions will be surprised to see how an unnecessary conundrum has been created around the question of a simple, civilised medical management in a modern state. But the one answer I know is that everybody will benefit by cleaning the toilets and by giving the Institute of Medicine operational freedom. These are such norms of operation that nobody should question. But the bigger question is: Where is it all stuck and why?

I do not have space for detailed discourse, but I was struck by a few things that I would like to share for discussion or consideration. This is Dr KC’s eleventh hunger strike, with his first hunger strike staged in July 2012. The previous fast-unto-death of November 2016 was his longest one, and that lasted for 22 days! In retrospect, we can say everybody, from the common person to the ruling elite, has benefitted by fulfilling the demands of this doctor. No one can claim that, by fulfilling his demands, the government has made a serious mistake. If everyone has benefitted from the government fulfilling his demands—the planners, government heads, party leaders, the common people and even the metropolitan elites—why do they hesitate to fulfil the rest of his demands? Why do they make him start a fast-unto-death again and again? Why do they go back on their promises?

Self-seeking trends

We should try to seek answers to the above questions on two grounds, again by asking questions. Why did the resistance of Dr Govinda KC become archival history? What do these five or so years tell us about the Nepali society, institution making and governance, and above all the moral strength of the modern democratic republic? The second ground is political. Is Satyagraha, a modus operandi popularised and used effectively by Mahatma Gandhi, no longer a valid method of resistance? My answer is, yes, it is still a valid method. The example is the success of the Satyagraha of this simple man who has no personal or selfish ends to achieve by this method. The entire South Asian region can learn from Dr KC’s Satyagraha as he seeks to tear through the conundrum of the political elites in government who are often times embroiled in government grabbing and holding positions that bring them money. The degree of their insensitivity can be measured by looking at the earthquake victims who cannot even travel to the Capital to get promised funds to build roofs over their heads. The other is the neo-liberal capital grabbing spree that has completely occupied the politics of the old as well as the new types across ideological spectrums. Dr Govinda KC has become an archival figure whose Satyagraha holds an index to the narrative of experiments and ineffectiveness of the political kind. I browsed through my own articles about Dr KC’s Satyagraha published in the Kantipur newspapers in 2014 and 2015, and attempted to review a sense of historicity that all of us have been experimenting with. 

In conclusion, I began writing this essay on the eleventh day of Dr Govinda KC’s Satyagraha. And I hope that by the day this piece is published, his demands will have been fulfilled for the good of everyone in this country.  Dr Govinda KC’s Satyagraha has become a rainbow of our new times. The rise of youth and the promises of the future are the two factors that should be the indicators of a new turn of history. Anyone who has witnessed the waves of young people each time they come out in support of Dr Govinda KC, has also seen them organising themselves into political forces. Dr KC will not be their leader but his Satyagraha speaks volumes about the coming days in Nepal and South Asia. 

Published: 06-08-2017 09:01

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