Prem Prasad Acharya has asked serious questions to Nepal government and society. Who’ll answer them?

Members of the public stage a demonstration in Kathmandu calling the government to address concerns raised by Prem Prasad Acharya, who killed himself in Kathmandu, on January 25, 2023. Photo: Chandra Bahadur Ale
Members of the public stage a demonstration in Kathmandu calling the government to address concerns raised by Prem Prasad Acharya, who killed himself in Kathmandu, on January 25, 2023. Photo: Chandra Bahadur Ale

Prem Prasad Acharya self-immolating in front of the parliament building on Tuesday with hundreds looking on has posed some serious questions.

His death on Wednesday has posed even more questions to the government along with the capitalist society. Acharya left with questions that those in power must answer. These questions are strong and affect every member of the public. Maybe that is why the Council of Ministers, on Wednesday, met promising to discuss those questions in the coming days. It was followed by the Ministry of Home Affairs’ decision to commission a committee.

One thing is clear, when the rule of law is weak, those who do not have access to people in power feel helpless. This results in a person losing all hope and faith and that is when they realise how weak they are and give up on the will to live.

Taking another person’s life or one’s own is a crime. However, sometimes such offences turn into rebellion. After all, is not it the way the state is run that is pushing people to do this? Maybe we need to look into Prem Prasad Acharya’s death from that perspective.

Maybe it is time we started looking for how the state has become compliant in all this as others like Acharya are also taking these steps. The government knows this. But how long can they stall the people and find out why all of this is happening? 

Big questions to the biggies

Representational image

The death of Prem Prasad Acharya has indicated that dissatisfaction is growing in Kathmandu, the centre of state power. People are making this known. In the recent elections, people chose to not vote for the status quo. There have been protests demanding a better country and self-immolation incidents like this just show how frustrated people are to the point they are willing to light themselves on fire in the middle of the road.

Why do people live under the control of a state? Because they believe that it will protect their life and property when in trouble. But, when they feel that the state system is only there to discourage and rob them, they realise enough is enough.

This incident has rocked Nepali society too. It is not just the government or those in power that have been affected by it. It has also affected the business, labour and finance sectors too.

Nepal is a country where many young men and women in a foreign land are coming home in wooden boxes. Nepal is a country where an ambulance arrives to pick up the body of a dead person who was travelling on a bus as he did not have money for an ambulance. Nepal is a country where government distributes firewood after hearing news of people dying due to cold. Nepal is a broken country.

Frustrated with all this, some people walk to Maitighar Mandala with a question – is this a country or a slaughterhouse? 

The contradiction of having to listen to the dream of prosperity in speeches and having to live a life of scarcity every day is increasing frustration among the citizens. One person’s despair is slowly being turned into the despair of the masses. If the government wants to stop this, it needs to be alert that what happened in Kathmandu on Tuesday does not happen again. It needs to create an environment for people to live freely in the country, if not, a storm is brewing and the government will not know what hit them.

Sure, not everything we do in life will be successful. Prem Prasad Acharya too failed in ventures he had invested in. Frustrated, he decided to give up on living. But he left with an important question – Is this country for only the corrupt and not for those who work hard?

Let them work

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Acharya felt that he was robbed by everyone from banks to insurance, from government offices to big businesses. He has listed the atrocities committed against him in his note. His series of struggles for success in life is amazing.

His 6,553-word note will bring a tear to anyone’s eye. If we separate the emotion from the note, one will find how he has tried to highlight our social financial structure on it.

He said he was sacrificing his life so that the government would listen to his suffering and pain. This step of him has also raised questions about our social structure and political system, which do not listen to and understand a citizen until he chooses the path of death. Before setting his body on fire, he made a disappointing conclusion about the country, “This country is corrupt; there is discrimination and injustice here step by step.”

What will happen if the state does not regulate the market system? Prem Prasad Acharya’s self-immolation is a part of the price being paid by the young generation who are trying to venture into entrepreneurship today.

Looking at the complaints he published on social media, it looks like a systematic demand letter. In it, he has said that some families and foreign companies have captured the Nepali market and have demanded the government free it from them.

He has also asked the government to make it mandatory for businesses to pre-pay so that the farmer is not discouraged. Demands have been raised to discourage corruption during grant distribution, and labour approval and asked to end the middlemen’s role. However, this is not the first time he or anyone else has raised such a demand.

Revolution in the offing

James DeFronzo, a sociologist at the University of Connecticut, is famous for his theory of revolution. He has argued that collective despair arises from the phenomenon of relative scarcity.

The primary task of revolutionary ideology is to provide as many people as possible with the same or compatible view of the need for social change so that they will be motivated to help in the revolutionary struggle, he says.

In his understanding, for rebellion, the nation needs to go through such a historical process where the sharp decline in the economy limits the physical living conditions and capabilities of the citizens. As the gap between the people’s expectations and the government’s ability to meet those expectations increases, extreme frustration is born among the citizens.

hands youth volunteering volunteerism
Image by No-longer-here from Pixabay

Millions of young people have to go abroad as they see no future in the country. All they see are the same old men ruling one by one. They see these men as opportunists who do not understand how to create a fair system for fall. All these leaders have been able to do is create insensitive mechanisms, and poor economic policies and promote corruption. Everyone knows this, but nothing has changed in the country resulting in Prem Prasad Acharya feeling helpless.

Even the newly elected leaders did not give Acharya hope. On his note, he has asked the leaders to open their eyes and solve issues that are plaguing the common people. 

The spark of the powerful Arab revolution, which led to a coup in the entire Middle East and Arab countries, started with the self-immolation of educated unemployed youth in Tunisia

At the end of 2010, the demonstration that started after 26-year-old Mohamed Bouazizi self-immolated in Tunisia turned into a massive mass movement and he became the hero of the revolution that brought down the Arab dictator. That revolution spread beyond the borders of one country and spread throughout the Middle East and Arab countries.

The Arab Spring that started after Bouazizi set himself on fire after not being able to do business in the street market succeeded in overthrowing President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali who had been ruling for 23 years. Ben Ali and his family, who fled the country, were also charged with crimes against humanity and corruption.

The Arab revolution was born out of a struggle between wealthy rulers and citizens with a low standard of living. This shows that the choices of the oppressed citizens are becoming narrow due to the excesses imposed by corruption, bureaucracy and bureaucracy.

Here in Nepal, Prem Prasad Acharya has written in the note, “I wanted to have fun with my daughters, I wanted to make them good citizens, I wanted to keep my wife in my arms forever. But all these are just desires. Where do I go? Who do I tell?”

Bouazizi’s last words were also similar. Before setting himself on fire, he questioned –  How do you still want me to live?

This story was translated from the original Nepali version and edited for clarity and length.

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Khatiwada is the oped editor at Onlinekhabar.

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